What I Watched, What You Watched: Installment #33

I’m only featuring one title I watched this last week as I am still working on a Blu-ray piece for the Lionsgate Studio Canal Collection and am almost ready for a review article for the recent Hayao Miyazaki movies that just hit DVD. I just watched Kiki’s Delivery Service and Castle in the Sky for the first time and am going to give the excellent My Neighbor Totoro a watch before starting that piece. Hopefully both will be completed before the week is up.

However, on top of the film reviewed below, I did (sort of) watch David Cronenberg’s Scanners, but I got so bored with it I just started doing work and periodically looking up to reassure myself that it was just doing the same thing over and over again. Sure, a head explodes and people can deliver intense stares over and over, but I’ll be damned if that film didn’t bore the hell out of me and fast. So since I didn’t give it 100% of my attention I didn’t include it below, but I don’t intend to ever give it a second chance.

49th Parallel (1941)
QUICK THOUGHTS: 1943 was the second-to-last year the Academy Awards had ten Best Picture nominees before returning to it this year, and in that year the Michael Powell-directed and Emeric Pressburger-scripted 49th Parallel was one of the ten nominees and while it lost to Mrs. Miniver for Best Picture, Pressburger won for Best Writing, Original Story. And this was my first time watching the film as it is yet one of the many Criterion titles now available on Netflix Instant Play.

As far as first impressions, if you look at the film entirely out of context I don’t think it works all that well. It comes off hammy and, actually, a bit silly as it tells the story of a German U-Boat destroyed by the Royal Canadian Air Force after it docks in the Hudson Bay. However, before it was destroyed, six members of the crew had already gone ashore and must now make their way through Canada in an attempt to get to the still-neutral United States.

The film premiered in London in 1941 and was seen for what it obviously is, a propaganda piece urging the U.S. to get involved in the war. Of course, the Japanese would make entering the war much easier less than two months later. It’s for these reasons the film has its ups and downs.

For one, I particularly found it to be a bit over-the-top comical when the stranded Germans come across a Hutterite community of émigré Germans and show confusion when they don’t properly salute their leader played by Anton Walbrook. Several of the scenes, in fact, are quite silly for that matter, but this specifically was one of the only times I rolled my eyes. This isn’t to say I wouldn’t doubt they may actually be thinking the things they were saying, it just felt forced to hear them actually vocalizing it.

Also interesting, is the poster art with the names Laurence Olivier (in a truly unintentionally comical performance as a French Canadian trapper), Leslie Howard and Raymond Massey (scenes with the latter two are the best the film offers). These three play tiny roles in the film, but if you look closely at the bottom left you’ll find Eric Portman who pretty much leads the story at every step and does a fine job at it.

Everything said, this is a worthwhile film to watch, but it’s necessary to realize when it was made to get a full context of its intent.

There you have it. Now share your weekly recaps and weigh in with any thoughts you may have on the films I saw. And remember to connect with my Netflix queue by clicking here, I have already added several titles from those that have already linked up.


Marvel and DC