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A Canterbury Tale (1944)
English landscape, captured in glorious B&W - and an eerie story, too
This is a wonderful movie - spooky, lyrical, spiritual, and beautiful. I bought it on DVD a few months ago from Amazon.UK, after reading about the film at the British Film Institute's most enjoyable and informative website:
Then, last week, the NYTimes pointed out that Criterion has just come out with a remastered version of the film, complete with a set of related documentaries and even a contemporary interview with John Sweet himself, sitting in the café from the movie (more or less). The Times noted that this new edition features striking black&white photography. So, I've bought it, too, and am just sitting down to view it. So far, so very good.
Listen carefully to the American GI character's language. It is crammed full of Americanisms and slang, which must have struck British audiences back then as quite odd.
Is that land girl with the tie short hair, and cigaret hanging out of her mouth a lesbian?
The movie is full of great dialog and observations of life and culture; I look forward to paying attention to them all. One that caught my ear is about watching movies vs. living life itself - an interesting issue to bring up in a movie like this.
I am a particular fan of Dennis Price, and this is his first film, I believe. (He went on, of course, to a brilliant performance in Kind Hearts and Coronets, but perhaps his funniest bit is as Dunstan, one of a pair of crafty Welsh used-car dealers in a later film, School for Scoundrels.) Most of all, I am enjoying the photography in this movie, which captures the magic of the English countryside, which I know, a little, from some childhood visits in the '50s and '60s. Powell, especially, loved landscapes and they were a major character, of sorts, in his films.
The Battle of the Sexes (1960)
Good film, bad transfer
Contrary to what IMDb shows at the upper-right corner of its page for this movie, there IS a DVD of this film available, in the UK. I recently purchased it from Amazon, there, for 6 pounds. With high hopes, I inserted it into my DVD player and found that the quality of the film-to- digital transfer is nothing short of abysmal. Most of the film's scenes appear almost entirely black on the TV screen, with only a few details, like well-lit faces, shining through. This is a sorry re-release of this movie, which I had read such good things about here and there. From all I can tell, it is a delightful movie, full of wit and good acting and clever dialog.
The story centers on a female business consultant from the US trying to whip an old-line tweed making company in Scotland into shape - another post-war British film concerned with the onslaught of American values and speedy lifestyle. (Another example that comes to mind is Ealing Studio's The Maggie, which is happily out on DVD in an optically splendid rendition.) The star, here, is a somewhat mousy Peter Sellers who is, of course, worth watching in almost any movie - especially when you can actually see him! Robert Morley, too, is worth the price of admission - one of my favorite British actors.
The Wrong Box (1966)
I saw this movie as a youngster -- teenager? -- and thought it was one of the funniest movies I'd ever seen. And I still do, based on what I remember of it. I still quote Sir Ralph Richardson's character, after a train blows up and he's found sitting on the loo: "I think I'll take my leave, now." Peter Cook is hilarious in this movie, too. And Sellers, though he does only a small turn as a cat-fancying undertaker (yes?), is worth the price of admission.
Now, I only wish someone had the power to get this movie out on DVD. Until then, I may have to buy the tape. And in any case, run, don't walk, to see this film if you can. It is in the great tradition of very funny British comedies. It used to be a regular on the revival circuit, may that phenomenon rest in peace.