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Criterion Collection: A Canterbury Tale [DVD] [1944] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

4.6 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Product details

  • 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)

Product Description

Product Description

A U.S. soldier, a British sergeant and a London girl see minor miracles and catch a prude.

From Amazon.co.uk

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

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is the most effective account of what it is like to be English within the encroaching tide of American popular culture.
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.
Recommended unreservedly.
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By A Customer on 19 Sept. 2002
Format: VHS Tape
I had the extreme luck of watching this film for the first time at a special showing in Canterbury itself. I found it compelling and wonderful. It is British in the same sense as 'Brief Encounter'. Both of them capture the nuances of midcentury England. This film focuses on the beauty of the dwindling countryside, evoking wonderfully a way of life that was disappearing even then. The director, Michael Powell, came from Canterbury, and it shows. This film is clearly a labour of love. It even understands the magic of Canterbury cathedral, with each of the main characters setting out on a pilgrimage of their own, to have a boon granted or do penance. Even though it is in black and white, it is a film filled with sunshine. I recommend it to anyone who feels nostalgia for the past, even a past they never experienced.
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Format: DVD
This is one of my all time favourite movies, it has a wonderful nostalgic feel for England before the 2nd World War, and an eerie timeless quality as you imagine all the lives played out through the ages on the Pilgrims Way which leads into Canterbury. The theme of the Glue Man who pours glue on girls' hair is just a part of it, the real theme is peoples lives then and how they lived through the war. As I was brought up 7 miles from Canterbury it is also an interesting historical document as you get to see what it was like right after the bombing - something you cannot imagine until you see just how much of the city was left as piles of rubble. A classic bit of British life circa 1930s if you like old b&w "brief encounter" type movies you will love this one. The photography is lovely and shows English countryside in its heyday. The plot is about three young people whose lives are changed after an eventful weekend in the East Kent countryside and arrive in Canterbury on the day a local regiment embarks for the Second Front. This is intercut with the pilgrims travelling to Canterbury in the Middle Ages. Trust me, it works! This film is just a lovely modest little treasure everyone should see - I highly recommend "A Matter of Life and Death" by Michael Powell too, which stars David Niven and is, again, set in the Second World War.
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Format: DVD
In 1980, Emeric Pressburger said, "A script can only create nests in which magic may settle." With A Canterbury Tale, he and his partner, Michael Powell, created one of the most magical, luminous and eccentric movies ever made. The film is far removed from the obvious patriotic product they were asked to produce and yet it is one of the most effective evocations of why Britain and America were fighting a common enemy.

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.
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