Edge of the World (1937, Michael Powell)

Grumpy sailor Andrew is assisting a couple of pleasure-cruisers (the man is played by Powell himself) who want to visit a deserted island. Atop the mountainous island, Andrew finds a tombstone and tells them his story in flashback. Just an amazing-looking movie, shot on “the lonely island of Foula,” an instant cure for my complaints that Design For Living was too talky with no visual imagination.

Andrew sees dead people:

Back before the island was deserted, Andrew (Niall MacGinnis, the reformed nazi in 49th Parallel) was best buds with Robbie, and liked Rob’s sister Ruth. Robbie had decided to leave the island, and there were few able young men left, especially after Rob’s decision became final when he died during a mountain-climbing race, so their fathers (Finlay Currie of Corridors of Blood, and prominently-sideburned John Laurie of The 39 Steps) and the other elders decide to gather their sheep and abandon the island. Meanwhile the couple can’t be together since Andrew is blamed for his sweetie’s brother’s death, but fortunately he got her pregnant, so her father says the hell with it and allows the wedding.

Jonathan Rosenbaum:

The film refuses to conclude with this couple – refuses to use them as a summing-up of what the picture is really about, as almost any American movie would. Eerily, these characters are dwarfed first and last by their awesome physical surroundings, and by the nurturing community they come from, which looms second largest in Powell’s sense of a natural order.

Sideburns falls off a cliff during a plot contrivance the evacuation, leaving behind a tombstone for Andrew to find years later. It’s kind of a negative movie, actually, but so wonderful to watch that it hardly matters. IMDB says Powell overshot the film and credits his editor for saving it.

I have Powell’s autobiography but haven’t the time to read whatever he wrote on Edge of the World just now – and apparently he wrote a whole separate book just on the making of this film.

Yachtsman Powell with his future wife Frankie Reidy:

Return to the Edge of the World (1978)

A lot like Agnes Varda’s DVD extras, returning to scene of a film made many years ago, reconnecting with some participants, but putting in real effort to produce more than a simple nostalgia (or marketing) piece. Alarming to watch them closely together and see everyone get old so fast.

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