Red Shoes, The (Blu-ray) (1948)

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Released 1-Dec-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-A Profile of the Red Shoes (24:14)
Storyboards-Ballet of the Red Shoes (15:23)
Introduction-Cannes 2009: Martin Scorsese introduction (3:33)
Interviews-Crew-Cannes 2009: Thelma Schoonmaker interview (14:04)
Theatrical Trailer
Gallery-Photo-Behind the Scenes, Production stills, Poster, Promotions etc
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Gallery-Star Profile Gallery (3:50)
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1948
Running Time 135:04 (Case: 138)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Michael Powell
Emeric Pressburger

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Anton Walbrook
Marius Goring
Moira Shearer
Robert Helpmann
Léonide Massine
Albert Bassermann
Ludmilla Tchérina
Esmond Knight
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $19.95 Music Brian Easdale
Kenny Baker

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (256Kb/s)
English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 mono (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, 2009 restoration credits

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Plot Synopsis

    For me, The Red Shoes is more than just a film, it embodies the creative peak that was the incredibly inspirational team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Powell would handle the directional duties and Pressburger focused on the writing of their screenplays, but such was their respect for each other that they agreed to share creative credit for their films under the moniker of 'The Archers'. Prior to 1948, The Archers created some memorable films such as 49th Parallel, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, A Canterbury Tale, I Know Where I'm Going!, A Matter of Life and Death and Black Narcissus.

    The Red Shoes represented an important change in the filmmaking process of The Archers. Starting with their first film in Technicolor, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp in 1943, The Archers were able to act as their own producers, making films for J.Arthur Rank with complete creative freedom. This creative freedom contrasted with their movies which involved distribution deals with Alexander Korda prior to this time. The Red Shoes was made at a time when the Rank Organisation was struggling financially. As a result, The Red Shoes was not properly promoted, there isn't even an original theatrical poster! (Note the poster used in the extras gallery on this Blu-ray). The Archers wouldn't be able to make films with the same creative freedom after 1948 and their critical and commercial success declined. (Although The Tales of Hoffmann, made in 1951, represents the last great Archers film where both Powell and Pressburger were able to make their dream cinematic opera, based on the ending of Black Narcissus and the ballet sequence in The Red Shoes, into a complete film)

    The success of The Archers during the 1940s was also due to their cast and crew who worked on their films and shared their thematic visions. This included actors Esmond Knight, David Farrar, Marius Goring, Roger Livesey, Anton Walbrook, Deborah Kerr, Kathleen Byron, Léonide Massine and Robert Helpmann, cinematographers Erwin Hillier, Jack Cardiff and Christopher Challis, production and costume designers Alfred Junge and Hein Heckroth and composers and musicians Brian Easdale, Allan Gray and Sir Thomas Beecham. Esmond Knight, David Farrar, Roger Livesey, Anton Walbrook, Jack Cardiff, Hein Heckroth, Brian Easdale and Allan Gray contributed their best work during their careers for The Archers.

    The Red Shoes was adapted from the 1845 fairy tale of a young girl bound to dance due to her red shoes, which she purchases after viewing them in a shop window, by Hans Christian Andersen. In the 1948 film, the story was cleverly updated as a ballet and as a metaphor for the conflict between a young ballet dancer's devotion to her art and her fiancé. Moira Shearer plays the part of Vicky Page, a young ballerina who desires to join the ballet Lermontov company, headed by its autocratic ballet impresario, Boris Lermontov (played by Anton Walbrook). Their first meeting, at a party held by Vicky's aunt, introduces the audiences to the main theme of The Red Shoes:

Lermontov: Why do you want to dance?
Vicky: Why do you want to live?
Lermontov: Well, I don't know exactly why, but... I must.
Vicky: That's my answer too.

    The theme of obsession to one's art, specifically in the dance of the red shoes, is compromised by the relationship between Vicky and Julian Craster, (played by Marius Goring) a young composer hired by Lermontov at the same time as Vicky to compose music for his ballets. When Lermontov finds out about Vicky's and Julian's relationship he forces them to choose between each other and the ballet company. They leave the company, although Lermontov's dilemma was predicated by his reaction to the loss of his prima ballerina Irina Boronskaja (played by Ludmilla Tchérina) to marriage earlier in the film. The red shoes ballet, which was inspired by Vicky's lead role and Julian's musical composition, allows Lermontov to withhold the right for the duo to perform the ballet. Lermontov convinces Vicky to perform it one more time which leads to film's memorable finale.

    Some interesting points to consider from the production of the film include Moira Shearer's initial hesitation to accept the lead role, which greatly surprised Michael Powell (Shearer was never really interested in acting, her heart belonged to her dancing career, although she did act in two other Powell films, The Tales of Hoffmann in 1951 and Peeping Tom in 1960). The Archers had the rights for the screenplay in the late thirties but were not willing to adapt it to film under Alexander Korda. Thankfully, they surreptitiously bought back the rights to the film adaptation from Korda in 1947 at a low price, convincing him that they were not interested in making a film (otherwise Korda would have demanded more money!). This allowed The Red Shoes to be made with relative creative freedom and in Technicolor with cinematographer Jack Cardiff which would certainly not have been the case if the film was made in the late thirties. Another important decision was to incorporate real dancers into the ballet company. The Archers recruited members of the Royal Ballet company. The main dancers were Robert Helpmann (who also choreographed the main ballet), Léonide Massine (who also choreographed the role of The Shoemaker), Ludmilla Tchérina and Moira Shearer.

    The role of Boris Lermontov, played masterfully by Anton Walbrook, is the standout performance by which the drama of the movie is propelled to its ultimate conclusion. The role of the ballet impresario has been said to have been inspired by Sergei Diaghilev, the founder of the Ballets Russes and also influenced by J. Arthur Rank and Michael Powell. The Archers themselves have said that the role was inspired by the autocratic and domineering personality of producer Alexander Korda.

    The restoration undertaken on The Red Shoes took seven years to complete. Martin Scorsese and his film editor (and Michael Powell's widow) Thelma Schoonmaker raised funds for the work which was completed by Robert Gitt and Barbara Whitehead at the UCLA Film and Television Archive in Los Angeles. This restored version premiered at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and is the same transfer used on this Blu-ray.

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Transfer Quality


    According to the notes from Criterion Blu-ray 2010 release, which uses the identical restored transfer as this Blu-ray release, this new high-definition digital transfer was created from the 2009 4K digital restoration made from the original Technicolor negatives and optical tracks. The Red Shoes was restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive in association with the BFI, the Film Foundation, ITV Global Entertainment Ltd., and Janus Films. Restoration funding was provided by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the Film Foundation, and the Louis B. Mayer Foundation. This Region B Blu-ray release is identical in technical specifications as the United Kingdom ITV 2009 Region B Blu-ray release.

    The aspect ratio is 1:37:1 full-frame. The 1080p24 image transfer utilises the MPEG-4 AVC codec with an average bitrate of 20.02 Mbps.

    This restoration looks magnificent, with quality sharpness and contrast. Colours are incredibly vibrant, thanks to the digital restoration which has revitalised Jack Cardiff's original Technicolor cinematography. The previous Criterion Region 1 and Carlton Region 2 DVD editions showed that the green and blue dyes had faded on the Technicolor print, highlighting a red tinge (especially in the case of the Criterion DVD) to each scene. Thankfully, this restoration exemplifies the beauty of this film to its original state.

    Film artefacts are now no longer present as they were before on DVD, the image looks simply pristine!

    Subtitles are available in English in an easy-to-read white.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The soundtrack has also been restored, although there is a difference in aural quality between the compressed Dolby Digital soundtrack and the uncompressed Linear PCM soundtrack. The default soundtrack is a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack encoded at 256 kbps. The other soundtrack is an uncompressed Linear PCM 48kHz/16-bit 2.0 mono track encoded at 1536 kbps. The uncompressed Linear PCM track is more dynamic and clear, although both tracks are free of hiss and crackle.

    Dialogue is clear and synchronised on the Linear PCM soundtrack. The Dolby Digital 2.0 track has a slight synchronisation issue.

    Brian Easdale's musical score for The Red Shoes has never sounded fuller than on this Blu-ray restoration.

    There is no surround channel usage because both soundtracks are in mono. The subwoofer is not utilised either.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


A Profile of the Red Shoes (24:14)

    This is the same documentary on the making of The Red Shoes found on previous DVD releases, produced in London in 2000. The program includes interviews with Emeric Pressburger's grandson, filmmaker Kevin MacDonald (Touching the Void), film historian Ian Christie, cinematographer Jack Cardiff, camera operator Chris Challis, and family members of the film's original production team.

Ballet of the Red Shoes (15:23)

    This extra shows the original storyboards, designed by Hein Heckroth, for the ballet sequence, featuring Brian Easdale's accompanying original score.

Cannes 2009: Martin Scorsese introduction (3:33)

    Martin Scorsese addresses the audience at Cannes prior to its premiere in 2009.

Cannes 2009: Thelma Schoonmaker interview (14:04)

    Michael Powell's widow and Martin Scorsese's long-time film editor discusses the importance of The Red Shoes and why it was necessary to restore the film. For Powell and Pressburger fans, we get a hint that the restoration work done for Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes will continue with a new restoration for The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.

Theatrical Trailer (2:20)

    The original trailer is shown unrestored in high-definition.

Photo Galleries

    This featurette is sub-divided into five galleries. The first is a behind-the scenes gallery of black-and-white stills (3:30). The second gallery includes production stills mostly in black-and-white, with some colour stills at the end (7:43). The third is a solitary poster from the film's run on Broadway in New York City. Remember, The Red Shoes was never promoted in its theatrical run in the United Kingdom due to funding problems with the distributor, Rank Organisation. The fourth gallery features the original promotional booklet used for the film and the final gallery shows Hein Heckroth original designs (2:35).


    Text biographies are included for Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, Jack Cardiff, Hein Heckroth, Anton Walbrook, Moira Shearer, Marius Goring, Robert Helpmann and Léonide Massine. For multi-paged biographies remember to use the next button on your remote to change pages rather than the usual arrow button.

Star Profile Gallery (3:30)

    These are promotional still photos of Anton Walbrook, Moira Shearer, Anton Walbrook and Moira Shearer together, Léonide Massine, Robert Helpmann, Ludmilla Tchérina and Albert Bassermann.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Red Shoes has been released on Blu-ray in the United Kingdom and the United States in 2009 and 2010 respectively. As mentioned previously, the Region B ITV United Kingdom release is identical to the Region B Beyond Home Entertainment Australian release, including the start-up promotion for other ITV releases prior to the main menu loading when you insert the Blu-ray disc into your Blu-ray player.

    The Region A Criterion Blu-ray includes the same restoration image and audio transfer, although the average bitrate for the video transfer is higher at 31.56 Mbps. The audio soundtrack on the Criterion release is an uncompressed Linear PCM 48kHz/24-bit 1.0 mono track encoded at 1152 kbps. The extras unique to this release include:

    Although most of the extras on the Criterion release have been ported over from the 1998 DVD, the Region A Criterion version of The Red Shoes is the best available version of the film on Blu-ray at the time of writing this review.


    If you have a region-free Blu-ray player then I wouldn't hesitate in picking up a copy of the superlative Criterion Region A release of The Red Shoes. Otherwise, this Region B version is a standout release. At under $AU20 it represents great value for the video and audio transfers and the extras included.

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Friday, January 21, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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