- Language: English
- Subtitles: English
- Region: Region 1 (US and Canada DVD formats.)
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
- Number of discs: 2
- Classification: Unrated (US MPAA rating. See details.)
- Studio: Criterion
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
- ASIN: B000FILVNM
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 53,764 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
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Criterion Collection: A Canterbury Tale [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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A U.S. soldier, a British sergeant and a London girl see minor miracles and catch a prude.
One of the most beloved of all British films, A Canterbury Tale marks yet another occasion to celebrate the Criterion Collection's growing DVD legacy of Powell and Pressburger classics. Originally conceived as good-natured propaganda to support the British-American alliance of World War II, the film became something truly special in the hands of the Archers (a.k.a. writer/director/producers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger). Taking its literary cues from Chaucer's titular classic, it begins with a prologue that harkens back to Chaucer's time before match-cutting to present-day August of 1943, with the night-time arrival of U.S. Army Sgt. Bob Johnson (played with folksy charm by John Sweet, an actual American GI) on the shadowy platform of Canterbury station in the magically rural county of Kent (where Powell was born and raised). He is soon joined by two fellow train passengers: Alison Smith (Sheila Sim), a brashly independent recruit in the British Woman's Land Army; and Peter Gibbs (Dennis Price), a sergeant in the royal Army, and before long they're tracking clues to find "the glue man", a mysterious figure who's been pouring "the sticky stuff" on unsuspecting women as the midnight hour approaches. Their investigation leads to Thomas Colpeper (Eric Portman), a village squire whose local slide-shows celebrate life in an idyllic rural England threatened by wartime change. As Graham Fuller writes in an observant mini-essay that accompanies this DVD, is this a whodunit? Historical documentary? War film? Rustic comedy? It's all these and so much more: As photographed in glorious black and white by Erwin Hiller (faithfully preserved by one of Criterion's finest high-definition digital transfers), A Canterbury Tale has an elusive, magical quality that encompasses its trio of Canterbury "pilgrims" and translates into a an elusive, spiritually uplifting sense of elation that has made it an all-time favorite among film lovers around the world. --Jeff Shannon
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Top Customer Reviews
That it was made when it was makes it truly prophetic.
It's blissfully hard to categorise. It is sentimental, it does have comedy but there is an underlying menace - a malevolent incongruity that seems to hallmark director Powell's best work. The whole notion of a midnight prowler deliberately pasting glue into women's hair is a good example of this kind of alternate reality. There is a specific scene where a many hands are vigorously washing the hair which seems disturbingly loaded with sadism.
Yet the subject (and the reason for buying) is history - what in the middle of WWII can be realistically retained. What has to give way? So we see the cocky GI find an affinity with an English carpenter, a cynical cinema pianist collaborating with a cathedral organist and a middle aged magistrate judged and sentenced by one of his own victims.
It's beautifully photographed, particularly the scenes of rural life yet contains a strangely powerful message for this generation, faced with the cultural narrowing of globalisation of the arts.
Not a Multiplex fave...but you should see it for just this reason.
The plot is so slight and off-hand it can't be taken too seriously. It's just a device to have three modern pilgrims stay awhile in the English village of Chillingbourne on Chaucer's pilgrims road to Canterbury. The three are Alison Smith (Sheila Sim), a land girl from London, come to work on a farm and who has been notified her fiance has been killed in action; British sergeant Peter Gibbs (Dennis Price), a trained organist who played organs in cinema houses and is joining his unit on the outskirts of the village; and U. S. sergeant Bob Johnson (real life Sergeant John Sweet, recruited by Powell to play this part), on leave for a few days who got off the train at the wrong station and who hasn't heard from his wife for months. Someone in the village is pouring glue on the hair of village girls who have been dating soldiers. As the three leave the train station during blackout, Alison has glue poured on her hair. The three make their way to the magistrate, Thomas Colpepper (Eric Portman), who seems cold and uninterested in Alison's plight. The three determine to find out by themselves who the mysterious "glueman" really is.
Powell and Pressburger use this slight device to evoke a deep feeling of the continuity of life, the sense that history is just as much a part of what is now as what has been.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An inturiging film that left me entertained but wondering what exactly did the film 'say'. Nevertheless a real insight into the social norms and behaviour of the time.Published 21 days ago by ned_lad
This is one of those films that could only be made at the time, because it is a snapshot of the British war-honed psyche with authentic scenery and locations, and it has a very... Read morePublished 6 months ago by R. F. Stevens
My favourite film. Made during WW2 it has a great optimism to it, it is a classic British film, the casting is perfect, and I live in Canterbury so I recognise the locations.Published 9 months ago by Amazon Customer
A 5 star drama from the 2nd World War concerning wartime activities in a Kentish village involving three young people and their eventual journey to Canterbury. Read morePublished 13 months ago by jfshaw
It's a DVD, which I chose, it either works or doesn't. It worked.Published 15 months ago by mr g griffiths