The Edge of the World
|The Edge of the World|
|Directed by||Michael Powell|
|Produced by||Joe Rock|
|Written by||Michael Powell|
|Music by||Lambert Williamson (uncredited)|
|Edited by||Derek N. Twist|
|Distributed by||British Independent Exhibitors|
|August 1937 (UK)|
The Edge of the World is a 1937 British film directed by Michael Powell, about the evacuation of the Scottish archipelago of St Kilda. It was Powell's first major project. The title is a reference to the phrase Ultima Thule, coined by Virgil (Georgics 1:30).
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Following the death of Belle Chrystal in 2003, there are no surviving members of the cast or crew.
- BFI: The Edge of the World – distributor Retrieved 12 November 2012
- Review from "Picture Show" magazine, 14 August 1937 Retrieved 12 November 2012
- Powell, Michael. 200,000 Feet on Foula. London: Faber & Faber, 1938.
- Powell, Michael. 200,000 Feet – The Edge of the World (US title). New York: E.P. Dutton & co., 1938
- Powell, Michael. "Edge of the World": The Making of a Film. London: Faber & Faber, 1990. Paperback
- Powell, Michael. A Life in Movies: An Autobiography. London: Heinemann, 1986. ISBN 0-434-59945-X.
- Powell, Michael. Million Dollar Movie. London: Heinemann, 1992. ISBN 0-434-59947-6.
- Earl, David W.. "Michael Powell's The Edge of the World - Then & Now". Hanover Publications, February 2014. ISBN 978-09523928-5-9.
- The Edge of the World in the British Film Institute's "Explore film..." database
- The Edge of the World at the British Film Institute's Film and TV Database
- The Edge of the World at the British Film Institute's Screenonline. Full synopsis and film stills (and clips viewable from UK libraries).
- The Edge of the World at the British Board of Film Classification
- The Edge of the World at the Internet Movie Database
- The Edge of the World at AllMovie
- Reviews and articles at the Powell & Pressburger Pages