49th Parallel

  • Film
  • War films

Commissioned by the Ministry of Information in hopes of swaying public opinion in favour of America's entry into the war, this now seems a little dated in patches, with the characterisations all too self-consciously tailored to the propaganda notion of providing a cross-section of ethnic types united in their resistance to Nazism (Leslie Howard's stereotypically laconic Englishman suffers most). But the episodic account of a stranded U-Boat crew's brutal foray into Canada still grips (Emeric Pressburger's script is beautifully structured), and the running debate on democracy versus dictatorship is conducted in terms far from simplistic. What really lifts the film, though, is what David Thomson calls 'a primitive feeling for endangered civilisation': a feeling very much akin to the passionate concern for England's green and pleasant land which flowered in the marvellous A Canterbury Tale three years later.

Release details

Duration: 124 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Michael Powell
Screenwriter: Emeric Pressburger, Rodney Ackland
Cast: Eric Portman
Anton Walbrook
Leslie Howard
Raymond Massey
Laurence Olivier
Finlay Currie
Niall MacGinnis
Glynis Johns
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