5 September 2005 | HallmarkMovieBuff
The Edge of the World (1937) vs. Return to The Edge of the World (1978)
Michael Brooke's plot summary for Michael Powell's "Return to The Edge of the World" indicates that it is essentially a re-release of the 1937 black and white film with color bookends, which explains the 85 min. running time listed here -- the original runs 72 min. and the "bookends" run 23 min.
Turner Classic Movies (TCM), a cable network in the United States, ran these last night as companion pieces -- first the earlier film in a restoration credited to Powell in the year of his death; then the "bookends" alone, but given the full "Return" title.
I was eager to see at least the original film, first because I'm a fan of the director, and second because I'm fascinated by black and white outdoor photography of landscapes of the world made before I was born (think Sergei Eisenstein, John Ford, etc.).
Although some of the plot points were telegraphed well in advance, "The Edge of the World" (1937), with fine performances all around, doesn't disappoint, and I refer readers to the IMDb entry for that film for more detailed reviews. What's of interest here is the "bookends" portion of the 1978 follow-up.
"Return to the Edge of the World" (i.e., the 1978 "bookends") shows the island of Foula in color, selected cast and crew from the original but 40 years later, and locals discussing the effects that the original film had on the island itself, such as neglect by government officials who withheld services on the expectation that the island of filming was predestined to experience the same fate as the island of the story. (A review under "The Edge of the World" indicates they now have full time electricity, at least.)
Although only two of the original cast appear in this update (John Laurie, hamming it like a 19th century stage actor who had just seen his first movie camera, and Grant Sutherland, with very bad teeth), nevertheless in the script, in the crew, in the supporting players, and even in the review of those who were missing, the emphasis seemed to be totally on the men involved in the film, with practically no focus on the women. For example, although her name is mentioned, we have not one whit of mention of "whatever happened to" Belle Chrystall, the female lead. (Although she stopped making movies just 3 or 4 years after "The Edge of the World," she lived for decades past the "Return...", even into the current millennium.)
Although I give the original a "9", I give the return a "5", averaging out to a "7" for the 85 min. version.