(aka "Stairway to Heaven")

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/powell.htm
U
K 1946

This film solidified my appeal for Powell and Pressburger films. I personally rate it as one of their finest, along with "Gone to Earth" and "I Know Where I am Going". Like "A Canterbury Tale" (1944) we have the wartime interaction of the British and a lone American. What separates and stamps a signature of P + P's films is both the dialogue and often Jack Cardiff's stunning color cinematography. This holds rank in both areas. The premise of "A Matter of Life and Death" has classically felt overtones invoking the subtle melodrama of a heartfelt romance. It is also remarkably imaginative.

 

May 1945: Peter Carter (David Niven) is flying back to England from a bombing raid, but the crew are bailed-out with parachutes or dead and the damaged plane will imminently crash. With what he knows as his final voice he converses with June (Kim Hunter), a young American radio operator working for the RAF. Preferring a watery grave than the fireball of a crashing plane, Peter jumps into the English Channel (no parachutes left) leaving June with his final wishes and desire to meet her... one day. The universal tumblers have jammed and Peter not only survives but the first girl he meets on the beach is June. Their initial kiss supersedes life itself.

The "highest court" however, admit their error in allowing Peter to survive and an ensuing trial in Heaven is set for a final ruling. Abraham Farlan (Raymond Massey) is the prosecutor, but luckily Peter has June's friend, Doctor Reeves (Roger Livesey) for the defense.

The much later U.S. remake "Heaven Can Wait" (1978) sillifies the pretext of this imaginative original film by Lubitsch (1943). Powell and Pressburger's is cinema that is as quintessential in their ouvré as one could ever define. The greatness is buried like layers that float away to compel more and more warmth of spirit. This folks, is a film worth seeing over and over again.
out of

 

Jordan tells us: "What was edited out of US version? - It was the scene where pilot David Niven, having jumped from a burning bomber without a parachute, is washed ashore at Saunton Sands, North Devon. It's a glorious day, and there is a vast expanse of beach and a wilderness of sandhills stretching for miles. A beautiful English morning in summer, rather unworldly, which seems appropriate for Niven who thinks he's dead and in Heaven. He gets up, strips off his flying gear, and wanders along the beach barefooted. He encounters a Labrador retriever, happy to know dogs are allowed in Heaven, then hears a tune being played on a reed pipe. There is a young naked boy seated on a sand dune, sunning himself while serenading a flock of goats. The goatherd was a Powell inspiration. The script called for a boy with some animals, who had to answer Niven's question when he thinks he's in Heaven: "Where do I report?" The director made the boy a naked boy, playing a tune composed by Allan Gray, while his goats nibbled the sparse grass on the sand dunes. Powell thought it gave the scene a certain charm, like a scene from  Theocritus. Niven speaks to the boy and gradually realizes that he is not dead, that he's alive, and has been washed ashore near the very  place where he will meet the love of his life. This, established in an earlier scene. Powell's charming Theocritean idyll was disliked by his American partners. The magic of the scene eluded them. They could only see sexual implications in the association of a grown man with a naked boy and rushed to protect their public. The scene was cut out in America, that's all there is to that. Never mind that there were important plot lines in it. It always riled Powell. So much for a pastoral touch of whimsy to complement a key sequence." (thanks Jordan)

Gary W. Tooze

Posters

Theatrical Release: November 1st, 1946 (Royal Command Film Performance)

Reviews    More Reviews    DVD Reviews

DVD Comparison:

Carlton -  Region 2 - PAL vs. EPIX - Region 2 - PAL vs. Sony - Michael Powell Double Feature (Age of Consent, Stairway to Heaven)  - Region 1 - NTSC

 

1) Carlton - Region 2 - PAL LEFT

2) EPIX - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Sony - Powell Double Feature - Region 1 - NTSC RIGHT

 

DVD Box Cover

 

 

 

Distribution

Carlton Visual Entertainment

 Region 2 - PAL

EPIX

Region 2 - PAL

Sony

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:39:54 (4% PAL Speedup) 1:39:54 (4% PAL Speedup) 1:44:04
Video 1.37:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.0 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
1.37:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.19 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
1.37:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.19 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
 

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:  Carlton

 

Bitrate:  EPI

 

Bitrate:  EPI

 

Audio English (Dolby Digital 3.0 Mono)  English (Dolby Digital 1.0), DUB: German (Dolby Digital 1.0) English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired, None English, German, None English, French, None

Features

Release Information:
Studio: Carlton Visual Entertainment (UK)

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.37:1

 

Edition Details:

• Jack Cardiff Interview (9:59)
• Bios (text pages)

• Also Available (shows 4 other Carlton titles)
 

DVD Release Date: September 14th, 1998
Keep Case
Chapters: 12 (13 as opening is not recorded as a 'Chapter')

Release Information:
Studio: EPIX

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1

 

Edition Details:

• Text screens (in German)
 

DVD Release Date: May 12th, 2005
Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 12

Release Information:
Studio: Sony

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1

 

Edition Details:

• Commentary by Ian Christie

• Martin Scorsese discussion (7:53)

• Age of Consent disc and extras
 

DVD Release Date: January 6th, 2009
Custom Case
Chapters: 12

 

 

Comments:

ADDITION: Sony- Region 1 - NTSC - December 08' - Being brief - even though the new Sony disc is single-layered the improvement in the image is readily apparent. The EPIX and Carlton (which are pretty much the same disc) show excessive boosting beside the NTSC offering. Contrast on the black and white scenes of the new Sony has some sepia infiltration. The good?:

Skin tones have returned to a normal palette. Detail a notch better, colors appears more realistic but still don't maintain the Technicolor brilliance.

PAL versions are cropped a bit and seem horizontally stretched.

This is "A Matter of Life and Death" not the cut US "Stairway to Heaven" (as advertised in some venues).

It has a super Ian Christie commentary and 8-minute 'intro' by Scorsese. The package contains a second disc (dual-layered) with Age of Consent (and a Kent Jones commentary.)

I'm hoping to cover the entire Michael Powell Double Feature soon but wanted top get this out as we had so many e-mails about the image quality. It's far from ideal but a darn-site better than anything else available. Recommended!

 

***

ADDITION: EPIX (German) - PAL - November 05' - Well it appears as though my hopes for an even better transfer will not be coming to fruition in this new EPIX edition. I was told by a friend and hoping that this newer German DVD edition transfer would be from the 2000 restoration - but it is exactly the same image quality (even the same damage marks) as the original Carlton. Which is not to say the Carlton is poor - just boosted! The only differences are that the Carlton has English language menus, a 10:00 Jack Cardiff interview and optional white subtitles to the German's removable yellow and only German text extras (and a few stills and 2 posters). Other than that I thought the German edition sounded very good - quite possibly better than the Carlton, but I can't say with 100% certainty. I still suggest purchasing the Carlton - for the marvelous film and the superior extras.



 

****

ON THE CARLTON (written in 2000): One of the oldest DVDs from Carlton, and the boosting is a pain. Skin tones and colors are weak. There are some artifacts and damage marks. Contrast is a mess. It looks as though someone has tried to replicate the Technicolor glory. Audio is clear on 3-channel Mono. Clear, white subtitles, and a nice featurette involving Jack Cardiff.  Until Region 1 does this it remains a must-have film/DVD.

Gary W. Tooze


DVD Menus

(Carlton - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. EPIX - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)

 

 

Sony

 

 

Come with Age of Consent in the Sony Michael Powell Double Feature package

 

 


A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH

 

Subtitle Samples

 

1) Carlton - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) EPIX - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Sony - Powell Double Feature - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 

 


Screen Captures

 

1) Carlton - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) EPIX - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Sony - Powell Double Feature - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 

 


 

1) Carlton - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) EPIX - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Sony - Powell Double Feature - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 

 

 


 

1) Carlton - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) EPIX - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Sony - Powell Double Feature - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 

 

NOTE: The below scene was deleted in the US version "Stairway to Heaven".

 

 


 

1) Carlton - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) EPIX - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Sony - Powell Double Feature - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 


 

1) Carlton - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) EPIX - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Sony - Powell Double Feature - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 


 

1) Carlton - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) EPIX - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Sony - Powell Double Feature - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 

 

 


Report Card:

 

Image:

Sony

Sound:

-

Extras: Sony
Menu: Carlton

 


Associated Reading (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

DVD Box Cover

 

 

 

Distribution

Carlton Visual Entertainment

 Region 2 - PAL

EPIX

Region 2 - PAL

Sony

Region 1 - NTSC




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Gary Tooze

Mississauga, Ontario,

   CANADA

 

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