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 Bob Keser

The Edge of the World
By: Scott Tobias

Director Michael Powell will always be remembered for his 18-year collaboration with Emeric Pressburger, a collaboration that yielded such literate, cinematic, and highly influential productions as Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes, and Tales Of Hoffmann. But his career was book-ended by a couple of fascinating personal projects that have only recently received the attention they deserve. The first to be reissued was 1960's Peeping Tom, a lurid psychosexual thriller concerning voyeurism and cinema that effectively ended his career, but which is now widely acknowledged as his most groundbreaking film. The second, 1937's The Edge Of The World, doesn't have quite the same impact, but as a formative work, it shows signs of Powell's technical prowess and reflects a fiercely independent vision that would surface in subsequent efforts. An uneasy mix of ethnography and melodrama, The Edge Of The World takes place on a majestic island off the coast of Scotland, home to a tight-knit community threatened with certain extinction by poor harvests and trawlers that rob their fishing beds. Perched on jagged cliffs that hover about a quarter-mile above the ocean, the residents of Hirta (meaning "death") face the mainland with foreboding glances as they fight their inevitable absorption into society at large. Their struggles are dramatized in the thinly conceived story of three friends--lovers Niall MacGinnis and Belle Chrystall, and Chrystall's brother Eric Berry--whose fortunes are tragically altered by an argument about the island's future. The conflict leads to the film's most impressive setpiece, a rock-climbing competition (without ropes up the steep incline) that climaxes in a flurry of impressionistic montage. Powell's deep respect for the community's idealism and determination makes its demise all the more bittersweet, leading to a haunting denouement in an enveloping shroud of fog.

For this re-release, Milestone Films has also included An Airman's Letter To His Mother, a touching five-minute propaganda short Powell made under commission for Britain's Royal Air Force.

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