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(aka 'The Invaders')

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/powell.htm
UK 1941

 

At once a compelling piece of anti-isolationist propaganda and a quick-witted wartime thriller, 49th Parallel is a classic early work from the inimitable British filmmaking team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. When a Nazi U-boat crew, headed by the ruthless Eric Portman, is stranded in Canada during the thick of World War II, the men evade capture by hiding out in a series of rural communities, before trying to cross the border into the still-neutral United States. Both soul-stirring and delightfully entertaining, 49th Parallel features a colorful cast of characters played by larger-than-life actors Laurence Olivier, Raymond Massey, Anton Walbrook, and Leslie Howard.

***

First of all, I would never consider myself an overly nationalistic Canadian, and  I am well aware that this film is blatant propaganda, but even being cognoscente of that fact does not seem to make me any less susceptible to it's charmingly obvious war-time slants. In fact, I have big problem with this film - I absolutely adored every minute of it far out of proportion for what I 'should'. Hence my review, like the film, will also be a bit non-objective - so be it.

 

From Olivier's somewhat hammy French Canadian characterization to Leslie Howard's almost duplicate portrayal of the quasi-fearless academia intellectual Alan Squier from "The Petrified Forest', I reveled in this powerful story of a Nazi U-boat sunk by the Canadian Air Force with all the crew lost excepting six men who had been sent ashore before the attack... to take on a country. In a sweeping road-picture across Canada the fugitive Germans are taken from a trading outpost in Hudson Bay to a Prairie commune then onto Vancouver's coast and then to southern Ontario - meeting Eskimos, a French Canadian trapper, native Indians, Mounties, an author who loves the outdoors and finally a disgruntled military serviceman (played by Raymond Massey - younger brother to the ex. Governor General of Canada, Vincent Massey).

 

This is another example of Powell and Pressburger's ability to create 'pure cinema' - an absolute delight. Anton Walbrook, Eric Portman, and Glynis Johns also chip in with outstanding one dimensional, yet totally believable, performances. I can't say enough about this film - out of  

Gary W. Tooze

 Posters

Theatrical Release: October 8th, 1941

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Associated Reading (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

Comparison:

Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1- NTSC vs. Carlton - Region 0 - PAL vs. Warner Home Vidéo (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL vs. Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

1) Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1- NTSC LEFT

2) Carlton - Region 0 - PAL SECOND

3) Warner Home Vidéo (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL THIRD

4) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

Box Covers

   

 

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 376 - Region 1 - NTSC Carlton Home Video - Region 0 - PAL Warner Home Vidéo - Region 2 - PAL Carlotta
Region 'B' - Blu-ray
Runtime 2:01:56 1:56:40 (4% PAL speedup) 1:56:44 (4% PAL speedup) 2:01:57.351
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 8.8 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.56 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.86 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 41,757,754,297 bytes

Feature: 33,971,933,184 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.52 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate: Criterion

Bitrate: Carlton

Bitrate: Warner Home Vidéo

Bitrate: Carlotta Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 1.0)  English (Dolby Digital 1.0)  English (Dolby Digital 2.0)  DTS-HD Master Audio English 834 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 834 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit)
Subtitles English, None English, None French, None French, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Audio commentary by film and music historian Bruce Eder
• The Volunteer, a 1943 Powell and Pressburger war-effort short starring Ralph Richardson
• A Pretty British Affair, a BBC documentary on the careers of Powell and Pressburger, which considers their WWII-era collaborations and features rare footage of the filmmakers together
• Excerpts from Michael Powell's audio dictations for his autobiography
• Original theatrical trailer
• 20-pqage liner notes booklet with essay by film scholar Charles Barr and Powell's 1941 premiere speech

DVD Release Date: February 20th, 2007

Transparent standard double Keep Case dual spindle (overlapping)
Chapters: 22

Release Information:
Studio: Carlton Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Theatrical trailer (3:01)

DVD Release Date: April 15th, 2002

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 15

Release Information:
Studio: Warner Home Vidéo

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Introduction by Bernard Tavernier (6:51) with English subtitles

Disc 2

• Memories of Michael (11:24) in English with optional French subtitles

• Intro by Martin Scorsese in English with optional French subtitles (3:00)

• Bernard Tavernier talks in French with English or French subtitles (11:58)

• Trailers of 3 Powell and Pressburger films

• 40-page liner notes booklet with Photos and essays (In French only)


DVD Release Date: April 5th, 2006

Three tiered digipak inside slipcase
Chapters: 16

Release Information:
Studio: Carlotta

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 41,757,754,297 bytes

Feature: 33,971,933,184 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.52 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:
• The Volunteer, a 1943 Powell and Pressburger war-effort short starring Ralph Richardson (42:50)

• Gallery (4:30)

• Trailer (3:10)

Blu-ray Release Date: October 23d, 2013
Black Blu-ray Case inside cardboard sleeve

Chapters 18

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Carlotta Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray (December 2013): Ohh my, it's been so long I had forgotten how much I enjoy this film. Carlotta has another strong Blu-ray - dual-layered with a max'ed out bitrate. The source elements still have weaknesses - light damage - usually in the form of scratches and speckles. But you can see from the matched captures below that the higher resolution also exports some pleasing textured grain and more layered contrast. It looks superior to all the DVDs and frequently shows a bit more information in the frame. Unless there is some extensive restoration - either at the film level or Criterion magic - I doubt this will be exceeded, visually, anytime soon.

Audio also gets the lossless treatment - authentic mono is a DTS-HD master transfer. The score by, influential, Dr. Ralph Vaughan Williams exports some depth through the uncompressed track - as do a few of the effects. There are optional French subtitles - and they are optional despite the restriction of the menu - they can be removed with the remote's 'subtitle button'. It is Region 'B'-locked Blu-ray.

Carlotta include The Volunteer, in 1080i, the same 1943 Powell and Pressburger war-effort short starring Ralph Richardson that is found on the Criterion DVD package. It runs almost 3/4 of an hour. There is also a gallery and theatrical trailer in HD.

Fans of Powell + Pressburger will certainly appreciate this Blu-ray. I have had no indication that it is coming to Region 'A' in the future. The improvement over the pictureboxed Criterion SD is clearly evident - especially on a modern home theater system. Strongly recommended!  

***

ADDITION: Criterion - NTSC - February 2007: Firstly, I feel certain someone at Criterion has the exact same taste as I, or a listing of my favorite films is somehow transmitted to their head office. 49th Parallel is another of my favorite films.

After our review of Paul Robeson: Portraits of the Artist, we obviously spoke too soon as this Criterion transfer is again pictureboxed (see our description of 'pictureboxing' in our Kind Hearts and Coronets review).

Criterion's seamless digital restoration once again eclipses the previous releases, actually exposing their contrast boosting to be even more prevalent than we suggested. Just about every facet of the Criterion image appears to be superior - vastly better contrast, less artifacts (although some are visible), less damage and slightly more information in the frame than the PAL editions. As black levels have been selectively tweaked and some damage marks obliterated ('Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, and scratches were removed using the MTI Digital Restoration System') the Criterion image is probably the best we will see until it one day reaches HD (49th Parallel may be years to reach that lofty height).

The audio also appears to be slightly clearer and more consistent than the other two releases but I always admit that I have no quantitative measure of this except my own ears.

This Criterion package is stacked and the meat of it belongs to the strong extras. Firstly the Bruce Eder commentary is fabulous. Another example of how Criterion, not only the pioneers of this digital supplement, but are also the best at this DVD attribute. Eder talks, without a recollected gap about many subtle details of the filming of 49th Parallel. He know his stuff, was fully prepared and I was enthralled.

On disc 2 we have a 1943 Powell and Pressburger war-effort short starring Ralph Richardson called The Volunteer. Very entertaining war effort and topical for its relevance to the feature film and its similar slant. After a his performance as Othello 'Ralph Richardson' is asked for an autograph by Fred, his dresser who has joined the Fleet Air Arm (Fly Navy) and consequently becomes a hero, rescuing a pilot from his burning plane. When Fred goes to Buckingham Palace it's Richardson's turn to ask for his autograph (about 25 minutes). There is a BBC documentary on the careers of Powell and Pressburger called A Pretty British Affair. It offers details on their WWII-era collaborations and features rare footage of the filmmakers together plus input from a young Martin Scorsese (and others). Finally there are audio excerpts from Michael Powell's dictations for his autobiography, an original theatrical trailer (3:09) is included and a 20-page liner notes booklet with essay by film scholar Charles Barr and Powell's 1941 premiere speech.

Wow - what a great package. I enjoyed every minute of re-watching the film (umpteenth time) and the extra features. This has one of our stronger recommendations. Fabulous stuff Criterion - you continue to impress!       

***

ADDITION: Warner Home Vidéo (April 06'): this is labeled as from the 'Collection Institut Lumiere' as are the other new Powell and Pressburger offerings from Warner Home Vidéo in Europe. The image quality is definitely superior although I'm afraid the screen captures may not give it enough credit. For one thing the Warner Home Vidéo edition is on a dual layered DVD as opposed to the single layered Carlton. Hence there are far less instances of artifacts. In many scenes it appears that the Warner has had a shade of black boosting bringing up a sharper looking image (The Laurence Olivier image below is a good example). Although the Warner does shows some minor damage in the form of hairline scratches - they appear to be far less than those visible on the Carlton.

Of course the big bonus to the Warner DVD are the extras. The 2nd disc is not extensive but it is good news that everything is 'English friendly' meaning if it is in French (Language) there are optional English subtitles. The package itself is beautiful - some real effort has gone into this as because of my adoration for the film I am thrilled with my purchase. We recommend!

***

I loved this film so much I could have taken screen captures all day. The Carlton disc is better than you might expect from them, with a decent image and removable subtitles. Perhaps a little boosted and heavy at times it still maintains some sharpness. No extras save a trailer and the price is sure 'right'. I strongly recommend the film - unavailable in any other region on the digital format.   out of

Gary W. Tooze


Menus

 

Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1- NTSC

 

Disc 2 - Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1- NTSC


 (Carlton - Region 0 - PAL LEFT vs. Warner Home Vidéo (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL RIGHT)


 
 

 

Disc 2 of Warner Home Vidéo

 

 

Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Sample

 

NOTE: Not exact frame

 

1) Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Carlton - Region 0 - PAL SECOND

3) Warner Home Vidéo (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL THIRD

4) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

Screen Captures

 

1) Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Carlton - Region 0 - PAL SECOND

3) Warner Home Vidéo (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL THIRD

4) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Carlton - Region 0 - PAL SECOND

3) Warner Home Vidéo (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL THIRD

4) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Carlton - Region 0 - PAL SECOND

3) Warner Home Vidéo (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL THIRD

4) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Carlton - Region 0 - PAL SECOND

3) Warner Home Vidéo (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL THIRD

4) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Carlton - Region 0 - PAL SECOND

3) Warner Home Vidéo (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL THIRD

4) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Carlton - Region 0 - PAL SECOND

3) Warner Home Vidéo (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL THIRD

4) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Carlton - Region 0 - PAL SECOND

3) Warner Home Vidéo (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL THIRD

4) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Carlton - Region 0 - PAL SECOND

3) Warner Home Vidéo (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL THIRD

4) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 

 

Report Card:

 

Image:

Blu-ray

Sound:

Blu-ray

Extras: Criterion

 

Box Covers

   

 

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 376 - Region 1 - NTSC Carlton Home Video - Region 0 - PAL Warner Home Vidéo - Region 2 - PAL Carlotta
Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 





 

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Gary Tooze

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