The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp Reviews

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May 27, 2013
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is one of the best of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's incredible batch of films together. It manages to be touching, funny, moving and sad all at the same time.

The three central performances, by Roger Livesey, Deborah Kerr and Anton Walbrook, are remarkable and the Technicolor cinematography is beautiful. An absolute joy.
May 15, 2013
Perhaps the most controversial film by renowned filmmaking duo Powell and Pressburger, who in 1943 made and released a film satirising British traditionalism, military doctrine and the general idea of masculinity. While the result still seems daring to this day, it's easy to see the softer and sweeter side. While narratively it is not their most refined film, mostly due to the abrupt time skips, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is exciting, kind hearted and fun with some very impressive camera work.
½ May 9, 2013
Like a message in a bottle found on the beach from a lost civilization.
May 1, 2013
It sounds like a film that'd never be 'out-of-stock' - a 2h 43min ,1943 British film. It sounds boring. But curiosity stirs when you read that Winston Churchill and the Ministry of Information tried to ban it. And it only takes few minutes to relax and start thinking this may not be so bad after all.
Powell and Pressburger were one of the greatest creative teams cinema ever had. The script is wonderful, with spiky, cynic dialogue, beautiful camera work by the great George Perinal (Black Narcissus) and top performances by Anton Walbrook and Deborah Kerr (I didn't much like lead actor Roger Livesey, except in the third part).
So it shows its age, but only just. This is grand filmaking that can rival Hollywood's biggest studios and it is impeccably written.
½ March 24, 2013
Well made but an exhaustive two hours and 43 minutes of dialogue ridden film.
March 17, 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.
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
March 9, 2013
Densely detailed technicolor compositions. Satiric and moving spectacle.
February 26, 2013
Roger Livesley gives an amazing performance as a military man getting burned by the changing times because he has old world values. How he ages is great and this is pinnacle Archers. The duel is great in how it is barely shown. Powell was one of the greats.
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
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 +
½ January 11, 2013
Wartime effort by the Archers (Powell and Pressburger) that, while appearing patriotic on the surface, instead caricatures, somewhat warmly, the old fashioned conservative military man archetype. Not as art-directed to high heaven as some of their later works (Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes) but still finely wrought, with good use of color and sets. Told in flashback and following the central character from the Boer War (around 1902) up until WWII. It is hard not to feel that those WWII scenes aren't themselves flashbacks, since the period styling still seems so rich (but in fact, these were modern everyday sights for the audience watching the film in 1943). An enjoyable tale but not at the level of the Archers' best work.
December 25, 2012
Long movie but a pleasant surprise. Excellent acting and directing.
½ December 8, 2012
Beautiful technicolor film about youth and age, dreams and disappointments, honor and rivalry, war and chivalry, and how they none of them are what we expect or want them to be.
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.
½ November 8, 2012
Oh, Colonel Blimp, you might be an old fool but you're a lovable old fool.
October 18, 2012
Charming tale of friendship, traditional Britain and all things decent. It got Winston Churchill's knickers in a right twist, though he did have a war to win at the time.
½ September 26, 2012
Number 83 of my BFI top 100 British films completion

Absolutely fascinating. A film with a central, sympathetic German character, made DURING WW2. Lots of Powel and Pressburger regulars. Almost 'Memento' storyline. John 'we're doomed' Laurie in the home guard years before Dad's Army. Wish I'd seen it years ago!!!
September 25, 2012
Anton Walbrook's speech towards the end of the film just breaks you. Roger Livesey - a beautiful voice and great actor - in his best role. God bless you sir.
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