49th Parallel (1941)

Genres - War  |   Sub-Genres - War Drama  |   Run Time - 105 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Mike Cummings

This 1941 British war film preached pure propaganda and got away with glowing critical reviews. How did it do it? With riveting suspense, superb writing, good cinematography, and some of the finest actors of the day, including Laurence Olivier, Leslie Howard, Raymond Massey, Anton Walbrook, and Eric Portman. When director Michael Powell and producer Emeric Pressburger began planning the motion picture as part of the war effort, they decided to make a propaganda film that was more than patriotic pap. Helping to fire their imaginations were the hard realities of the day: Hitler was on the march, Britain was in peril, and the U.S. had not yet entered the war. Pressburger fashioned a story about Nazis who enter Canada after their submarine sinks off the coast, above the 49th Parallel, and try to make it to the neutral U.S. while authorities are hot on their trail. Portman convincingly portrays the detestable Nazi leader while Olivier, Howard, Walbrook and Massey play patriotic Canadians who resist him and the other invaders. (The Invaders, incidentally, was the title of the film in the U.S.) The movie attempted not only to influence U.S. public opinion but also to solidify Canadian support for the war.