Monday, 12 July 2010


"Dreaming is a luxury I've never permitted in my company."

Boris Lermontov. THE RED SHOES.

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger collaborated on 22 films, but their most creative period came via The Archers production company. From 1942 - 1951, The Archers were responsible for some of the finest British films; A CANTERBURY TALE, THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP, I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING, BLACK NARCISSUS, A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH and, of course, THE RED SHOES which marked the film debut of Moira Shearer, the rising star of The Royal Ballet.

THE RED SHOES script, written by Pressburger and based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, spins a cautionary tale of just what can happen when life imitates art as two men unwittingly help to destroy the most precious thing in their lives. The gal in the middle is Victoria Page (Shearer), a young ballerina who seems to love dance more than life itself. To her left stands Julian Craster (Marius Goring), the young composer who will eventually steal her away from the stage and also from this film's most imposing figure. Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook), a cold manipulative impresario is the other man in Vicky's life, though for entirely different reasons. Lermontov is only concerned with the pursuit of excellence, forbidding his dancers from enjoying a life outside the stage. There are times when we almost believe that Lermontov may be carrying a torch for his star performer but, ultimately, the cruel side of Andersen's tale holds sway.

Overall, THE RED SHOES cannot be termed a 'feel good' film, but there are several performers who will surely bring a huge smile to your face: Leonide Massine, Robert Helpmann and the entirely wonderful Ludmilla Tcherina (the latter being another victim of Lermontov's obsessions) are a real pleasure to watch, along with some delightful ballet sequences.
You don't have to be a 'Balletomane' to love this film - just sit back and marvel at the style and imagination of Powell & Pressburger; at the startling images guaranteed to haunt you for months after; at the mesmerising use of colour, beautifully captured by Jack Cardiff's magisterial photography. Then frame-by-frame, the superlative presentation of The Red Shoes Ballet will surely engulf your senses and convert even the most hardened sceptic.
At least, that's how it usually swings with TV and DVD screenings. Now, we have a wonderful presentation, courtesy of ITV's Blu-ray disc, which brings THE RED SHOES to life in a way we could only have dreamt of.

Here, the colours truly pop, and the exquisite detail of this production is reproduced to a staggering degree. There's a point during the extras of the UK SUSPIRIA Blu-ray where Dario Argento explains how he watched THE RED SHOES prior to shooting his nerve-jangling exercise in terror:another disciple of this endlessly inventive film.
Criterion have just released THE RED SHOES in the USA on Blu-ray but for those of you in Europe with no all-region hardware, I strongly suggest you move with due haste to bag yourself a copy of this superb ITV release. Mumblings on the net indicate that copies are in extremely short supply.


  1. Fine write-up for this film, Steve. I'll have to check this out. Good to see you back online--I hope you're feeling better, as well. Thanks for this.

  2. Thanks very much, Michael. Feeling a bit better, though it seems to be an up and down illness. If you get to see The Red Shoes, try to rent the Criterion. Haven't seen this but it's reputed to be a tad better transfer than the splendid ITV disc.