The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp Reviews

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Super Reviewer
January 26, 2012
The magic of the Powell & Pressburger directing and producing team has never been more prevalent or as affecting as it was than with their World War II character study epic The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. Heralded as one of, if not THE greatest British film ever made, its power lies soley in its performances and its dialogue. People that see it as nothing more than a pro-war statement seem to miss the point completely. To me, it's about what Colonel Candy goes through at the end of the film: not understanding what to do, even if you think you know you do. That sums up the film's overall message to me. If it were a pro-war statement, then he'd know exactly what to do. That's a sort of simple-minded view, but it's one I picked up on early on. Roger Livesey, Anton Walbrook and Deborah Kerr are magic, and their performances still have the power to affect. A colossally-well made piece of cinema.
Bathsheba Monk
Super Reviewer
January 13, 2012
This film is an interesting look at young people looking at old people...what you see is a paunchy old guy with a moustache, but as the old guy says, "You don't know anything about me," and of course the movie endeavors then to tell us all about the old guy. It was a little humbling to realize that we are the last generation alive who heard first hand accounts from the turn-of-the century crowd and when we die it goes with us. But this movie is a marvelous film archive of what it was like then.
Super Reviewer
November 5, 2011
How amazing is Anton Walbrook? He steals almost every scene he's in.
Super Reviewer
May 15, 2007
Delightfully charming and British.
Super Reviewer
February 10, 2011
Neither war films nor romances rate amongst my favourite film genres. Colonel Blimp is both of these and has to rate as my runaway favourite film. Made in 1943 by the irreplaceable icons of British film making Powell and Pressburger it displays a pacy breathless brilliance since unparalleled on the big screen.

The film follows the life and times of General Wynne-Candy from when he is an idealistic young officer returned on leave from the Boer War through to his retirement as an anachronistic and obdurate Major General.

The film is structured in three acts set in the aftermath of the Boer War, the first world war and the present (at the time of making the film) the height of the 2nd World War. But it is not just an examination of these conflicts. Its real power lies in Candy's pursuit of his ideal woman throughout each of these stages. All three women are played beautifully by Deborah Kerr who never surpassed the power of her performance in this film.

The other constant in the film is Anton Wallbrooks character of the sympathetic German with whom Candy builds a lifelong friendship and ultimately is probably Candy's only ever really satisfying relationship throughout his life.

For me the film operates on many complex levels. The romantic element is as affecting as anything you are likely to witness in the cinema. It achieves everything in the unrequited love department a la "the remains of the day" in a fraction of the time and as only part of the overall plot.

It deals with the moral complexities of war in a way that will have you debating the issues in your mind long after you have seen the film. This particular theme reaches its climax towards the end of the film when Candy is "retired" by the war ministry probably as a result of his outdated approach to strategy for the 2nd World War. Anton Wallbrook then delivers a setpiece speech which starkly outlines the evils of Nazism and the necessity to use any means to defeat it for the sake of freedom and humanity for coming generations.

Colonel Blimp with its pristine performances, absorbing plot, dazzling colour photography and economic flawless script easily gives Citizen Kane a good run for its money as the best film of all time.
Super Reviewer
August 6, 2008
Great movie! You really have to respect the craftmanship that goes into this film. Every shot is gorgeous and you can see where directors like Martin Scorcese were influenced. I didn't expect the happy tone of the film and was a little surprised at how it affected me. At certain points, the film is flat out funny and Albert Lieven is fucking fantastic. I figure since I won't get cable in the swamp for another week, I'll probably burn through these Janus films with the quickness.
Super Reviewer
½ November 26, 2007
I'm still churning the title of this film in my head, wondering what exactly it has to do with the story. Colonel? Blimp? Whatever. Still, a great movie about war. I don't want to say it's anti-war; there is a definite militaristic patriotism running through this. I think the term "jingoistic" applies, and I don't mean that as a negative criticism. I've read at least one comment that this is "an anti-war saga." I have to disagree. The British are upheld repeatedly, as a point of pride, for fighting "fairly," and this is why they have been so successful in, say, World War I. It is true, however, that the consequences of war are also weighed, and they tip the scales heavily. Excellent performances by an amazingly aged Roger Livesay and a young and radiant Deborah Kerr playing three roles. Above all, Anton Walbrook, as Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff, is a superb scene stealer.
Super Reviewer
½ November 26, 2007
war starts at midnight! a wonderful epic adventure of a british soldier's life. highly recommended to those who enjoy such stuff as much as i do. actually filmed during the london blitz! churchill was not amused.
Super Reviewer
½ July 21, 2007
An acknowledged classic of british cinema, this journey through the life of a career military man is as modestly noble as the man it portrays. It has a light and comic tone punctuated by moving moments of extreme profundity, and tackles the subject of war and the fighting man without resorting to propaganda or manipulation. The three leads are all excellent, Deborah Kerr oddly playing three different parts, but it works. Roger Livesey in the role of the archetypal englishman (or at least the ideal of one) is immensely likeable and believable as history and politics shifts around him. Elegant, charming and intelligent.
Super Reviewer
½ December 5, 2006
[font=Century Gothic]"The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" flashes back to 1902 when Major Clive Candy(Roger Livesey) has returned to London from the Boer War with a Victoria Cross pinned to his chest. He is dismayed to learn one of his old adversaries has been spreading propaganda in Berlin about false English atrocities. The foreign office tries to dissuade him from going there to confront him, but to no avail. While in Berlin, Candy strikes up an acquaintance with Edith Hunter(Deborah Kerr), a young English governess, who informed him of the rumors in the first place. Later at a beer hall, Candy does confront his enemy but not only manages to insult him but also the entire German army. A duel is therefore scheduled to settle matters...[/font]
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[font=Century Gothic]Written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" is an entertaining and engaging epic, filmed in gorgeously rendered technicolor. It is about the career of a military officer who lives in the past, even as radical changes are happening in the world. Candy talks about war being honorable but since when has that ever been true? Only an exalted member of the officer class could be so naive. And he is shown as a dinosaur because he is reluctant to give into the thought of total war but does that mean the filmmakers were arguing for the bombing of German civilians? [/font]
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Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
March 10, 2013
I love how this film's title just goes right ahead and spoils the fate of its titular character, or at least I would if this title was actually spoiling anything by bringing up the death of a character who is mentioned in the title, I don't know, for some kind of symbolic purpose or some junk like that, but actually hardly has anything to do with this film. Eh, whatever, I hear the real Colonel Blimp... who is actually a cartoon and not really real, was a jerk anyways, so it's not like the demise of this British Blimp is as tragic as the 1937 demise of a certain German blimp-like airship ("Oh, the humanity", and morbid sense of humor of Led Zeppelin!). Seriously though, you know a film has gotten really British when it starts randomly crowbarring in allusions to British media into its title, which of course makes it a shame that co-director Michael Powell couldn't achieve his ambition of further Britifying this film by getting the quintessential British thespian, the late, great Mr. Laurence Olivier, who was sadly too busy off being in active duty in the Fleet Air Arm during WWII. Yeah, that whole defending your nation with your very life thing can be a real bother sometimes, especially when you look at the fact that Olivier's efforts in the war were about as celebratory of Britain as his being in this film would have been, what with this film's being, according to Powell, "100% British"... outside of the French cinematographer, Hungarian writer/co-director, score by a Pole (Shoot, during WWII, where else in the world was Józef ?migrod-oh, I'm sorry, I mean, "Allan Gray", going to go?), and costume designs by a Czech. Yeah, maybe Powell should have punched in the numbers again, because this film doesn't quite sound 100%, tea-sippin', funky teeth-havin', near-superfluous monarchy celebratin', pip-pip-cheerioin' British to me, or at least it doesn't on paper, because when you see the final product, it's pretty much something that would make Colonel Blimp himself say, "Now that's just too British", then guffaw a couple of times, tip his hat, and ride off into the distance in his AC Cobra. I don't know how he would have had an AC Cobra in the 1940s, but he probably had it. British stereotype jokes aside, this film is indeed a good one, and yet, with that said, it's spoiling the death of a character who has nothing to do with anything is the least of its worries, as shocking as that may be to hear.

I'm not asking for a grandly well-rounded mythology or anything like that, because regardless of what the sprawling 160-minute-minute might lead you to believe, this isn't exactly the richest of epics, yet development feels a bit too hurried in plenty of spots, much like certain other story aspects, which move along much too quickly, thus thinning out expository effectiveness at the hands of hurrying, of which, there is much too much for momentum to stay as tight as it should be. There's enough engagement value throughout the film to compensate for a lack of slow-down, but a major issue with the final product is nevertheless its constant foward momentum, which doesn't claim the entirety of the film, but keeps the final product flowing along too ceaselessly for you to find enough time to fully meditate upon exposition, let alone the transitions of the many plot layers. Again, this film isn't too rich of an epic, so it's not like its hefty plot is all the intricate, and that's partially why it's not quite as uneven as it could have been, but make no bones about it, this lengthy character study isn't exactly all-out straightfoward, as it very much and all too often reminds you through the usage of the aforementioned constant foward momentum to thin out layer transitions, almost to the point of obscurity, thus leaving you to near-inorganically jar back and forth throughout this story, sometimes through subplots, sometimes through whole story segements, often through tone, and consistently enough for the final product to come off as inconsistent, if not just plain convoluted. If you find the film convoluted, then chances are that you won't find it too exceedingly difficult to follow, but you would still be hard pressed to fully keep up with the final product, whose somewhat intricate plot is driven into consistency issues by pacing and structure issues that hurry the final product along just enough to ironically remind you of just how overblown the film is, at least on paper. There is just enough meat to this film's basic story concept for a reasonably lengthy runtime to be not only just, but all but commanded, yet at about 163 minutes, the final product finds itself overblown with excess plot layers and material that the film could have done without, or at least made work reasonably well if it wasn't so desperate to make up for time, well, tacked on by tightening up plot slow-downs, until what you end up with is a film that is mostly mere momentum, and therefore kind of aimless. There is enough that is done very much right in this film for it to reward in the long run, but this somewhat promising project falls short of what it could have been, thanks to its being both too bloated for its own good in story concept, and too tight for its own good in storytelling execution, thus leaving unevenness and aimlessness to ensue just enough for the final product to run the risk of slipping into underwhelmingness. Of course, the axe that is underwhelmingness that hands over the final product's head is never brought down, because as flawed as the film is, it accels just enough to compel and reward, or at least impress on a technical level.

Even outside of the fact that this period piece only goes as far back as about 41 years prior to this film's release date of 1943, production designs aren't exactly all that outstanding, but when production value is, in fact, considerably played upon, while it's not phenomenal, it is impressive in its providing a visual reinforcement of time progression in this life study, which is further sold upon you by some, for their time, very impressive aging makeup effects, so the film is technically commendable, as surely as it is musically commendable, for although Allan Gray's score work isn't all that unique or remarkable, it is lively, with enough sweep and spirit to musical style and substance to do much as a supplement to the entertainment value that keeps consistent with this film, even when the other aspects fail to keep fully focused. The film's musical artistry is commendable, and when it comes to visual artistry, the film was outstanding at the time, and remains quite impressive today, as Georges Perinal puts then-underused Technicolor cinematography to very good use by delivering on about as much crisp definition as he could, complimented by rich coloring and striking lighting, thus making for a film that is consistently quite attractive, with moments that are stunning even to this day. The film wasn't exactly a sweeping revelation in technicality, but the technical value behind this film ranges from commendable to remarkable, even by today's standards, and such technical proficiency does quite a bit to get the film by as reasonably entertaining, while Michael Powell's and Emeric Pressburger's writing efforts help in getting the film by as genuinely compelling. This film's story concept isn't exactly all the original, it's certainly not quite as tight as it probably should be, but there is plenty of potential within this effort, and much of it is done justice to by the script by Powell and Pressburger, whose humorous touches often throw inconsistency within the film's tone, - especially when the film begins to grow more and more straightfaced, though never to where the threat of jarring shifts into humor is kept completely at bay - but are just as, if not more often effective, with charming wit and clever timing that livens up a story whose characterization touches are just as commendable, because even though this film stands to be more developed, it is able to flesh things out just enough to sustain your investment within a engaging roster of memorable characters. The storytelling of this film is sloppy, as is the story itself, to a certain degree, but there is enough value and inspiration behind the weaving of this tale for you to be compelled through and through, and that alone leaves the final product to reward as a character drama, with icing on the cake being strong performances, though not from everyone. Deborah Kerr may have been pretty and all, but she's hardly up to par with the rest of the cast in this film, being handed three role, each one of which underwhelm when it comes to the long run, with the Angela "Johnny" Cannon character's portrayal being mediocre, the Barbara Wynne character's portrayal being dodgy, and the Edith Hunter character's portrayal ranging from obnoxious to nearly unwatchable, so it's not like this film's characters are across-the-board worthwhile, but when it comes to the other members of this cast, there's plenty to commend, with the unevenly used Anton Walbrook charming as the intially confused German who knows very little English, and eventually grows into a wise but worried old man who Walbrook portrays with engrossing subtlety and grace, while Roger Livesey carries the film, maybe not as much as Laurence Olivier probably would have, but just enough to absorb the charisma and layers that define our lead Clive Candy character as a spirited and skilled military man who will face many changes as he ages through new, life-affecting experiences. The film stands to be leaner and meatier, because as things stand, the final product stands at underwhelmingness' doorstep, yet it doesn't quite fall through, going sustained just enough by inspired technicality, storytelling and acting to earn your investment and reward in the end.

Overall, hurried bits in storytelling thin out development, and back up the long periods of near-exhausting foward momentum that drive unevenness into and convolute the film's progression, reflect just how bloated this story is on paper, and create some sense of aimlessness that almost drive the final product out of genuinene goodness, which is ultimately sustained, partially thanks to a fine score and such impressive technical touches as nifty production value and lovely cinematography, and largely thanks to the generally inspired story structuring, writing and acting - particularly that of the show-stealing Anton Walbrook and show-carrying Roger Livesey - that make "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" a worthwhile comedy-drama character study, which may have its problems, but is ultimately worth your time.

3/5 - Good
Super Reviewer
February 21, 2013
The satire was a little lost on me. Perhaps it was the fact that I saw a particularly lousy copy and the only one I could find had a descriptive voice droning on in between the action. It was badly timed with a release during the war and Churchill was ticked. Seems harmless by today's standards. Maybe a bit too harmless.
Super Reviewer
½ June 18, 2011
Often considered one of the greatest British films of all time, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp tells the story of Clive Candy over the course of four decades. The film captures numerous British sensibilities and traditions as well as a look into the country's past and it's citizens during wartime. The film is a deep and complex character study and one that while slowly paced tells a nuanced and moving story.
Super Reviewer
February 16, 2013
Before I say anything of, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, I must credit this film with the greatest production design/ makeup I've ever seen. The restored version of this bursts with color. Comparable to The Tree of Life, filmed almost seventy years later, in the outstanding mixture of coloration. The film follows the three world wars that Clive Candy has been a part of, and what happens in between. I found the film was a bit too choppy at parts, and over extended the less important parts of a scene, and then kept the interesting part cut off. It was most certainly style over substance, but the style was near flawless.
3 stars +
Super Reviewer
November 18, 2012
I'm amazed that this film was allowed to be made during the 2nd World War as it does a good job satirising the traditional code of conduct still in force by the old guard of the British establishment. However perhaps younger minds recognised that this was neccessary in a war where the enemy no longer played by the rules! The film is very long, especially for its day, but it is also an engrossing look at one man's course through the latter part of the 19th Century through to the middle of World War II. The fact that when we first meet Candy he comes across like a pompous old fool is exactly the point. We jump to the same conclusion that the young soldier does, Powell and Presburger aren't trying to present Candy as a hero, rather a gentleman soldier who doesn't move with the times. By the end the audience recognises that it would be lovely if a 'gentleman's code' still existed but that war, no matter how 'played', should never be considered a game and that the price on both sides is just too great. Watching it now there is a great nostaglia for all things British but also a sadness that almost 80 years on not much has actually changed.
Super Reviewer
April 5, 2009
Fell asleep, twice.
Super Reviewer
½ May 26, 2008
The filmmaking team of Powell and Pressburger has a reputation of great importance, and this is the first of their movies I?ve seen. Clearly I?ve been missing out because this is a great movie. The film tells the epic story of a friendship between an English Officer and a German Officer over the course of forty years and two world wars. It?s a great character study filmed in glorious Technicolor. The film was disliked in its home country for not being jingoistic enough, but it has stood the test of time well and is filled with visual creativity. The strangest thing about this movie is its title; the main character is not named Blimp, and he?s a General not a Colonel, and at no point does this depict his death.
August 13, 2013
The British cousin of Grand Illusion, and maybe not *as* 'best-film-ever' in status, but it has an epic quality and a sheerly entertaining aim: make this man who is cordial, intelligent and from a certain place and time appealing to as many people as possible, and try some cinematic tricks in the process (the duel scene, which had me at first disappointed we didn't see it but then oh so glad it wasn't there, that this chance was taken to show the build-up and go for the unconventional route of the character of the duel's protocols as opposed to the action itself, same thing with the animal heads on the walls practically SHOTGUNNED onto the walls but without the hunting - in other words, it's Tarantino's upper-crust London grandfathers showing what a jolly good show can be done with wonderous tricks).

But at the same time, like Renoir, they are critical in just the mannerisms and what goes on in those little moments of those in military. Full review to come, but suffice it to say this s a VERY British film, and damn proud of it good sir, may we have some tea?
August 7, 2013
This is my first Powell & Pressburger film that I watched. On top of that, I watched the Criterion edition of the film which had interview with Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker who go on to explain several unique features of the film. As well as the influence that the film had on Raging Bull, including the acting of Robert deNiro. I thought the film was interesting but dragged on a bit too long. But I highly recumbent the Criterion edition if for no other reason then for the interviews.
February 28, 2013
An epic satire of war, nationalism, tradition, and Britain itself, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is also a touching tale of love and friendship. Loosely inspired by the British political cartoon character (mostly in name only), Powell and Pressburger's masterpiece sweeps across multiple decades and three different wars. Focusing upon the ongoing tensions between Germany and Britain, Colonel Blimp starts with The Boer Wars progresses through World War I and ends during World War II. Along the way, Clive Candy (his name is not actually Colonel Blimp) fights a duel, falls in love multiple times, makes a lifelong friend, and suffers loss. Churchill tried to have the film banned for its satirization of British nationalism and militarism and its positive depiction of a German officer, and ti was released internationally in a severely cut version. But the Archers' uncut film remains a masterwork that deftly blends humor, drama , and politics together with the deft writing and direction of Powell and Pressburger to create a truly unique film that transcends genre.
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