The Masters  
The Powell & Pressburger Pages

Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.

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Submitted by Nicky Smith

Tall Tale from Canterbury.
By C.A. Lejeune
The Observer
(taken from "Chestnuts in Her Lap 1936-1946")

A Canterbury Tale is a remarkable film, in which Michael Powell, the writer, has given Michael Powell, the director a pretty shabby story, and the second Powell has almost managed to get away with it. A Canterbury Tale is about a Kentish J.P. (Eric Portman) who believes so deeply in the study of his native soil that he pours glue on girls' heads in the black-out lest they seduce the local soldiery from his archaeological lectures. That's the theme, and to my mind, nothing will make it either an sensible or a pleasant one. This fellow may be a mystagogue, with the love of England in his blood, but he is also [plainly a crackpot of a rather unpleasant type, with bees in his bonnet and blue-bottles in his belfry.]

And yet, on this horrid foundation, director Powell has built up a film that is in parts moving and even dignified. A man of Kent himself, he has taken his cameras exulting in the green spring of Kent on a sunny April morning. His Canterbury is a place loved and understood; his dialogue often simple and true. His three young people -a land-girl (Sheila Sim), a British soldier (Dennis Price), and an American soldier (Sergeant John Sweet, a bit of real talent from the US army) - who are all in some way influenced by the mystagogue's enthusiasm, have for the most part an unaffected charm, and do suggest pilgrims undergoing an emotional experience, rather than actors working their way through the sticky shooting script. The piece is an odd example. I should say, of a film that might have reached great heights, but hasn't; a story that might easily have gone to the devil, but didn't. Possibly a case of Dr Powyll and Mr. Hyde.

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