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Edge of the World, the

Niall MacGinnis , Belle Chrystall , Michael Powell    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Product Description

Amazon.ca

Michael Powell broke with a decade of B movies with this personal project shot on the North Sea island of Foula, a magnificent, primal landscape of high, rocky inland plains and sheer cliffs jutting out of the sea like a dare. He renamed the island Hirta for this fictional story (based on the real-life evacuation of the island of St. Kilda) of an isolated community's traditional way of life slowly dying as the young men are drawn to the modern cities of the mainland. John Laurie and Finlay Currie play the two family patriarchs who struggle over the future of the island community, and Powell himself appears as the yachtsman in a framing sequence. The romantic melodrama at the heart of the tale turns on a breathtaking race up the sheer cliffs and the grudge it sparks when one of the climbers falls to his death.

The Edge of the World is more stately and still than Powell's cinematically playful and stylistically vibrant later films like The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus. The proud, hard residents of the island are constantly framed against the dramatic sky, the craggy mountains, or the rolling meadows with a dire seriousness. Yet there's a poetry to his images, which are never less than gorgeous, and Powell directs with a sense of tension, urgency, and desperation that pulls at the easy pace of this harsh lifestyle. This edition also features the lovely 1941 short An Airman's Letter to His Mother (narrated by John Gielgud) and the Powells' 1978 documentary Return to the Edge of the World, a 22-minute remembrance organized around a reunion on the island of Foula. --Sean Axmaker

Product Description

Shot entirely in the wild, windswept Outer Hebrides island of Foula, "The Edge of the World" is a beautiful, thrilling and profoundly moving masterpiece from cinema great Michael Powell (The Red Shoes, I Know Where I'm Going), who also appears in the film as a yacht owner. Two families, the Mansons and the Grays, live on a remote island off the coast of Scotland and are united by friendship and romance between young Ruth and Andrew. Believing there is no future on the island, Ruth's brother, Bobbie, plans to leave in spite of Andrew's objections. To settle their argument, the two men follow an ancient local tradition and race to the top of the island's 1,220-foot cliffs to see whose opinion should prevail. The outcome shatters the island's peace and splits the two clans apart in this critical and popular hit at the New York Film Festival, which was Powell's first important film and remained dear to his heart.

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4.0 out of 5 stars Peter Manson Gone Over July 9 2006
By bernie TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:DVD
It has been 10 years since The Shadow of Death fell on the outer isles of Scotland. This is the tale of Peter Manson, his family and the last days of inhabitance on the island called "Ultima Thule" The Edge of the World. You will come to identify with the inhabitance and their plight. But with all the triumphs and tragedies the worst for me was when they let the cats fend for themselves and the dogs (due to economics) drowned.

The filming was spectacular and there is a social statement. Many facets go into making this a first class movie. The film was shot by Michael Powell on the island of Foula in the North Sea. Michael Powell is the visiting yachtsman that hears the story.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant film, long unavailable... July 2 2001
By Mark Savary - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
Stunning 1937 film set in the Shetland Islands, and filmed on the North Sea isle of Foula. Director Michael Powell has been called "the British John Ford", and you'll see why when you watch this film.
Based on a newspaper article the director once read, "The Edge of the World" is a heartbreaking documentary-style look at a phenomenon that really faced island-dwellers off the coast of Scotland in the 1930's and 40s.
On Hirta, the ficticious isolated coastal island, the fishing is becoming impossible thanks to the mainland trawlers and their huge nets. The peat the islanders harvest and sell for fuel is almost exhausted. The youth of the island are leaving in droves.
As a result, the islanders face a harsh choice; try to go on with their way of life, or give up everything and ask the government to relocate them on the mainland. There is bitter debate among the inhabitants, with part in favor of leaving, others wanting to fight on, and still more who are uncertain what to do.
While the acting may occasionally seem a bit overdone today, the real winner here is the outstanding photography done on location. Hills sweep up and end abruptly with sheer cliffs. The pounding sea sprays the rocks, and clouds sweep over the expanse of the island, leaving telling shadows on all below. There is also a truly heartstopping race as two men climb the sheer cliffs to decide questions between them.
This is an amazing and moving film that focuses on characters, with their odd beliefs, their customs, their culture threatened, and their whole way of life hanging in the balance.
After one viewing, you will never be able to leave this film behind. Truly an overlooked work, it is indespensible to the serious film buff and student.
Cheers to Milestone, who copied the film's recently restored 35mm print for this tape (and in SP mode, no less!). Until a Criterion DVD edition comes out, this is the best version you're likely to find of this wonderful film, and well worth the price.
The tape includes the twenty minute documentary "Return to the Edge of the World" in its entirety, as well as the Powell WW2 short subject, "An Airman's Letter to His Mother".
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an interesting look at life at the edge of the world June 13 2009
By Matthew G. Sherwin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
The Edge of the World has outstanding cinematography and the acting is also very good. The plot moves along a bit too slow for my taste although as others have noted the scenery more than makes up for the way the film winds its way through the story line. The choreography was very well done and the quality of the print is pretty good except in a few places where it could use a little restoration.

The film begins on a Shetland island not too far from Scotland. We see a trio of explorers who come upon a tombstone at the edge of a very sharp cliff; and one of them tells the other two the story about the tombstone--and so much more. Thus the story is essentially a flashback; and this device works very well.

We first meet several principle characters: there are two family patriarchs, Peter Manson (John Laurie) and James Grey (Finlay Currie). They have a lot on their hands as the fishing and farming on the island of Hirta is slowly but surely dying. The larger fishing boats have been catching their fish; and the younger generation of the islanders is leaving to find a more prosperous way of life in Scotland or even elsewhere. There's quite a crisis when the islanders meet; and two of their sons, Robbie Manson (Eric Berry) and Andrew Grey (Niall MacGinnis) decide to settle the matter by running a race up a sharp cliff--without a safety rope. While Ruth Manson (Belle Chrystall) loves Andrew, she is also Robbie's twin sister; and she hates the idea of them running this race--she could lose both of them. However, Robbie and Andrew think that the race to the top of the cliff is the only way to settle the matter and reach a decision for all.

Unfortunately, Robbie dies when he falls off the cliff; but this doesn't settle the matter. Many islanders still want to stay although the outlook worsens when the peat begins to run out and their latest crop won't be good, either. Complications abound when Peter Manson finds out that his daughter Ruth is pregnant with an illegitimate child by Andrew. Andrew doesn't know Ruth is even pregnant; he himself has left Hirta to find work.

Will Andrew come back when he finds out that Ruth is pregnant with their child? What about Peter Manson--will he be embittered toward the Grey family after the tragic death of his son Robbie? How does Ruth feel about marrying Andrew after Robbie is killed in that race to the top of the cliff? No plot spoilers here, folks--watch and find out!

The DVD comes with a few nice features. We get a documentary entitled "Return to the Edge of the World" that runs roughly twenty-one minutes; and there's another excellent but unrelated featurette entitled "An Airman's Letter to His Mother" from the World War Two era.

The Edge of the World may not be the very best movie I ever watched; it moves too slowly for me although the cinematography is outstanding. Nevertheless, it's still quite a moving story about what life was really like for people in that part of the world at the time; and that's a big plus. I recommend this film for people interested in these themes and issues.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Peter Manson Gone Over Jan. 30 2006
By bernie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
It has been 10 years since The Shadow of Death fell on the outer isles of Scotland. This is the tale of Peter Manson, his family and the last days of inhabitance on the island called "Ultima Thule" The Edge of the World. You will come to identify with the inhabitance and their plight. But with all the triumphs and tragedies the worst for me was when they let the cats fend for themselves and the dogs (due to economics) drowned.

The filming was spectacular and there is a social statement. Many facets go into making this a first class movie. The film was shot by Michael Powell on the island of Foula in the North Sea. Michael Powell is the visiting yachtsman that hears the story.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Precipice of change (BFI bluray, spoilerless) May 2 2012
By A customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
Considered by many to be British director Michael Powell's first true major motion picture, "The Edge of the World" is a 1937 film set on the small Shetland island of Foula, north of Scotland. The island's few inhabitants (six main families) descend back to ancient times and Nordic roots before the new world had been "discovered", and standing atop its towering sheer cliffs and looking west was felt by many to be standing on the edge of the world. Powell's fascination with heights (and falls) may have started here, as his longtime fans will instantly see some parallels to the scenery and situations from his later Black Narcissus (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray], and even sporadic touches in "The Red Shoes".

"Edge" is a fictitious story rooted in historical fact about the plight small island communities faced as their populations shrank and their young people were seduced away by greener pastures. It was inspired by the real life story of the island of St. Kilda, when its last 36 citizens were "evacuated", leaving their historical home and the fruits of their blood, sweat, and tears behind.

In "Edge", another community is facing the same problem. The weather is inclement, the work is hard, the routine is dull. But even for those who are stubborn enough to want to stay out of respect for ancestoral duty and tradition, or who don't want to make things worse for those left behind, another reality is hitting home. Few babies are being born, the crops are poor, and the peat is running low. The price they get for their wool is decreasing, while at the same time modern trawlers from the mainland come out and fish their waters, forcing them to go farther out.

The decision whether to stay or go is played out between two young men, each taking opposite sides and arguing for the hearts and souls of their neighbors. In an interesting take, each of their fathers respectively disagree with them, creating tension not just between the boyhood friends but also their families.

The father who is the leader of the island, and who has the strongest desire to maintain the status quo, is faced not just by a traiterous deserter of a son but also a twin sister, who is torn between the differing worldviews of her dad, her brother, and a lover. As one of the younger women on the island (and capable of having a child), who she ultimately could lend her voice to would have power. Whether she ever finds her voice is another matter.

It would not be a spoiler to say that the movie starts from the very beginning with a man standing in a windswept ghost town of rock and stone. The entire rest of the film is flashback, so while you know from the getgo what decision gets made, how they ultimately reach it, and its consequences, are the focus of the film and is fairly compelling. The battle lines are drawn, with the fate of everything at stake except for the island itself. Despite the chaos that sometimes goes on around it, the island stands tall and defiant, beautifully shot but entirely indifferent to the waves continually crashing upon it or the people scrambling on its cliffs.

I have only seen this bluray edition, so I can't comment on how much of an improvement it is over previous versions. I can say this, it is highly watchable and in my opinion true HD, with some nice shots that are fairly remarkable considering the age from when they were taken and the harsh environment the film faced. Conditions on set were dangerous, collar bones were broken, and camera men were fired for not keeping up. So in the end you can see that, there are times when you can tell the real grandeur just could not be captured, but it was not for lack of effort. It is also probably the reason that the next time Powell wanted to do a high altitude movie, the aforementioned Black Narcissus, that he did it on a studio lot employing optical illusions rather than filming on location.

The performances are sufficient but not great, most likely the result of 1937 acting standards. Probably the best performance is turned in by the lead father, played by John Laurie. While some is clumsy and heavy handed, it is evened out by a cast that is eclectic and interesting, including some of the real life populance of the island. Ultimately you end up caring for the characters, who seem believable, so everything works.

I was hesitant to get the DVD as it is listed as an "all region" import. In the end it played fine on my region 1 Panasonic barebones Blu-Ray Panasonic DMP-BD75 Ultra-Fast Booting Blu-ray Disc Player. The extra features were nice, including a 25 minute documentary of sorts that highlighted Powell and some crewmembers going back many years after the fact. Many of the original people had passed away at the time, but it was nice to see the island both in color and with the benefit of some sweeping aerial shots that were not possible when the movie was first filmed. Audio commentary by Powell's widow, with Daniel Day-Lewis reading excerpts from the book "200,000 Feet on Foula". Also includes a very informative 25 page booklet.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A film of moods: skies, winds, waters, fog, and hardy men and women on an island in the North Sea July 11 2013
By Donald M. Bishop - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray
This 1937 British film directed by Michael Powell is a story of economic depression, social change, and humanity. The population of a remote island in the North Sea island is decreasing, the waters that provided a livelihood to the men in open boats are being overfished by trawlers, wool and horses are not providing much income to the tenant farmers, and the young people are leaving. The men of the island are divided among those who believe they all must leave, and those who want to stick it out where their families have lived for generations.

Finlay Currie, Niall MacGinnis, John Laurie, Belle Chrystall, Grant Sutherland, and the people of Foula in the Shetland Islands (where the film was made) give fine performances. The pace of the film is slower than we are now used to, but it helps the modern viewer step into a society without electricity, broadcasting, or employment for wages.

The B&W photography is a wonder, with skies, cliffs, crashing waves, roiling seas, pastures, sunshine, and fog making this very much a film of moods. Though the settings are quite different, "The Edge of the World" reminded me of "The Grapes of Wrath" as large impersonal forces pushed families to move. There will be losses as well as gains when they do. The scenes showing the eventual evacuation of the islanders, their possessions, and their animals are quite moving.

Return to the Edge of the World
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On the same disc are two short Powell films. In one, "Return to the Edge of the World," Powell and some members of the cast return to Foula in 1978. It's a fine piece of reunion and nostalgia, showcasing John Laurie.

An Airman's Letter to His Mother
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The other film on the disc is "An Airman's Letter to his Mother," a 5-minute wartime film made by Powell. It quietly dramatizes the famous letter written by Royal Air Force Flying Officer Vivian Rosewarne to his mother, delivered after he was lost over Dunkirk in 1940. The voice in the film is John Gielgud's.

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