12th Oct2023

‘Cry, The Beloved Country’ Blu-ray Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Canada Lee, Charles Carson, Sidney Poitier, Joyce Carey, Geoffrey Keen, Vivien Clinton, Michael Goodliffe, Albertina Temba, Edric Connor, Lionel Ngakane, Charles McRae | Written by John Howard Lawson | Directed by Zoltan Korda

Released in celebration of Black History Month, Studio Canal reveal this 4k Restoration of the seminal British classic from 1951, Cry, The Beloved Country. Not only do you get the 4k restoration of the movie from director Zoltan Korda, but there’s also new extras, and archive footage including a documentary on cinema under apartheid and a 16-page booklet.

So, why is the movie so important? Now over 70 years old, it features a moving, and emotional story, played out by some fabulous actors and, it feels very much ahead of its time covering the racial injustices of the period.

Cry, The Beloved Country was shot on location in South Africa (with interior shots in the U.K.), which was even more unique at the time, as the South African immigration authorities were told that some of the lead actors were servants of the director, just so they were allowed in the country to work! A fact that will seem crazy to many people reading this. If your knowledge of apartheid is limited, please check out some books or articles on the topic.

A priest travels to Johannesburg to see his sister who has fallen ill, and his son, who has not heard from since he moved there. The story takes many more turns though, when the priest’s son is found at the scene of a crime involving someone he knows from the village he has left behind.

The film does look fantastic, and I’m not just talking about the restoration. The cinematography for the shots in South Africa are fantastic, and the director does a great job of showing the difference between the farms the film is initially set on, to the busy, almost claustrophobic feel of Johannesburg.

At first, I was unsure about how the quality of the acting performances was going to be because the child actors in the opening were clearly in their first movie. But, things get much much better, and there are some exceptional performances.

Canada Lee plays Reverend Stephen Kumalo, and Charles Carson plays the racist rich white farmer James Jarvis. These two are both phenomenal in their roles, both when they are on screen together, or in separate scenes. They both play characters who go through so much, and change because of it. We see all this in their performances. It is hugely key to how good the film is, that they play these roles so well. It would have been so easy for the filmmakers to go with – white man = evil, black man = hero – but there are so many layers to the characters. They are not the only great actors here though. I thought Joyce Carey was excellent as Margaret, the wife of James Jarvis, and elsewhere, the film is littered with good performances.

Cry, The Beloved Country, even 70 years later, is such a brilliantly, thought-provoking movie. It’s a minor miracle that it was even made, and it’s fantastic that it will now get a new audience with this release. It’s the kind of film that reminds me to expand the type of movies I watch. Especially pre-1970s movies outside of the horror genre. This is an important, and much-appreciated release from Studio Canal.

**** 4/5

Cry, The Beloved Country is out now on Bu-ray from Studio Canal’s Vintage Classics line.


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