The Edge of the World

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The Edge of the World
DVD-EotW.jpg
DVD cover
Directed by Michael Powell
Produced by Joe Rock
Written by Michael Powell
Starring John Laurie
Belle Chrystall
Eric Berry
Finlay Currie
Niall MacGinnis
Music by Lambert Williamson (uncredited)
Cinematography Monty Berman
Skeets Kelly
Ernest Palmer
Editing by Derek N. Twist
Distributed by British Independent Exhibitors[1]
Release dates August 1937 (UK)[2]
Running time 81 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £20,000 (est.)

The Edge of the World (1937) was the first major project by British filmmaker Michael Powell. The title is a reference to the phrase Ultima Thule, coined by Virgil (Georgics 1:30).

Plot[edit]

The film is the story of the de-population of one of the isolated, outer islands of Scotland as, one by one, the younger generation leaves for the greater opportunities offered by the mainland, making it harder to follow the old ways of life there.

Robbie Manson (Eric Berry) wants to leave the island and explore the wider world. Robbie's friend Andrew Gray (Niall MacGinnis) and his sister, Ruth Manson (Belle Chrystall) are sweethearts and are quite willing to stay. Of their fathers, Peter Manson (John Laurie) is determined to stay while James Gray (Finlay Currie) suspects that their way of life cannot last much longer.

But if Robbie leaves, that will make it harder for the others because there will be one less young man to help with the fishing and the crofting.

Production[edit]

Powell had been making studio based 'quota quickies' for some years but wanted to make a film about the depopulation of the Scottish islands ever since seeing a newspaper article about the evacuation of St Kilda some years before.

He wasn't allowed to film on St Kilda but found another suitable island in Foula in the Shetland Islands to the north of Scotland.

Powell gathered together a cast and crew who were willing to take part in an expedition to what, before the air service that now exists, was a very isolated part of the UK. They had to stay there for quite a few months and finished up with a film which not only told the story he wanted but also captured the raw natural beauty of the location.

Literature[edit]

Powell wrote a book about his experience making the film: raising the initial funding, trying and failing to make the film on St Kilda, then realising that Foula could be used instead. He detailed how the cast and crew were selected and how they lived and worked on the island at a time when there were no flights there, only occasional radio communication. They even had to build their own accommodations.

The book was initially titled 200,000 Feet on Foula. This is a reference to the amount of film used, not the height of the cliffs. It was published in America as 200,000 Feet – The Edge of the World and was reprinted as Edge of the World: The making of a film in a paperback edition in 1990.

Return to the Edge of the World[edit]

In 1978, director Michael Powell and some of the surviving cast and crew went back to Foula to re-visit the island where they had made the film that changed their lives. This was made for BBC TV to act as "colour bookends" to the 1937 film and is called Return to the Edge of the World. In the first part, Powell drives in to Pinewood Studios and tells how the film came to be made. Then he, John Laurie, Sydney Streeter, Grant Sutherland and others return to Foula. In the second part, they talk to some of the islanders who were there in 1937 and remember those who couldn't make the reunion. Return to the Edge of the World was available as an extra on both the VHS and DVD releases of the original film by the BFI.

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

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