Powell and Pressburger's first Technicolor masterpiece, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
(1943) transcends its narrow wartime propaganda remit to portray in warm-hearted detail the life and loves of one extraordinary man. The film's clever narrative structure first presents us with the imposingly rotund General Clive Wynne-Candy of the Home Guard (Roger Livesey in his greatest screen performance), a blustering old buffer with spreading handlebar moustache and stomach to match. Confronted by a youthful regular army Captain he seems the epitome of stuffy, outmoded values. But travelling backwards 40 years we see a different man altogether: the young and dashing officer "Sugar" Candy, just returned from earning a Victoria Cross in the Boer War. Through a series of affecting relationships with three women (all played to perfection by Deborah Kerr) and his touching lifelong friendship with a German officer (Anton Wallbrook), we see Candy's life unfold, and come to understand how difficult it is for him to adapt his sense of military honour to modern notions of "total war".
If Livesey's engaging Clive Candy is the film's heart, Anton Wallbrook's Theo is its conscience; his exile speech delivered to an uncomprehending immigration officer is a heartfelt tour de force made all the more poignant by the Austrian actor's own circumstances, as well as those of Hungarian scriptwriter Emeric Pressburger. Powell's technically masterful and innovative direction illuminates every scene, from the surprising camera move in the duel sequence to the hunting montage of stuffed animal heads on a wall. Notoriously, this is the film that Churchill tried to have banned, and indeed its sympathetic portrayal of a German officer was contentious in 1943, though one suspects that Churchill's own blimpishness was a factor too.
On the DVD: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp looks in excellent condition on this special edition DVD. The mono sound is crisp and the picture largely free of grain, allowing the subtle lighting and muted colours to be seen as intended. The main extra is a 25-minute documentary feature which tells us nothing revelatory about making the film, but has good new interviews with cinematographer Jack Cardiff (then an apprentice) and eloquent admirer Stephen Fry. Text biographies and stills are also included.--Mark Walker
From the celebrated team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger comes this artistic masterpiece. Roger Livesey brilliantly portrays a British officer, Clive Candy, through the trials and tribulations of three wars, three loves and a lifelong friendship across enemy lines.
During the Boer War, Candy is sent to Berlin to trap a German spy. There he befriends Theo, a German Officer, who marries the girl Candy is in love with. During the First World War, Candy marries a girl who resembles his lost love and helps Theo--now a POW--to get repatriated.
Candy comes back in the Second World War as a Brigadier General and once again encounters Theo. On joining a Home Guard exercise, Candy is captured and the two are forced to either aid or betray each other.
Starring Roger Livesey, Deborah Kerr and Anton Walbrook. Special Features
• A Profile of The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
--This exclusive 25-minute documentary includes interviews with cinematographer Jack Cardiff, Powell and Pressburger biographer Ian Christie and fan of the film Stephen Fry.
• Martin Scorsese Restoration Piece
• Stills Gallery