A Canterbury Tale Starring: Eric Portman, Dennis Price, Sergeant John Sweet Directors: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger The film: The second of six consecutive Powell and Pressburger films that practically reinvented British cinema - the other five were The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), I Know Where I'm Going! (1945), A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus (1947) and The Red Shoes (1948) - A Canterbury Tale is something of an overlooked gem. It was heavily re-cut and shortened by Powell after a poor critical and commercial reception, and not restored to its original state until the 1980s. Even then, unlike the other films, it wasn't widely shown on television. Part of the reason for its lack of immediate appeal is that, on first viewing, A Canterbury Tale is easily perceived as being slowly paced and lacking in substance (perhaps in keeping with its pilgrimage theme). But on subsequent viewings it takes on a rhythmic and almost spiritual feel with the anticipation of the extraordinary ending. In other words, once you know where the film is taking you, the journey becomes far more enjoyable. In a contemporary wartime setting, three characters - an English soldier, a young woman and an American sergeant - arrive at the train station of a village just outside Canterbury. They each have their own agenda, but get caught up in trying to solve the mystery of the village's 'glue-man', after the woman (Sheila Sim) finds herself on the receiving end of one of his regular attacks (he pours glue over women's heads under cover of darkness). The other main character is the local magistrate (Eric Portman), who soon becomes a prime suspect. Three days later, the four find themselves in Canterbury, and each receives a personal salvation of sorts that, as mentioned, gives the previous events new meaning. Impossible to categorise, with often breathtaking camerawork, this is certainly a film that requires repeat viewings, and one that benefits greatly from the generous selection of extras that are provided with this new DVD package. The extras: This double-disc edition from Criterion features a newly restored transfer that's a great improvement on the earlier no-extras Carlton release. Bonus material on disc one includes an excellent commentary from historian Ian Christie, and the specially filmed opening and closing love-interest segments filmed in New York for the US version. Disc two begins with a new 20-minute interview with Sim. The American soldier was played by a real-life US serviceman, Sergeant John Sweet, who in 2001 returned to Canterbury for a Powell and Pressburger retrospective. A Pilgrim's Return is a 22-minute interview with him, conducted in the original Cathedral Tea Room of the film, which has since been taken over by Starbucks. A Canterbury Trail follows the annual location walk around the Canterbury area held by a group of the film's more fanatical admirers, one of whom had come all the way from Canada. Humphrey Jennings' celebrated documentary Listen to Britain (1942) is a valuable addition, and is included here for its similarly poetic, impressionist portrayal of the country during wartime. Also entitled Listen to Britain (2001) is a vacuous six-minute 'video-installation piece' that might just as well have been left out of this otherwise exemplary package.