30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "today Europe, tomorrow the world !"
These are the words spoken by the Nazis in this film to strike enough fear into the hearts of Americans to encourage them to join WWII, in this all-star propaganda vehicle that is riveting and features terrific performances; some of the big names involved in this production were also behind the camera, with Michael Powell directing, Emeric Pressburger as writer, Freddie...
Published on 13 Mar 2005 by Alejandra Vernon
1.0 out of 5 stars Propaganda
With music by Vaughan Williams, performances by Olivier and Howard, and direction from Powell I was rather expecting an intelligent movie - after all the Spy in Black from 1939 from Powell and Pressburger set in WW1 had been that: this is not. With fact imitating fiction the basic plot is repeated in the excellent 1957 movie The One Who Got Away, where what ever you think...
Published 15 days ago by opus
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "today Europe, tomorrow the world !",
This review is from: 49th Parallel [DVD]  (DVD)These are the words spoken by the Nazis in this film to strike enough fear into the hearts of Americans to encourage them to join WWII, in this all-star propaganda vehicle that is riveting and features terrific performances; some of the big names involved in this production were also behind the camera, with Michael Powell directing, Emeric Pressburger as writer, Freddie Young as cinematographer, David Lean as editor, and a score by Ralph Vaughn Williams.
As the German U-boat gets bombed by the Canadian Air Force, stranding the six man landing party led by Lt. Hirth (Eric Portman), you follow them as they try to "blend" into the Canadian populace, with the intentions of crossing the border into the US. Hirth is among the heartless ones, but some of the others are good souls that have been trapped into serving the Third Reich, so the portrayal of the Nazis is not entirely one sided.
Also starring in this film is the Canadian landscape, which we get to see and admire as the Nazis make their way from coast to coast.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Effective WWII propaganda from Powell and Pressburger. It's also a first-rate film,
This review is from: 49th Parallel [DVD]  (DVD)The 49th Parallel was written by Emeric Pressburger and directed by Michael Powell just before they finalized their partnership as The Archers, when they would take co-credit for writing, directing and producing their movies. The British government wanted a film that would help convince America that the fight against the Nazis was also America's fight. Powell and Pressburger convinced the government to film the movie in Canada. They created an episodic adventure story which gave ample opportunities to make the case that the war against Nazi values was also an American war. Powell and Pressburger enlisted several well-known British and Canadian actors to play at scale, and had to shoot their scenes around these actors' scheduled return to Britain.
In 1940, a German U-boat is sunk in Hudson Bay in northern Canada. Six crewmen escape. They are led by Lt. Hans Hirth (Eric Portman), a dedicated Nazi who realizes that if they can make their way across the border (the 49th parallel) to the United States, they'll be returned to Germany. If they are caught in Canada, they'll be interred for the war's duration. The film is about how they try to make it to the border and the different kinds of Canadians they encounter. There are four major episodes, tied together with smaller adventures. In episode one, the Germans find a small Inuit village and some French Canadian trappers (Lawrence Olivier, Finlay Currie). They treat the Inuits as substandard humans; the Inuits and French Canadians resist and some are shot as the Germans get away. In the second episode they encounter a Hutterite farming community led by Peter (Anton Walbrook, himself a recent Austrian refugee from Hitler). The message here is that Canadians have come from all different countries and backgrounds, and that they value cooperation and peaceful acceptance of differences. In the third episode they come across a writer (Leslie Howard) who feels the war is so far away it hardly makes a difference. But when the Germans show contempt for what they see as his weakness and destroy his paintings and books, he arouses himself and fights back. In the last episode, Hirth is the remaining German and has hidden in a train's freight car going across the border at Niagara. He finds himself sharing the car with a Canadian army deserter (Raymond Massey), who finds his patriotism. In an action that is clever and courageous, the deserter ensures that Hirth is caught in Canada and then declares his readiness to return to his unit and fight.
As usual with a Powell/Pressburger film, it is extremely well crafted and untypical of its genre. Not all the German's are shown as villains. Their journey as they get closer and closer to the border arouses a certain kind of enthusiasm. You don't really hope they make it, but you are caught up in their efforts. And while the movie is made up of episodes carefully crafted to send home a message to the American audience, it holds together as a well-told tale. Nearly 65 years later, it still is an effective movie. Partly this is because of the acting. Although Olivier uses an awful pseudo-hearty French accent, the other actors hit their marks. Howard is very good as a slightly too civilized intellectual who finally understands what's at stake. Eric Portman does a fine job of playing a ruthless, committed Nazi, but also a man who is shrewd and resourceful. Anton Walbrook is excellent as the wise leader of the Hutterite farming community. And Niall MacGinness is very sympathetic as one of the German crew, a young man who used to be a baker and now would like to stay with Peter and the farmers.
If you have the option, buy the R1 Criterion version. The DVD transfer is excellent and there are major extras, including a BBC documentary on the careers of Powell and Pressburger, a war-effort short film made by the two in 1943 with Ralph Richardson, and a substantial booklet.
1.0 out of 5 stars Propaganda,
This review is from: 49th Parallel [DVD]  (DVD)With music by Vaughan Williams, performances by Olivier and Howard, and direction from Powell I was rather expecting an intelligent movie - after all the Spy in Black from 1939 from Powell and Pressburger set in WW1 had been that: this is not. With fact imitating fiction the basic plot is repeated in the excellent 1957 movie The One Who Got Away, where what ever you think of its hero (portrayed excellently by Hardy Kruger) the movie at least treats the Germans as more than sub-human pantomime villains.
The reality is that ten days after 3rd September 1939, the first action of the 2nd World War took place: the SS Fanad Head approaching Ireland from Canada was approached by the U-30; the U-boat surfaced and encouraged the crew of the cargo ship to get into their life boats. The Fanad Head radioed for help; HMS Ark Royal being in the vicinity despatched first one then a second Blackburn Skua. The first dropped its torpedoes but being too low crashed as a result of Shrapnel, the second suffered a similar fate. The U-boat picked up the two surviving Fleet Air Arm personnel from the water, pursued Ark Royal at which two torpedoes were fired but missed; thereafter U-30 refuelled in Greenland and conveyed the two prisoners to Germany where they spent the rest of the war in a prison camp in Brunswick. Compare that with the 'racist fantasy' which is the beginning of the film.
It is Pressburger here who is responsible for this nonsense.
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent film,
This review is from: Criterion Collection: 49th Parallel [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)This is a most recommendable film. Very good story, though it has to be admitted it is somewhat episodic. This, however, enables very entertaining cameos with wonderful actors like Anton Walbrook and Leslie Howard. The picture quality is very good, and makes two hours pass very quickly. Thoroughly enjoyable.
4.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Propaganda Movie,
This review is from: 49th Parallel [DVD]  (DVD)Four more years of the second world war left and legendery directors Micheal Powell and Emeric Pressburger directed this wonderful world war two drama, which encouraged people to join the war. Also legendery director David Lean, who is probably best remembered for "Bridge on the river kwai" edited the film. This film also has a great all star cast, including Eric Portman, Laurence Olivier, Leslie Howard, Raymond Massey, Anton Walbrook and a young Glynis Johns. The actor who I think steals the movie is Leslie Howard and even though he is only in the movie for 15 minutes, he does a really good performance and apparently he was in the Nazi hit list after making this film. Also I couldn't get over watching Laurence Olivier putting on a French accent, which is very stupid but funny to watch. Their is also fantastic cinematography, which was mostly filmed in Canada and the black and white picture quality goes very well with the movie. This movie only won one academy award for best original story and was nominated for two oscars for best picture and best screenplay. If you are a fan of war films, this movie is worth watching and it's worth buying on DVD.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic War Film,
This review is from: 49th Parallel [DVD]  (DVD)A lot has been said about Olivier's French Canadian accent but you just have to except it as part of a great film. I especially liked Anton Walbrooks's anti nazi speech.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 49th parallel,
This review is from: 49th Parallel [DVD]  (DVD)This is a very interesting adventure story set during the 2nd world war, acted by a disdinguished group of actors, & with beautiful music by Vaughan Williams.
13 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If you try to influence the USA...what a waste of talent,
By A Customer
This review is from: 49th Parallel [DVD]  (DVD)This is the first and up til now the only British war movie that achieved to offend me. And this is the more surprising when you look at those who made it:Powell/Pressburger/Lean(editing). These people gave us some of the best movies ever(look into the bfi British top 100!). But here they present us with such a load of anti-German cliches that all the visual poetry seems to be wasted. What is the reason? This film was done with the intention to bring the USA into the war, so the makers had to adjust to American audiences. If you know US propaganda films of that era you know what to expect. The survivors of a sunk Uboat, most of them 150% Nazis, try to reach neutral US territory but on the way they murder, rob, crusade like mad (trying to convert the Amish(!) to Naziism, burning books and paintings etc.) it is sometimes simply ridiculous. What at least partially saves the day is the solid cast, camera work and above all the beatiful Canadian landscape. If you look for something more believable better choose 'Life and Death of Colonel Blimp' by the same team.
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49th Parallel [DVD]  by Michael Powell (DVD - 2002)
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