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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Romance > Ballet > Literature > Fairy Tale > British > The Red Shoes (1948/Criterion Collection Blu-ray)

The Red Shoes (1948/Criterion Collection Blu-ray)


Picture: B+     Sound: C+     Extras: B+     Film: B+



Described rightly as a film that shows and tells us why we should have art and the arts, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s The Red Shoes (1948) takes the original fairy tale by the genre’s great writer Hans Christian Anderson and runs with it, resulting in what always has been, is and will very much ever be the greatest live action interpretation of his work that will ever be committed to film or any other visual format.  The Archers (as the directing duo are also known) created classics just about every time they worked together and this may be their best film.


Anton Walbrook (Ophuls’ Lola Montés) is the ultra-strict ballet director Boris whose strict hold on the company he runs is one of the reasons for its success and how well it holds together, but when the beautiful Victoria (brilliant ballerina Moira Shearer in her amazing film debut) arrives as an up and coming star, he is very interested, but she may be more compatible and better off with Julian (Marius Goring), a composer with more progressive ideas and more possibilities of a better future.


One of the greatest love triangles in cinema history, it is backed by a love of ballet and some of the most important, vital, memorable and influential images thereof ever produced of the art form and simply in terms of pure cinema, yet there is this extremely deep, intricate, palpable, thoroughly written story of the characters and all of it still stays faithful to the original book.  Only geniuses working at the top of their capacities and abilities could have created this film and that is true of virtually every participant.


The Red Shoes is one of the greatest British films ever made and though I have small, minor issues with it, I have to admit seeing it here was like seeing it for the first time and I look forward to seeing it again.  Like the greatest films, it is not just a “movie” but a full-fledged experience and restored as it is, this is one of the great revival events of the last few years.  A total classic has been saved and it is reason to celebrate!



The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image is a new 4K High Definition master that took years to restore and repair, but the results amount to an extraordinary reconstruction of the film, the three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor it was made in and thanks to many people (including mega-fan Martin Scorsese) and much money, its original look has been brought back as much as possible for a film its age and considering all the poor prints that have been circulating on the film for years.  The original three camera negatives were used to create this new edition and the results are even superior to what Warner had done the same way with Wizard Of Oz and Gone With The Wind as reds, blacks and whites comes across even better here.


Far superior to even Criterion’s old DVD and 12” LaserDisc editions, the idea is to recreate the look of British Technicolor, which is a little more shaded than the U.S./Hollywood type.  The result is that the film comes alive again in a way that was impossible to see unless you were able to see an actual Technicolor print.  Though even a Blu-ray this great cannot totally recreate such a print, it comes stunningly close to the depth and detail of the shoot, the range of color intended by the directors and the genius Director of Photography Jack Cardiff.  Now the greatness of the film can speak for itself and it does this as soon as the credits start to role.  Needless to say the whole disc is moiré than demo quality for even the finest home theater system.


The PCM 1.0 Mono will show up on home theater systems as a center-channel-only track and it sounds good for its age and not bad here, though this might be a little lower in volume than expected.  The lack of background noise is a plus and this is clean for its age.  Brian Easdale’s score also sounds better.


Extras include a booklet with tech information, illustrations, and a fine essay on the film by David Ehrenstein, while the Blu-ray has a introductory restoration demonstration with Scorsese himself, fine feature-length audio commentary track by film scholar Ian Christie with interview clips from Scorsese, Goring, Shearer, Cardiff & Easdale, Jeremy Irons reading from the novelization of this film by the directors plus separate Irons reading of the original book, Profile of “The Red Shoes” documentary, 2009 interview with Thelma Schoonmaker Powell (Michael Powell’s widow) from Cannes, extensive stills section, gallery of Scorsese’s personal memorabilia collection on the film, The Red Shoes sketches, an animated film of Hein Heckroth’s painted storyboards with alternate angle of the actual ballet and the original theatrical trailer.


The Red Shoes has finally been saved for the world to rediscover and among the many great Blu-rays Criterion has already produced, it will remain one of the best Blu-rays they’ll ever make.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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