Briefed by the Ministry of Information to make a film that would foster Anglo-American relations in the post-war period, innovative filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, came up with A Matter Of Life And Death--an extravagant and extraordinary fantasy in which David Niven stars as a downed pilot who must justify his continuing existence to a heavenly panel of judges, because he has made the mistake of falling in love with an American girl (Kim Hunter) when he really should have been dead. National stereotypes are lampooned as the angelic judges squabble over his fate. In a neat reversal of expectations, the Heaven sequences are black and white, while Earth is seen in techni-colour. Daring cinematography mixes monochrome and colour, incorporates time-lapse images, and even toys with background 'time freezes' 50 years before "The Matrix". Roger Livesey and Raymond Massey lead the fine supporting cast, in what is one of the undoubted jewels of British cinema.
On the DVD: A Matter of Life and Death is presented in reasonably sharp 4:3 ratio with decent mono sound. Aside from English hard-of-hearing subtitles there are no extras. --Mark Walker
United Kingdom released, PAL/Region 2 DVD: LANGUAGES: English ( Mono ), English ( Subtitles ), SPECIAL FEATURES: Biographies, Interactive Menu, Scene Access, Short Film, SYNOPSIS: Returning to England from a bombing run in May 1945, flyer Peter Carter's plane is damaged and his parachute ripped to shreds. He has his crew bail out safely, but figures it is curtains for himself. He gets on the radio, and talks to June, a young American woman working for the USAAF, and they are quite moved by each other's voices. Then he jumps, preferring this to burning up with his plane. He wakes up in the surf. It was his time to die, but there was a mixup in heaven. They couldn't find him in all that fog. By the time his "Conductor" catches up with him 20 hours later, Peter and June have met and fallen in love. This changes everything, and since it happened through no fault of his own, Peter figures that heaven owes him a second chance. Heaven agrees to a trial to decide his fate. ...A Matter of Life and Death ( Stairway to Heaven ) ( A Matter of Life & Death )