on 1 May 2006
I saw this film a few nights ago, and although it was almost 3 hours long, I stayed glued to the screen the entire time. The plot, writing and acting is perfect, and by the end I felt as if I had been watching an old friend. The film is about an idealistic man who was a young solider in the Boer war, who was brought up on the idea of 'gentlemanly' fighting, with no dirty tricks. We see him progress from being a young man, to a man as a senior officer in WW1, already seeing him out of place. Then we go through the years until we finally see him in WW2. He's the same man, but the world around him has changed completely. The film affected me on many levels.
Will I end up like Clive Candy when I'm older, disillusioned and out of place in an ever changing society, will I have to change my ideals and beliefs to fit in with the people around me? I'm 16 and this film is definatley an eye opener and I already know that this film has changed my view on things. Now, if you haven't already, GO SEE THIS FILM!
on 26 June 2013
Truly awe inspiring movie. They certainly don't make them like this anymore. The Blu Ray restoration is one of the best I've seen, of particular note is the opening sequence with the motorbike dispatch rider scene where every small detail is visible. You really have to pinch yourself to think that this was filmed over seventy, yes 70, years ago. It really looks as if it could have been shot yesterday. Colour saturation throughout the movie is absolutely gorgeous and the acting of the two lead characters is true Oscar material . I can fully understand how TL&DoCB courted controversy back in '43, at a time when GB's back was to the wall and facing a threat the likes of which today's generation can't possibly comprehend. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, you really have to admire Powell & Pressburger's vision and their courage in making such a film.
on 1 March 2006
The film starts with a silly old soldier being affronted by the rude disdain of a young officer who is using his initiative - and cheating in order to win. The old fellow is made to look ridiculous. The message thrown in his face is that "fair play never won a war". Then the scene travels back 40 years to see the pathetic old fool when he was young and his ideals were the norm, at a time when fair ends didn't justify foul means. He's just returned from the Boer war with a Victoria Cross, but he's still young and impetuous. We accompany him through his own brash youth, when he annoys his grumpy elders, upsets the diplomatic apple cart for his government and has to fight a duel with an equally "good egg" in the army of Britain's enemy, in order to save face on both sides and restore the balance. Lifelong friendship blossoms from this violent ritual and love is almost found with the young lady who dragged him into the situation that led to the dual. He loses the girl with good grace to his new friend and returns to England. Then he goes off to distant lands to convert beautiful, live animals into sad, dead trophies for a few years, until another war comes along. He's the same man of honour through WWI, even though the lessons about doing whatever it takes to win are there if he should choose to learn them. He never changes. He'll never choose to do what's expedient over what's right. By WWII the atmosphere has changed and the young officer introduced at the beginning of the film, doesn't have any respect for a bumbling old buffoon who doesn't understand modern warfare. But by the time we come back to the scene of the disrespectful youth insulting and abusing the venerable old gentleman, we're seeing things from the old gentleman's point of view and sharing his sense of outrage.
I enjoy this film so much that I can watch it over and over. There are one or two things I could object to in it. For example, the reason young Candy gets in a bind in Germany and has to fight a duel, is that he's there to deny that Britain did some terrible things in the Boer war, involving concentration camps and the deaths of large numbers of Boer women and children. The concentrations camps and the deaths of the women and children are well documented and no longer denied. Churchill may have tried to have the film banned for other reasons, but it was still a propaganda film. It was made during WWII after all. General Candy seems such a nice old buffer though, it just seems he'd have been as shocked about the treatment of the innocent Boer non-combatants as any decent person, if he'd known. In order to really enjoy the cosy view on offer here, you have to accommodate a couple of uncomfortable carbuncles like the wildlife slaughter (not shown, but represented by a wall of mounted heads) and the concentration camp denial. Those bits only take up two or three minutes of this almost 3 hour film and both offer us a bit of information about what went on back in "the good old days" that Blimp harks back to with such nostalgia and detachment from reality. It's nice to share the rosy view of an idealised past from time to time. I recommend it.
on 24 October 2012
Im not going to review the plot of this title as their are other reviews to do that. I wish to review this restoration edition by the BFI and David Lean Foundation.
This edition is in a slimline steel book format (which is becoming increasingly popular) which contains both Blu-Ray & DVD versions of the restored film.
And what a restoration!
The print is perfect, everything is clean and sharp with very good colour tones throughout the film. I have seen many restoration titles over the years, but this one is absolutely breathtaking. This must just how the original was viewed when released to cinemas all those decades ago. The scenes in the turkish baths at the beginning of the film exude luxury and opulance as was enjoyed by the upper middle classes and high ranking militry personnel the water is so cool and enviting, i wanted to swim myself! The sound is no less that perfect, no clicks, pops or hisses.
Their is a a good set of extras included as one would expect as well as several high quality print postcards.
My only criticism is that although you get the blu-ray & DVD editions, no digital format was included which is a shame.
Finally the price is very good value
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp - Restoration Edition Steelbook (Blu-ray + DVD) 
Churchill was outraged. He was expecting a patriotic war movie full of valor, heroic death, brave British soldiers overcoming all odds to beat the Hun, with Nazis portrayed as the beasts they were. What he saw was a film about a fat, bald, pompous old man with a walrus mustache who can't seem to do anything right. Worse, the only German around is a good German who turns out to be a firm friend. Even worse, the lead character seems to be based on a newspaper cartoon of a blustering old colonel who quickly came to symbolize for the British people the complacency and pigheadedness that had made Britain so unprepared when war with Hitler came. Churchill immediately determined to have the film banned. He might have succeeded but for two things. Some in his government argued that banning the film would only create a backlash. Then there was the matter of World War II, which at last distracted him from his passion for censorship.
And so we have The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, the movie I consider the richest of the six amazingly creative films Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger made between 1942 and 1948.
It's 1942 and we're in an ornate London steam bath with a group of fat old duffers we come to understand are the aged officers of the Home Guard. War games will begin at midnight and they are preparing themselves. They are led by Major General Clive Wynne-Candy. He won the Victoria Cross in the Boer War and served with distinction in France during WWI. That was long ago. He's filled with pride, certitude, confidence in the rules of war and good food.
A squad of soldiers bursts in led by a young lieutenant who immediately asks which of the towel-wrapped, sweating old men is General Candy. It seems the opposing side in the war game has decided to strike early and arrest all the senior officers of the Home Guard. "You can't do that," bellows the old man. "War starts at midnight!"
What are we to make of this old man? Was Churchill right? An instant later the old man has furiously rushed the young lieutenant and they both go into the pool. After some mighty splashing and thrashing, we see a figure swimming toward the far end, then emerge to have himself wrapped in a towel. Wait a minute. The man is still Clive Candy, but it's forty years earlier and Candy is a young officer. And now Powell and Pressburger are going to show us the young officer, not the newspaper caricature. We're going to learn a lot about Clive Candy in 163 minutes and 40 years. We're going to appreciate his optimism, his gallantry, his sense of honor, and even sympathize a little in his outdated belief that there are such things for gentlemen as the rules of war.
What Churchill missed is how powerfully Powell and Pressburger make their case: That outmoded ideas must be discarded when fighting men as mad and evil as Hitler. That the British are learning that lesson. That belief in British values such as fair play and honor may seem old fashioned, even quaint, but they are core values. That Britain, thanks in part to the character and spirit of men like Clive Wynne-Candy, will prevail no matter how fiercely the winds may now blow...but nostalgia and memories must be put aside.
Roger Livesey had the role of his life as Candy. He brings Candy to life for us with decency, respect and affection. He's excellent both as the young officer and as the old man who lives increasingly with nostalgia. I challenge anyone not to tear up when we last see Candy, an old man, watch a parade of young men marching off to war, knowing that his time has past, but being comforted by his German friend that his values are true. Anton Walbrook plays Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff with great subtlety. Ultimately it is Theo, now a refugee from Hitler, who brings Candy to an understanding that things must change. Deborah Kerr plays three roles, the three women in Candy's life...the woman he loved and lost to Theo, the nurse during WWI whom he met and then married, who has died, and the young enlisted woman who served as his driver when we first met him. Kerr gives each of these women a slightly different personality. She is memorable.
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is such a rich and unusual film that whatever anyone writes about it will, I think, be largely inadequate. It needs to be seen. Is it better than Powell and Pressburger's other master films from the Forties? We're talking about The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), A Canterbury Tale (1944), I Know Where I'm Going! (1945), A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus (1947) and The Red Shoes (1948). I like them all immensely but my favorite is Blimp.
The Region 1 Criterion release is excellent, sharp and with the full-bodied color Powell loved.It has some excellent special features, a fine commentary by Martin Scorsese and Michael Powell (obviously an old man when they taped it) and an informative printed insert.
on 19 April 2002
As the film opens, our hero Clive Candy seems a bumbling, unsympathetic character, shouting red faced at a young British soldier from behind his enormous moustache. As the plot develops, however, we see a touching portrait of a man whose unchanging sense of fair play becomes out of step with the values of war torn Europe. Roger Livesey is excellent as Candy, with Deborah Kerr as the various incarnations of the woman he has always loved, and Anton Walbrook as his equally decent and honorable German friend. The film is, perhaps, a little dated for some tastes, but there is a point at which I reach for my hanky and start to snuffle. I will always love it.
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's war parable, made in 1943, attracted the ire of one Winston Churchill and probably would never have got made without the determination of film producer J Arthur Rank. Churchill's dislke of the film stemmed from its sympathetic depiction of German (admittedly anti-Nazi German) characters and its general satirical take on the British military. The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (the Colonel Blimp name originating from a comic strip of the time) charts the life of Clive Wynne-Candy through his military exploits in the Boer, 1st World and finally 2nd World Wars.
Wynne-Candy is played with typical bluster (but also, at times, great tenderness) by Roger Livesy, an actor whose career took off when given this role, and continued to blossom via his roles in the later Archer productions of I Know Where I'm Going and A Matter Of Life And Death. Following a dispute in pre-1st World War Berlin, and a subsequent sword duel, Wynne-Candy befriends German Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff (played superbly by P&P-regular Anton Walbrook), and there begins a life-long friendship between the two. The friendship is somewhat tested by their mutual love for the same woman, Edith Hunter (beautifully played by P&P-regular Deborah Kerr), and the subsequent separation of the two, as Theo marries Edith and remains in Germany. Later, the two are reunited in two key points of the film, when Wynn-Candy 'rescues' Theo from a British prisoner-of-war camp at the end of WW1 and then again, when Theo flees the Nazis to return to England before the onset of WW2. This latter sequence is notable for Walbrook's classic five minute address to the camera as he describes his predicament as an anti-Nazi in Germany. A further point to note is that P&P cleverly cast Deborah Kerr in two additional roles in the film, to reinforce Wynn-Candy and Kretschmar-Schuldorff's obsession with their first-love.
(Incidentally, Powell and Pressburger initially wished to cast Laurence Olivier in the Wynne-Candy role, but following the objections to the film, could not secure Olivier's release from service in the RAF at the time.)
In typical fashion for Powell and Pressburger, whilst the narrative is engrossing (and indeed challenging) enough in itself, it is in the look of the film where TLADOCB really scores. The innovative use of colour, staging and editing sets this film (as with other P&P works of the period) apart from anything else being made in British cinema at the time. The film also has an outstanding score, written by P&P-regular Allan Gray.
The film has been criticised for being somewhat dated, and overblown in its pro-British message, but I don't agree with this view at all. Given the time at which the film was made, and the extreme pressure that P&P would have been under, I think they did a remarkable job to produce such an innovative satire as this.
on 5 May 2008
Firstly if you want this or you're into Powell and Pressburger films buy the "Powell and Pressburger Collection" 9 DVD box, which includes this film with all the SE extras, for the same price as this film alone at current bargain prices.
Secondly, as in most Powell and Pressburger films of this era, the colour on display here is absolutely beautiful and the picture quality exemplary with absolutely no sparklies or damage evident. The sound, however, lets it down, being very hissy and crackly, especially at anything like a decent volume on your home cinema system, even more so in quiet passages.
The film and story are brilliant, basically taking in the life of one man, Clive Candy (the superb Roger Livesey in one of his few starring roles), (the Colonel Blimp of the title) concentrating on his wartime soldiering and progression up the ranks from a hot-headed young man to a rotund old man whose failure to adjust from the "officer and gentlemen play by the rules" era renders him redundant in the army's eyes (and in which he's latterly employed as an founding Home Guard training officer). Talking of Home Guard, who should turn up as his batman but John "We're doomed I tell ye, doomed" Laurie in a sort of forerunner of his "Dad's Army" role.
The film begins where it ends, with Candy as a fat old man in the Turkish baths, who in a magic little early scene, having been insulted by a young officer like he used to be, reminisces, going into the baths as a fat old man and emerging as a lithe young one, from which the body of the films flows.
Apparently Winston Churchill (a real life fat, old Colonel Blimp himself) hated the film and it's release was nearly prevented by the British authorities on the ground that it portrayed British soldiers in a bad light as the old-fashioned rule-abiding idiots of the first World War era - a bunch of kids playing at war (which of course they still were to some extent, as opposed to the German Nazis who fought to win by fair means or foul, whatever the cost).
Gay actor Anton Walbrook stays firmly in the closet to provide the opposing love interest for the beautiful Deborah Kerr, who has a Candy-related role in each of the major time-pieces of the film. He gives a sterling performance as Theo, the German officer who is forced into a duel of honour with Candy in a sword fight early on after the latter has insulted half the German nation. The pair later become good friends and remain so for the rest of the film, bumping into each other at the various stages of their lives.
This is one of Powell and Pressburger's best and a brilliant war film to boot - well worth the two and a half hours of watching required.
Finally, apparently until 1983 the film existed only in a "20 minutes-cut" version which removed the looking-back aspect of the original. I'm pleased to say that I don't remember seeing it in that cut form.
on 19 April 2003
'The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp' is an excellent movie despite the now rather cheesy patriotic propaganda that was a necessary ingredient at the time for even independent filmmakers like Powell and Pressburger. Ostensibly it seems to encourage Britain to take a more up to date attitude to warfare, to revise its outmoded belief in 'fair play'. But the movie is about so much more than this. Clive Candy may be a vehicle through which to represent the naive values of the Victorian era, but he functions at a deeper level as a man who has to learn to live with the fact that he is wrong; to come to terms with his own obselescence as all his beliefs crumble around him. This pathos extends beyond warfare into his personal relationships as he realises too late that he has lost the woman he loves, and spends the rest of his life obsessing over an ideal that does not exist.
'Colonel Blimp' is worth checking out because it develops from an emotionally detached movie at the start into a deeply moving study on obsession and the lengths to which people go to make sense of their lives. The freedom given to Powell and Pressberger under the Rank organisation meant that they had unparalelled creative freedom. Whilst this can sometimes lead to self-indulgence, here the movie is spot on in riding the line between invention and intelligibility. On DVD the picture quality is outstanding, and the colours are beautifully rendered. I recommend this movie to fans of war films, to fans of Powell and Pressberger, and to anyone who wants to see sophisticated yet highly entertaining and heartfelt cinema.
on 30 August 2004
I don't normally write reviews, but the fact that this film gets anything less than 5 stars is so misleading I felt compelled to break that lack of a habit. That anyone should fail to appreciate that this is one of the most life enhancong of films ever made simply baffles me. I have watched it a minimum of a dozen times and still cannot avoid watching it to a close whenever I catch it, at whatever point in its majestic length. The performances are universally excellent and the wit and panache in the script and film making unequalled. A masterpiece.