Every week in the New York Times, Dave Kehr has been quietly crafting tiny jewels of cinephiliac writing in his "Critic's Choice" column. He pulls off the impressive feat of taking limited newspaper space and using it to shine a light on historically important and offbeat/obscure DVD releases; in doing so he also offers a model of how to weave together history, personal remembrance and brilliant formal analysis in a concise and accessible way.

This week, he highlights what sounds like an especially exciting new box set: "Classic British Thrillers," from MPI Video. All of the films sound good, but I was most excited to find out it included two early films from Michael Powell. There are few directors whose work I love more than Powell's, so I can't wait to check out Red Ensign and The Phantom Light. Head over to the Times to read Kehr's thoughts, and luxuriate in his essential critical voice.


Bob Westal said…
It's pretty exciting that some of the old quota quickies are coming to light now. I'd love to see the Slaughter Sweeney Todd...And anything from Michael Powell is worth checking out, even if I could barely stay awake through "The Edge of the World" -- so far my only exposure to pre-Emeric Pressburger/A. Korda Powell.

Which reminds me, I've got a lesser known Powell Pressburger waiting downstairs to review (can't remember the name right now but it's about an alcoholic bomb disposal specialist), but the vagaries of film reviewing for an online men's mag have left it a much lower priority than "Touch of Evil" and some oft-reissued Alfred Hitchcock films. Once again, the varying fortunes of Powell in the aftermath of "Peeping Tom" and Hitchcock after "Psycho" are fascinating and ironic, especially in that I think "Peeping Tom" is much the better movie. (Though the first 45 minutes of "Psycho" is pure genius -- the second half is anything but.)
Brian Doan said…
Yeah, The Edge of the World is one of the duller Powell films, although it does have some gorgeous location work that seems to foreshadow the kinds of moody, fog-covered landscapes he'll exploit to much greater effect in A Cantebury Tale and I Know Where I'm Going!. The DVD also has an unintentionally hilarious 70s doc on the film-- hilarious because it has a minor cast member who narrates as if he's doing KING LEAR for Orson Welles. Really, I can't think of how to describe the way he says the title, "The EDGE OF THE WORLD!"-- it has to be heard in all its melodramatic glory to be believed.

I think the film you have for review, from your description, sounds like THE SMALL BACK ROOM. That's one of my favorite P&P films-- tight, moody, noirish-- very much like what TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY would be three decades later. Brilliant stuff, and very different in tone and subject matter from some of their other films. I hope you enjoy it!

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