The Red Shoes – The Criterion Collection (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Upon hearing the announcement of The Criterion Collection’s first set of 4K UHD Blu-ray releases, I was excited by all that was being offered (Citizen Kane! Menace II Society II), but I was most interested in seeing The Red Shoes in 4K. Looking at the list of archival releases put out in 4K in this year alone, I had little doubt that Criterion’s 4K presentation of the classic Powell and Pressburger drama would be the technicolor feast I had hoped for. I was not wrong. Without putting down the other recent 4K releases from Criterion (the ones I’ve seen are pretty great), The Red Shoes looks stunning. It also happens to be a spectacular feature, with sequences representing some of the best that cinema offers.


Loosely inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Red Shoes, this 1948 feature presents the story of a ballerina, Victoria Page (Moira Shearer), who joins the world-renowned Ballet Lermontov, and the romance she forms with an idealistic composer, Julian Craster (Marius Goring). Unfortunately, being a part of this company means devoting oneself to the intimidating Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook), ultimately forcing Victoria to choose between her art or love.

A lot is going on in this film, which I can only begin to unpack. Still, in addition to the primary narrative involving these main characters, there’s also the actual ballet, The Ballad of the Red Shoes. Regardless of what it’s about (as that’s a whole lot of thematic discussion in itself), this portion of the film not only spotlights the titular red shoes but is a showcase for everything Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger offer as directors, complete with the brilliant and colorful cinematography by Jack Cardiff.

This whole segment is this spectacular, hallucinatory, abstract, and all-out beautiful piece of work that finds the music, camera, and choreography all working together to create what real move magic looks like. The Red Shoes is plenty compelling throughout its runtime, but this central set piece is genuinely one of the best things movies have ever had to offer.

It’s not a wonder this is a favorite film for Martin Scorsese, among many others. This is the sort of feature that can only be realized through the art of cinema. Every piece of it works in tandem with every other. A level of creative ingenuity allows the film’s virtuosity to continue registering today. The Red Shoes should easily inspire anyone looking to do more than just point a camera at something. At the same time, it’s highly entertaining.

The film’s opening practically works as a comedic set piece establishing the thrill an audience has for the theater before settling into a melodramatic situation involving plagiarism. From there, it becomes a mix of drama, a knowing look behind the scenes of a theatrical production, a romance, a fantasy, and even a satire. All the while, The Red Shoes is never short on dazzling visuals, strong performances, and so much to take away as far as what the film wants to say about art and the process of creating.

Defying so much of what feels standard about films, The Red Shoes is also a daring piece of work that is far less conventional than other films of its time. It’s not a wonder it was nominated for several Academy Awards (winning two for Best Original Score and Art Direction), in addition to being a film that’s held onto its sterling reputation all of these years later. Being a great film is one thing, but establishing a variety of visual metaphors and varying theories concerning multiple moments in the film is a clear way to firmly stick out within the history of cinema.

The Red Shoes is the sort of film that should be used as an example of just how amazing and inspiring older cinema can be, rather than viewed as some kind of homework assignment. There’s so much that feels like it could appeal to any audience willing to absorb a wonderfully colorful and expertly shot drama focusing on the struggles of being a creative force in a world one admires. Thankfully, this film has been preserved, with many helping to continually preserve its proper place as a feature deserving of continued releases, such as this one, let alone various forms of intriguing analysis.


Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Layers: BD-100

Details: This 4K digital master was created in Dolby Vision HDR (high dynamic range) from the 2009 4K digital restoration, which was made from the Technicolor 35mm original camera negatives and optical tracks. On the 4K Blu-ray disc, the feature is presented in Dolby Vision HDR. The film 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.

Clarity/Detail: Being a 4K release that utilizes the previously completed 4K restoration released on Blu-ray in 2010, there’s really nowhere else to go but up. While that Blu-ray release was terrific, this UHD video presentation only ups the ante as far as the vibrancy and range. This is a lush film, to say the least, but there’s so much to take in when it comes to the level of clarity seen in the stage production and the various sequences in the studio. There’s so much captured in the frame when looking at these films from this period, particularly when keeping track of the Archers’ filmography, which certainly comes across in this brilliant presentation.

Depth: A great sense of depth can be found when considering the staging of every performer on a literal stage seen during the dance sequences. It’s an easy way to correctly measure dimensionality and how that transfers to this disc.

Black Levels: Outside of the element of age, there’s a strong density level when considering the black levels. The darker areas of this film register nicely, with no signs of crushing.

Color Reproduction: Show me a film that can do better than this one when considering the range of colors this film is famous for showcasing. This is a spectacular way to show off the technical presentation of an older film when boating about a 4K television and what’s possible with it.

Flesh Tones: The detail seen in the various actors comes through clearly, with close-ups serving their purpose. Once again, the central dance sequence finds many actors in various levels of makeup, being shown off in different ways, and this release covers all of that very well.

Noise/Artifacts: The most minor of artifacts are a product of age, but this is a clean disc.


Audio Format(s): English LPCM 1.0

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: As I understand it, this is the same mono track that arrived with the 2010 release. I can understand only being able to do so much with the audio track for a film like this. Would a high-class Dolby Atmos version make a resounding difference? I am doubtful. As it stands, one can take in the spectacular score that plays such a pivotal role in this film and not be thrown off by its presentation.

Low-Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone comes in loud and clear.


As this is an upgraded 4K releases, as opposed to something entirely new, unfortunately, no new extra features are offered. However, the available material previously released is more than enough to satisfy fans. As this is a 4K + Blu-ray combo release, the extras are housed mainly on the Blu-ray disc, with The Red Shoes Novel and the commentary track appearing on both discs.

Features Include:

  • The Red Shoes Novel – Originally recorded in 1994, actor Jeremy Irons reads excerpts from Powell and Pressburger’s 1978 novelization of The Red Shoes. This can be listened to while watching the film.
  • Commentary – Film scholar Ian Christie discusses the film, featuring interviews with actors Marius Goring and Moira Sherer, cinematographer Jack Cardiff, composer Brian Easdale, and Martin Scorsese.
  • Restoration Demonstration (HD, 4:17) – Scorsese, who is also the founder and chair of Film Foundation, highlights the 4K restoration of The Red Shoes. This is always fascinating stuff to see.
  • Profile of The Red Shoes (SD, 25:30) – A documentary produced in 2000, featuring interviews with film historian Ian Christie, Jack Cardiff, and other film production team members.
  • Thelma Schoonmaker Powell (HD, 14:41) – Recorded at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009, Michael Powell’s widow and Scorsese’s friend and editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, discusses The Red Shoes and its legacy.
  • Stills Gallery (HD) – Divided into multiple parts – Cast and Crew, Filming in London, Filming in Paris, Filming in Monte Carlo, Deleted Scenes, and Production and Costume Designs
  • Scorsese’s Memorabilia (HD) – A slideshow of artifacts related to the film.
  • The Red Shoes Sketches (HD, 15:57) – A 1948 animated film of Hein Heckroth’s painted storyboards, with the Red Shoes’ ballet score or Jeremy Irons’ reading of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Red Shoes” as audio options.
  • Trailer (HD, 2:28)
  • PLUS – An essay by critic David Ehrenstein and notes on the restoration by film preservationist Robert Gitt.


Any film collector specifically looking to have the finest presentations available present in their library would be wise to add The Red Shoes. This 4K presentation is simply stunning, and the film still holds all the power it’s always had. There are no new extras present, but the video and audio quality makes for an excellent reason to upgrade to go with the already terrific supplements available. A fantastic release through and through.

Order Your Copy Here:

Paid Advertising Link


Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

  1. No Comments