Brilliant film, long unavailable...
Mark Savary | Seattle, WA | 07/03/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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"."
Peter Manson Gone Over
bernie | Arlington, Texas | 01/30/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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.
An interesting look at life at the edge of the world
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 06/13/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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.
The Edge of the World
John Farr | 06/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Based on the real-life exodus from St. Kilda, near Scotland, Powell's gripping melodrama was his first breakthrough before embarking on a fruitful life-long partnership with producer Emeric Pressburger. Combining documentary-like footage of ragged shorelines, craggy cliffs, and the rugged beauty of Foula (the film's actual location) with a simple story of economic hardship and romantic conflict, Powell concocted one of the most deeply personal and moving British films of the `30s. Sparse yet potent, "Edge" stands out for excellent performances--including John Laurie and Finlay Currie as the young lovers' squabbling patriarchs--and one thrilling sequence involving a treacherous foot race up Foula's forbiddingly steep cliffs."