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The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Criterion Collection) (1943)

Cast: Roger Livesey, Deborah Kerr, Anton Walbrook, more...
Director: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Criterion Collection
Genre: Classics, Drama, Foreign, Costume Drama/Period Piece, Classic Drama, British Drama, Classic Drama, UK, Criterion Collection
Running Time: 163 min.
Subtitles: English
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Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's drama criticizing a British Army out of touch with the new realities of World War II was controversial when released, with the British government denying its cooperation to the filmmakers and with Powell and Pressberger accused in some quarters of being pro-German. The story follows two British soldiers through forty years of warfare. The framing story follows a Home Guard exercise in which Spud Wilson (James Mckechnie) captures Clive Wynne Candy (Roger Livesey) in a Turkish bath, six hours before the exercise is supposed to begin. Candy insists that Wilson is not playing by the rules, but Wilson argues that rules should not be followed in modern warfare. As Candy dresses down Wilson, his tale is told is flashback. In 1902, during the Boer war, Candy travels to Berlin where he confronts a German propagandist, Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff (Anton Walbrook) and challenges him to a duel. As they recuperate from the wounds incurred in the duel, the two become friends. Candy's traveling companion, Edith Hunter (Deborah Kerr) then tells him that she and Theo plan to marry. It is only then that Candy realizes he's in love with Edith. During World War I, Candy adheres to the gentlemanly fighting that he carried on during his Boer War campaigns and he marries Barbara (Deborah Kerr), a nurse who bears a strong resemblance to Edith. Candy then discovers Theo is a prisoner-of-war in England. Gradually the two friends renew their acquaintance. At the start of World War II, Theo is back in England as a German refugee, escaping from the Nazis. He meets Candy, who is now widowed and pensioned out of the War Office because of his old-fashioned ideas of warfare. Theo convinces Candy to join the Home Guard, but after Candy ruins the exercise, he sadly feels that he has nothing more to offer his country. But Theo tells him that new ideas of warfare are required for this new war and Candy, as a pristine example of British soldiery, still has much to offer in the life or death fight against the Nazis. ~ Paul Brenner, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Classic--and Then Some! by talltale July 6, 2006 - 5:30 PM PDT
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful
An intimate epic and one of the great "lost" films, THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP recently turned up on TCM and is now on DVD where it's bound to garner adherents--slowly perhaps but surely. Called unpatriotic upon its release and then unheard of (by most of us) for decades, the movie's disappearance is strange, given how wonderful it truly is.

The team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger continues to grow in stature, and deservedly so. Their work stands apart from most other directors/writers for a number of reasons. They were a team and a very good one, which is unusual enough, but their movies are always subtler and quite different from run-of-the-mill Hollywood, whether they were making an otherworldly romance like "A Matter of Life and Death," a ballet fantasy such as "The Red Shoes," the salty/funny love story "I Know Where I'm Going" or the still-shocking psychological creep-fest "Peeping Tom."

I've never seen an example of bad moviemaking from these two and "Colonel Blimp" is among their best--full of charm, warmth, love and an occasional slap on the wrist for its characters, for England, and--yes, even--for Germany, though it was made during WWII. Roger Livesey ("I Know Where I'm Going") is simply splendid in the lead (aging from young to quite elderly), and he could not have asked for better support than he receives from that Austro-Hungarian charmer Anton Walbrook and a never-been-lovelier Deborah Kerr (in three roles!).

Covering so much so well--relationships (men to men, men to women), war and the morality of playing dirty, loss and the necessity for change--this is such a rich feast that its nearly three-hour running time won't phase you a bit. I did not have time to watch the extra features on the (as usual) fabulously-produced Criterion disc, so I am in the dark as to what the dickens the movie's rather strange title refers (some sort of cartoon character popular in Britain during this time, but unseen in the film, as far as I could tell). No matter. The P/P team's "A Canterbury Tale" is due out soon. Can't wait.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.96)
96 Votes
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BFI's Top 100 British Films of the 20th Century
In 1999 the BFI surveyed 1000 people from the world of UK film and television to produce this list. A few of the selected films were wholly or partly produced by non-UK companies, but but were perceived by voters as having significant British involvement
London on film
For homesick expats and rabid anglophiles

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