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  • Gareth Crook

49th Parallel (1941) - 7/10

I know nothing about this film… or its stars to be honest. All I know is it’s a Powell and Pressburger film and it’s reportedly good. Let’s see. The 49th Parallel is a line on a map, one that marks the border between America and Canada. At this point in history Canada is at war, America isn’t. When a WWII U-Boat picks a fight in Canadian waters they soon find themselves blown out of the water. Despite being in black and white and over 80 years old, it’s a pretty viseral scene. I suppose this being made in war time, might explain that. It also explains why none of the actors have German accents. Particularly the ones that had just left the submarine, heading for land with a swastika flag instructed to “conquer the world”. Starting with a small outpost on the edge of the Hudson Bay. It’s a sleepy place with a colourful cast, including Johnnie (Lawrence Olivier). He’s a trapper, a French speaking one, an insular type not concerned with world politics… and war. He’s certainly not expecting the Nazis to storm the cabin he shares with his two mates, but he’s pretty relaxed about it. Taking the mickey at their goose stepping antics. Until he gets shot! Despite its sometimes jovial moments, it’s pretty grim and gripping. The Nazis are of course all vile bastards, killing locals, scrounging resources and daubing swastikas on walls. Wasteful parasites. They’re a right bunch of pillocks, but it’s quite amusing to watch them bugger things up over and over again. Crashing planes, getting shot… and being shown what a screwed up concept Nazism and dictatorship is. Stumbling upon a socialist utopian community, for some the indoctrination slowly slips, as others try to escape. It’s nicely shot and of course the era makes it fascinating to the modern eye. Shot on location too, there’s some spectacular scenery. It’s very much of its time, prim, but it’s got a real edge to it, largely brought by Hirth (Eric Portman) who refuses to abandon the fuhrer. My favourite though is Phillip Armstrong Scott (Leslie Howard), a rather charming man, bookish, friendly, sophisticated and on learning of his guests belief’s in the Rocky Mountains says “Well that explains everything, your arrogance, your stupidity, your bad manners”. Turns out he’s a bit of a badass too. I imagine this went down very well in the 40s. The whole film in fact. I’d heard it was good, it is.



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