A Matter of Life and Death (1946) Well I Thought It Was But It Wasn’t Really

A Matter of Life and Death (1946) The Criterion Collection Blu-ray artwork DVD

There I was in my teenage years lying on the back room sofa all alone drifting in and out of consciousness. Not only had I caught glandular fever but the doctor, in his wisdom, had prescripted the wrong antibiotics. The mix up had caused my whole body to breakout in a rash. It looked like scarlet fever and I was beside myself! In between the crazy itching and bouts of fever sweats I’d become drowsy from all the medication.  I was hallucinating. There I was making my way up the Stairway to Heaven!

A Matter of Life and Death (1946) giant escalator to the clouds stair way to heaven

Up I rose on this giant escalator to the clouds. It was so real. I was transcending into the heavens. The surrealness of my fevered journey was to be greeted with even more bizarreness. Sat in a gigantic arena like setting were the residents of this strange but weirdly familiar place.  Thousands upon thousands of people all sat in regimented units of humans from all walks of life and strangely their occupation groups too.

Another experience that washed over me with nostalgia was the wondrous vocal tones of Roger Livesey. And then there was that wide eyed innocent and curiously smiling face of our hero David Niven. Had I passed over to the otherside? What was this dream like world I was floating through.?

A Matter of Life and Death (1946) roger livesey in the heaven court

Luckily I didn’t die! “Oh the over dramatics, Mikey!“. I’d recovered a few days later but this experience stayed with me. Though I’ll tell you I never found out what the film was called until many years later. So for the first time since my crossover, 30+ years later, I sat and watched A Matter of Life and Death. A truly emotionally marvelous and magnificent film.

I’d not seen, well not remembered, that the “Earth” scenes were filmed in colour and the “Heaven” in black and white. Like a reverse on The Wizard Of Oz. It gave the most wonderful feeling of breaking the two worlds apart. Mystical and whimsical it successfully made it feel otherworldly. I was filled with nostalgia, goosebumps and hair sticking up on the back of neck. It was an extraordinary experience.

Tagline – The Most Wonderfully Romantic Fantasy on Earth … or Anywhere Else

Directed and written by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Of course everyone knows the story of A Matter of Life and Death but here’s a little rundown if like me you actually visited the magical city in the clouds before you’d seen the film.


A Matter of Life and Death (1946) David Niven pilot crash landing bail out lancaster bomber

Squadron Leader Peter David Carter (David Niven) has returned after a bombing raid in his Lancaster bomber. As he flies, well glides, over the British coastline we discover it’s just him alive and Peter is in a very dire situation. The Lancaster is burning and coming down fast. Peter manages radio contact with American radio operator June (Kim Hunter). A friendly ear and voice. They quickly build up a lovely rapport. Unfortunately Peter has no choice but to bail out the plane before it crashes and you’ve guessed it, the parachute is useless. After a few brave and kind words, Peter lets himself go. Free floating through the unknown void to whatever fate awaits for him below….. Is he dead or has he miraculously survived? Whatever has happened Peter and June fall helplessly in love. Now Peter must face a strange world and argue for his life with a council of celestial beings in the court of Heaven.

Peter to June – “Don’t be upset about the parachute, I’ll have my wings soon anyway, big white ones. I hope it hasn’t gone all modern, I’d hate to have a prop instead of wings!

A Matter of Life and Death (1946) David Niven loves Kim Hunter

Deja vu….

Haha this wasn’t the first time a second world war movie I had been watching whilst in a fever state had become all so real. Around the age of six I remember the intense feeling of terror as I lay intoxicated with fever and drugs. You see, well, a bomb had smashed through the house and landed on top of me. There I was trapped under an unexploded bomb. Then a tick! Oh gosh the night terrors are flooding back!! Oh no, not again.

I’ve never been sure what that film was but it could of been the TV series from 1979 called Danger UXB. You know what I just ordered the boxset. I’ve always wanted to see that series and hopefully I should be able to put an end to that mystery too.

Update (03/July/2019) The mystery has been solved. It was this series. Episode 7 called Digging Out. Wow it was weird seeing it and it all come flooding back.

Danger UXB boxset wolfman

Until the next episode of freaky fever memory recall I’ll bid you farewell.

Thanks for reading my mind ramblings. Big love…. Mikey Wolf

PS Lindsey over at The Motion Pictures has done a grand review of A Matter Of Life and Death here.

15 thoughts on “A Matter of Life and Death (1946) Well I Thought It Was But It Wasn’t Really

  1. Weirdest…fever…dream…EVER. I’m trying to think if I ever had something like that happen to me, but I think all of my fever dreams were just plain goofy, and none had anything to do with movies. I just read about this movie over at The Motion Pictures, and Lindsey liked it as well, so I guess I’ll have to add it to my ever-expanding list. Pretty cool that the film switches from b&w to color…hmmm, I seem to remember a recent sci-fi movie that tinted its Mars scenes red. Oh, never mind, it was probably a fever dream…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t imagine watching this movie while hallucinating, that must have been quite scary given the film is partly set in heaven! Easily one of my favorite films of the 1940s. The visuals are stunning and the story charming. David Niven ozzes charm in everything I’ve seen him in. Hollywood don’t make movies like this anymore, do they?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry for late reply. haha yes it certainly did add to the surrealness of the whole ordeal! You’re so right on David Niven oozing charm. They don’t make em like that anymore. I re-watch The Guns Of Navarone again the other day. He was so good as the reluctant hero.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review 🙂 A Matter of Life and Death is truly one of (If not) the greatest British films ever made. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger were true masters of cinema. British film critic Mark Kermode chose this as one of his BFI picks a couple years back. Here is a link to his commentary below 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂


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