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49th Parallel

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If you’ve never seen Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s stirring, quirky propaganda thriller, then waste no time. And if you already have an earlier edition, you’ll obviously want this Criterion upgrade with its new clean transfer. Set in 1940, the story follows six Nazis traveling through rural Canada to gain entry into still-neutral America after their U-Boat has been sunk. Along the way, they encounter a Hudson Bay factor and a trapper (Finlay Currie and Laurence Olivier, adopting a hammy theek French accent), a commune leader (a splendid Anton Walbrook), an author (Leslie Howard), and a soldier (Raymond Massey), who stand up for enlightenment. As Bruce Eder points out in the useful commentary, the film’s portrayal of the Nazis as ”daring and resourceful” was unusual and controversial for the time. But by humanizing the enemy, the filmmakers make the anti-Nazi sentiment more reasoned and potent. EXTRAS The two-disc package also includes a 1943 Powell-Pressburger short and a BBC doc about the filmmakers. B+

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