It's night over Europe, the night of the 2nd of May 1945. A crippled Lancaster Bomber struggles home across the English Channel, all crew dead save for the young pilot desperately scanning the radio for signs for life.
His prayers are answered. June, a young radio operator, picks up his signal, and in the final moments of the young flyer's life, a special bond is formed.
The next morning, washed up on an English beach, Squadron Leader Peter Carter is alive, he finds June, and the two fall hopelessly in love. Somehow he survived. It's a miracle... or is it?
Peter Carter should have died that night; a heavenly escort missed him in the fog above the channel, and now he must face the celestial court of appeal for his right to live.
- "starved of Technicolor"
The Archers' first collaboration to be released after WWII was a fantastic tale of Peter (David Niven, excellent), an airman who jumps from his plane without a parachute and miraculously survives as the heavenly conductor misses him in the fog. The beginning scenes talk about the universe before we actually meet Peter, and June (Kim Hunter, effective here), an American radio operator who is the last person he talks to before his descent, and who he meets shortly after he realises he has survived.
We see a bureaucratic Heaven, photographed in monochrome, where Peter's non-arrival is noted with irritation and the French fop conductor (an endearingly OTT performance by Marius Goring) is dispatched to search for him. What follows is a hugely entertaining film which uses some interesting tricks, notably freezing the action in some parts of scenes so other parts can carry on, and using rich colour for the 'reality' scenes.
Peter's meetings with the heavenly conductor are put down to mental instability by June and her doctor friend, Dr Reeves (the wonderful Roger Livesey, in one of his best roles). He need a brain operation, which runs consecutively with his 'appeal' in Heaven. Powell and Pressburger's richly imaginative film was an odd choice for the Royal Film Performance in '46, but I'm sure it was enjoyed as much by its contemporary audience as it is now.
- A tour-de-force of imaginative film making and directing
A tour-de-force of imaginative film making and directing. Brilliantly inventive and constantly surprising. One of the best films ever made. This is Powell and Pressburger at their best, using theatricality to encourage us to suspend disbelief then using film to push well beyond the bounds of theatre - expanding our horizons and making possible other visionary works such as 2001.
- This is a great film, not only because it encapsulates the perfect image of the English village, but because it is beautifully directed and features ground-breaking effects for the time. In addition, it features two fine actors in David Niven and the under-rated Roger Livesey. It is a rarity these days - a film that both adults and children alike will enjoy with a timeless innocence that, unfortunately, seems to be gone forever. This is a film that I originally saw 20 years ago as a small child. It has been in the back of my mind for that time and I have often looked at the future films on TV to check whether it would be on.
- Exceptional movie
Why is this movie not in the 250 best? This movie looks still astoundingly fresh 56 years after its production but it could only have been made at the aftermath of W.W.II because of the perception of the nearness of death. People were more aware that life could be stopped at one unexpected moment. And what after life? I liked the scene at the end with the judgment and all people of all nations gathered. The phlegmatic judge (Abraham Sofaer-a typical British judge-), Doctor Reeves (Roger Livesey) defending Peter Carter (David Niven) and also June (Kim Hunter) against the American prosecutor Abraham Farlan (Raymond Massey I -there is a reason why it is an American-). It is all so imaginative! Michael Powell wrote, directed and produced this astonishing movie which is a real "tour-de-force". The message of the movie is clear: in the universe the law is the most important but on earth nothing goes beyond the love between humans. The way in which this beautiful story is told is far more interesting than any Hollywood-movie could ever make.
- Just the very best
To think this was made at the end of the worlds worst conflict is the more amazing when everyone was wanting escapist entertainment. It's re-affirmation of love and life is timeless and everything in it is mind-blowing and awesome, and yet despite the huge sets and effects the actors shine magnificently.
Cast: David Niven .... Peter Carter
Kim Hunter .... June
Robert Coote .... Bob
Kathleen Byron .... An Angel
Richard Attenborough .... An English Pilot
Bonar Colleano .... An American Pilot
Joan Maude .... Chief Recorder
Marius Goring .... Conductor 71
Roger Livesey .... Doctor Reeves.
aka Stairway to Heaven (1946) (USA)
Runtime: 100 min. full and uncut.
Color: Black and White / Color (Technicolor)
A very special Powell and Pressburger film. Compare it to A Canterbury Tale or the stunning Gone to Earth.