Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Canterbury Tale

A Canterbury Tale

4.3 3
Director: Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell

Cast: Eric Portman, Sheila Sim

Set not in the 14th century milieu of Geoffrey Chaucer but in wartime Britain, A Canterbury Tale begins with rural justice of the peace Eric Portman adopting a "lock up your daughters" policy when the American soldiers are stationed nearby. To escape the arbitrary edicts of Portman, British tank sergeant Dennis Price, American GI John Sweet and shopkeeper


Set not in the 14th century milieu of Geoffrey Chaucer but in wartime Britain, A Canterbury Tale begins with rural justice of the peace Eric Portman adopting a "lock up your daughters" policy when the American soldiers are stationed nearby. To escape the arbitrary edicts of Portman, British tank sergeant Dennis Price, American GI John Sweet and shopkeeper Sheila Sim head down the road to Canterbury. Each of the principals finds their lives changed by the journey. In particular, Sweet (a real-life American sergeant, rather than the usual stereotyped "yank" common to British war films) encounters genuine romance. A product of the always adventuresome "Archers" (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger), A Canterbury Tale contains some extremely creative cinematic moments, though it is the quieter scenes which work best. Esmond Knight narrates the film and shows up in a couple of amusing cameos. A ubiquitous presence on American TV, Canterbury Tale is available in two versions; the American release version, cut from 124 to 95 minutes and including several arbitrary scenes with Kim Hunter, is the lesser of the two.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
A Canterbury Tale is a marvelous film -- and don't worry, one doesn't need an appreciation for Geoffrey Chaucer to be able to enjoy it. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger have once again shown how it is possible to work magic in the cinema -- and as with all the best magic, figuring out how it works is pretty darn difficult. By all rights, Canterbury shouldn't be such an absorbing, engrossing and charming piece of work. The story wanders, starting out as one thing, becoming another, and ending a third. It's even structured in three distinct acts, which should make it feel rather stiff. But Canterbury is anything but stiff. It melts, it floats, it simmers, it soars -- and yet it always knows where it's going, even if the viewer isn't always quite so clear. Perhaps the secret to the film's success is that Powell and Pressburger are only tangentially concerned with the actual details of the plot; what they're really interested in is making the gentlest kind of propaganda film, a war film that gets at the heart of why Britain was at that time embroiled in a devastating war. It beautifully, movingly yet never cloyingly explores the very nature of England -- not the country, but the spirit -- to demonstrate why it was worth the lives of so many people. And yet it does this without becoming heavyhanded. There's also plenty of comedy and beauty in Canterbury, not to mention some of Powell and Pressburger's finest cinematic tricks -- including a breathtaking "hawk into plane" transition at the beginning of the film that is simply stunning. The compositions are masterful and dramatic, the cinematography is just about perfect, and the entire effect is simply a joy. Dependable actors such as Eric Portman and Dennis Price give delightful performances and are joined by novice John Sweet, whose unaffected, natural style is a treat. Canterbury must be experienced.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Region Code:
[Full Frame]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Closed Caption; New, restored high-definition digital transfer; Audio commentary by film historian Ian Christie; Excerpts from the American version, with Kim Hunter; Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing; New video interview with actress Sheila Sim; A Pilgrim's Return, a documentary about John Sweet, by Nick Burton and Eddie McMillan; A Canterbury Trail, a new documentary visiting the film locations, by David Thompson; Listen to Britain, a 2001 video-installation piece inspired by A Canterbury Tale, by artist Victor Burgin; Listen to Britain, a 1942 documentary by Humphrey Jennings; A booklet featuring essays by Graham Fuller, Peter von Bagh, and actor John Sweet

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Eric Portman Thomas Colpepper, J.P.
Sheila Sim Alison Smith
Dennis Price Sgt. Peter Gibbs
John Sweet Bob Johnson
Charles Hawtrey Thomas Duckett
Freda Jackson Prudence Honeywood
Hay Petrie Woodcock
George Merritt Ned Horton
Edward Rigby Jim Horton
Betty Jardine Fee Baker
Esmond Knight Narrator/ Seven-Sisters Soldier/ Village Idiot
Leonard Smith Leslie
Eliot Makeham Organist
Harvey Golden Sgt. Roczinsky
James Tamsitt Terry
David Todd David
Beresford Egan P.C. Ovenden
Charles Paton Ernie Brooks
Jane Millican Susanna Foster
John Slater Sergeant Len
Michael Golden Sergeant Smale
Graham Moffatt Sergeant Stuffy
Esma Cannon Agnes
Michael Howard Archie
Judith Furse Dorothy Bird
Barbara Waring Polly Finn
Jeanne Shepherd Gladys Swinton
Joss Ambler Police Inspector
H.F. Maltby Mr. Portal
Eric Maturin Geoffrey's Father
Kim Hunter Johnson's Girl
Anthony Holles Sergeant Bassett
Margaret Scudamore Mrs. Colpeper

Technical Credits
Emeric Pressburger Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Michael Powell Director,Producer,Screenwriter
George R. Busby Asst. Director
Cecil Cooney Camera Operator
Desmond Dew Sound/Sound Designer
Allan Gray Score Composer
Erwin Hillier Cinematographer
Alfred Junge Production Designer
George Maynard Production Manager
John Seabourne Editor
C.C. Stevens Sound/Sound Designer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- A Canterbury Tale: The Film
1. Prologue [5:47]
2. "Next Stop, Canterbury" [7:33]
3. Mr. Colpeper [7:32]
4. The Hand of Glory [9:10]
5. The Wheelwright [6:09]
6. "Things Don't Always Add Up" [5:23]
7. Landgirl [8:23]
8. Colpeper's Lecture [8:07]
9. Village Mystery [3:32]
10. Sticks and Stones [11:18]
11. Salvage Mission [11:05]
12. Miracles [8:41]
13. Higher Courts [8:32]
14. "Always an Organist" [7:27]
15. The Caravan [7:11]
16. Heavenly Messenger [7:31]
17. End Credits [1:19]
1. Literary Connections [5:47]
2. The Three Travelers [7:33]
3. Eric Portman [7:32]
4. Country and City [9:10]
5. Documentary Realism [6:09]
6. A Minor Miracle [5:23]
7. "Hopping" [8:23]
8. "What Is His Message?" [8:07]
9. Alfred Junge [3:32]
10. A Children's World [11:18]
11. Attention to Detail [11:05]
12. The Power of Imagination [8:41]
13. Court of Conscience [8:32]
14. The Cinematic Cathedral [7:27]
15. Neoromanticims [7:11]
16. Yanks in Britain [7:31]
17. End Credits [1:19]

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

A Canterbury Tale 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
carleenloveshoneyjr More than 1 year ago
CANTERBURY was one of the legends of literature.. ôô very nice .. :)
Guest More than 1 year ago
There's no denying that this Powell/Pressburger film was intended to boost the morale of Allied forces before the historic Normandy landing. Nevertheless, there's a hushed lyrical quality to the storytelling that raises it far above the level of the typical propaganda yarn. Powell's obvious love for the Southern English countryside is effectively romanticized through the legend of the old Canterbury trail, made world-famous by Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The three main characters find themselves modern pilgrims-of-sorts, who find blessings in most unexpected ways. The acting is competent, unadorned (save the early English-film-actor inflections) and refreshing, especially the home-spun performance from, American, John Street.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago