It's about 11 months too early for predictions about the best movies of 2000, but a likely contender has already arrived - direct from the vaults of film history, where "The Edge of the World" has been languishing since its original run in 1937. It's back in circulation thanks to Milestone Film & Video, which is releasing a crisp-looking new edition from a restored negative and soundtrack prepared by the British Film Institute.
Why should this picture receive a new lease on life in American theaters? One answer is to name some of the talents who made it. The cast features John Laurie, best known as the misanthropic Crofter in Alfred Hitchcock's unforgettable "The 39 Steps," and Finlay Currie, who's appeared in a long list of British and American films. More important, it was written and directed by Michael Powell, a giant of British cinema whose classics (often done in collaboration with Emeric Pressburger, his longtime partner) include "The Red Shoes" and "Peeping Tom," to name just a couple. He was a major influence on Martin Scorsese and other key American filmmakers before his death in 1990.
The main reason to see "The Edge of the World," though, is the superb quality of the movie itself, set on a British island whose inhabitants are struggling to maintain their traditional way of life despite increasingly hard times and the reluctance of younger folks to remain there. Told with old-fashioned simplicity yet avoiding any trace of sentimentality or emotionalism, it's a small-scale masterpiece that shouldn't be missed by anyone interested in cinematic storytelling at its most compelling.
*Not rated; contains no objectionable material.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society