69 of 71 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2009
I was introduced to Michael Powell's work by a friend who loved 'The Red Shoes'. Although I dislike musicals, that film had such visual poetry that I loved it the instant I saw it.
I have made it a point to see his other films wherever possible and 'Stairway to Heaven', seen several times on TV, was always a favorite. Oddly, it has never been available in any video format--until now.
This double feature has a pristine print of Stairway which remains a favorite and a film everyone should see.
Accompanying it is Powell's final film--'Age of Consent', which I had never before seen. It features a fine, measured performance by James Mason--and a first-time showing by Helen Mirren.
Viewing these and Powell's other films show just how good this man was. I find it amazing that one film--'Peeping Tom', derailed his career so completely.
In any case, this is a great DVD with two amazing films--and when you see them, you will seek out his other works.
37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2009
I think the original title, 'A Matter of Life and Death', is far more explicit than the North American, 'Stairway to Heaven'.
The first time I saw the film I was in my early teens and felt it offered a far more interesting view of an 'after-life' than the vague religious idea the church tried to depict.
In 1949 while serving with the RAF I flew on a liaison mission with the USAAF. We landed at Los Angeles and during our brief stay were entertained by Hollywood. I met David Niven at that time and we corresponded for many years -- his letters were full of comic comments on his movies.
'A Matter of Life and Death' is quite an historical film as it demonstrates the incredible amount of work that had to be put into special effects long before FX technology was developed. Michael Powell had to work with cut and paste filmwork and extensive manpower for things like his moving staircase.
Having the film on DVD means that I will probably rerun this one at least once each year.
51 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2008
Age of Consent is long overdue and a delightful film to see. As with some films of that vintage set in Australia, it has an English director and stars, but the native joy of the novel by Norman Lindsay (the painter in Sirens) shines through. James Mason plays the painter who spends a season on a remote Queensland island, and finds a youngish (and solidly built) Helen Mirren to paint. Most of the film is fluff, except for a nasty turn by Mirren's mother, but Powell's light touch is perfect and you get to spend time in an astonishingly beautiful corner of Oz. Actually, watching this film feels like taking a holiday. Recommended.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
If you are unfamiliar with the magnificent film work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, have you got a treat in store for you! Two of my favorite films, the unforgettable "A Matter of Life and Death" (known in America as "Stairway to Heaven"), and the witty, mature "Age of Consent", have been packaged together as the "Michael Powell Double Feature (Age of Consent, Stairway to Heaven)". This is a MUST-BUY DVD SET!!!
1946's "Stairway to Heaven" is as close to a perfect fantasy as you'll ever see on film, offering one of David Niven's greatest performances, as a downed airman, living, literally, on borrowed time, as he missed being snatched by death. Soon, he starts hallucinating from a brain tumor, and he stands trial in heaven (strikingly portrayed in black and white, as opposed to the rich, technicolor 'real' world), for his right to continue living. A perfect cast, including young Kim Hunter, Marius Goring, Raymond Massey, Robert Coote, and the fabulous Roger Livesey, plus a humane, witty script, combine to create one of the best films ever made!
1969's "Age of Consent", Powell's last film, while not as 'stellar' (in every sense of the word) as "Stairway", is a remarkable film in it's own right, as a bohemian Australian artist (James Mason, in one of his favorite roles), walks away from a lucrative art career in New York, and takes up a beachcomber life on an island of the Great Barrier Reef. He soon meets nubile young Helen Mirren (in her film debut), and they enter a richly productive (and platonic) relationship, as he paints unabashedly sensual nudes of her, and she renews in him a passion to create. While the comic relief of Mason's moocher acquaintance Jack McGowran is sometimes criticized as too broad, I don't think it hurts the film (the residents of the island are also portrayed as more than a bit balmy). The film's pacing is relaxed, the visuals, breathtaking, and Mason and Mirren are wonderful together! The story, incidently, is loosely based on the life of an actual Australian artist, Norman Lindsay, and would be retold in 1994's "Sirens", with Sam Neill as Lindsay.
With terrific insights by Powell fan Martin Scorcese, Helen Mirren, and Powell's son, Kevin, and great commentaries, this will be a double feature you'll treasure!
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2010
I've been begging for a DVD release of "Stairway to Heaven" for years. So I was glad to find a copy at the local library and it's "A Matter of Life and Death." the original with precious moments of Powell/Pressburger humor left intact from the TV trimmer's shears. When I opened the case and saw another disk, I had to put my glasses on and found "Age of Consent." What a find! Powell films Norman Lindsay (I've been an admirer for decades and "Sirens" was a long overdue homage) with the youngest Helen Mirren to date. And such scenery! In every sense. And Jack McGrowan, over-the-top and three-sheets-to-the-wind as only an Irishman lost and broke in Australia can be.
What a delight. AMoLaD has always been one of my favorites and the transfer is pristine, the audio crisp and delightfully audible (as compared to the older prints they'd show on old broadcast TV late shows. Even the grunts and farts(!) of the little naked shepherd boy (the funniest earth angel ever) and such garish, glorious Technicolor ("We are so starved of Technicolor, Up There...!")
And painterly expressionistic Norman Lindsay sketches of Helen Mirren. A heavenly "paradise" in black-n-white. An earthly Parardise in sensuous color and sand and saltwater on skin. Utter double heaven.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2010
At first, I didn't pay any attention to this American Sony edition, because I really dislike "double features", but you mustn't be as foolish as I was. Actually, this is truly a GREAT GREAT edition of Michael Powell's "AGE OF CONSENT". I can only say good things about this DVD:
- It is indeed a "director's cut", as stated on the cover: we are allowed to see for the first time several new scenes that were cut from the theatrical release. Among them, there is a long scene in the art gallery where James Mason is selling some of his work, and that takes place prior to the conversation between Mason and Frank Thring, as seen in the theatrical release. Also, there are several scenes that expand upon the character of Jack Macgowran. Besides, the original score by Peter Sculthorpe is reinstated, instead of the one composed by Stanley Myers that was forced upon Powell by Columbia Pictures when the movie was first released.
- The image has also been restored, and it looks very good, without a single scratch. The original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85 is respected, and has been enhanced for 16:9 TV sets.
On top of that, there are some aditional features of interest, all of them produced specifically in 2009 for this edition:
- a "making of" (16')
- an interview with star Helen Mirren (12')
- an interview with Ron & Valerie Taylor, the renowned Australian underwater cinematographers, who shot some scenes for this movie, as well as for "Jaws" and many others.
- an audio commmentary by critic Kent Jones.
I can only find one minor problem: the only subtitles available are in English, and just for the movie. The additional features have no subtitles at all.
As for the movie itself, I won't try to sell it to you. If you're reading this, you must be a Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger fan, so you already know that this has to be a great film. (It really is).
Unfortunately, the other feature presented in this package, "A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH", has been not so well treated by Sony. It has only a brief interview with Martin Scorsese, and an audiocomentary by Ian Christie. But the main problem is that the colors are very pale (the British edition by Carlton is far much better in that respect) and they don't do justice to cinematographer Jack Cardiff's astounding work.
Forget about "A matter of life and death" and concentrate on "Age of consent": this package is a MUST HAVE. And the price is very affordable too!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2009
In this review I am commenting on The Stairway To Heaven.
Such an excellent movie! The storyline is wonderful, the acting is good, the photography excellent, and for the year that the movie was made, the "special effects", if you will, was very well done.
This movie has had a very powerful effect on me. I first saw it as a very young kid and I never forgot it. While David Niven is the main actor, the role of the doctor with the beard was a character whom I was deeply influenced by, he has such powerful qualities of goodness.
The scenes of "heaven" (?) were well staged.... the use of light in the photography, the setting of the mood, the somewhat mystical sense of the hugeness of the location, the portrayal of perhaps far away galaxies, and yes, even in the 1940's, the possible pretension of black holes and nebulas. The scenes of the jury trial of David Niven and his defense by his good doctor are so very good for the debate of logic and reason. Then, the emotions generated by the powers of love.
Such great writing and portrayal of human characters went into this movie. An originality of all around movie craft so very seldom seen on the great silver screen. Never underestimate the power of this movie to influence your thinking long after the movie has ended.
It is such a shame that this movie has not earned a greater place in the history of film making. I have a difficult time thinking of movies that I truly believe are better and that I enjoy more than this movie.
How I wish more movies were made such as this one. Buy it.... you will never regret it!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2009
My husband knows the names of all the actors, directors, writers, cameramen, etc. I may remember the name of a movie. He is perfectly happy to watch a movie that goes nowhere as long as the technical aspects are good; I like some sort of connective action and don't really care about how the lighting is achieved. Michael Powell's movies are a rare source of agreement. Michael Powell tells a good story. His techniques satisfy my husband's critical values; his writing satisfies mine. Two things strike me about any Michael Powell movie: first, that any one of his movies will hold you, regardless of how many times you have seen it before; and second, when only war propaganda movies were allowed to be made, Powell used the restrictions to hone his tales -- you will never guess that it is war propaganda. Sorry none of this is very witty -- it would be easier if I could think of something bad to say. I can't. Powell's movies are a great time.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2007
I watched this film after having seen many of the truly outstanding Powell Pressburger WWII vintage films. These are truly archival superb films. Powell was ignored after his heyday, and similarly James Mason made Georgy Girl, but was considered past his prime at this point.
Helen Mirren at 29 in this film had not yet come into her own. Famous for fine acting and "getting her kit on" (nudity without hesitation), she was never a ravashing beauty, but had a youthful and robust appeal. She is extensively nude in underwater swimming scenes, and otherwise here.
This story is not the entertainment here, but watching each of the above work is fascinating. A youthful and naked Mirren is delightful. James Mason is still fully present and the charm of a story unlike most make everything all worthwhile.
I believe Powell has made a film unlike his masterpieces, and working out of his element, he does not make the transition successfully. It is a weak film with wonderful and unique finds for fans of films. Time capsule of sorts that fills in some of the gaps of a well rounded film experience.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2009
I have waited way to long for this film(Stairway to Heaven).
A lot of my collection is about films memories from my childhood.This is a major player.The images from this film have stayed with me since the first time I saw it on TV. This is one of the most beautiful films ever made.
The age of consent is an odd film to match up with this, but I have never seen it and enjoyed it.