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Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

4.6 6
Director: Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell

Cast: Roger Livesey, Deborah Kerr


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Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's much-lauded epic Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, which satirizes British traditionalism, stirred up impassioned hostilities and indignations among the Brits when released in 1943. It so infuriated Winston Churchill, in fact, that he refused to allow its exportation to other countries, particularly the U.S. When Blimp<


Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's much-lauded epic Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, which satirizes British traditionalism, stirred up impassioned hostilities and indignations among the Brits when released in 1943. It so infuriated Winston Churchill, in fact, that he refused to allow its exportation to other countries, particularly the U.S. When Blimp finally did premiere in the States in 1945, it screened in a drastically cut version. The sweeping story covers several decades. It begins at the tail end of the Boer War, when handsome young British officer Clive Candy, recently back from the battlefront, is infuriated by his discovery that Deutschland papers have played up the British atrocities in South Africa, propagandistically. He grows so irate, in fact, that he travels to Germany to address the problem. Once there, he meets an attractive British educator, Edith Hunter (Deborah Kerr) who spends her days teaching English as a second language to German students. They grow close, but Candy so aggravates the local indigenes that he winds up in a duel with a German officer, Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff (Anton Walbrook). The men wound each other and are sent to the same hospital, where they become friends. Candy - who doesn't yet realize he's fallen in love with Edith -- senses that Theo and Edith are attracted to one another, and encourages the couple's marital union. Candy subsequently returns to England, then falls for and marries Barbara (again played by Kerr), a nurse who bears a strong resemblance to Edith. She later dies, but Candy meets a third woman during WWII, Johnny (Kerr a third time), assigned to drive him from one locale to another during his campaigns. Meanwhile, Theo - disgusted by Nazi atrocities -- absconds to England, where he reencounters his old friend, now a prattering old shuffler rapidly approaching the end of his career and raving continuously about Nazi conduct (or lack thereof) in battle. Powell and Pressberger adapted Colonel Blimp from a comic strip; it became one of the hallmarks of their careers. ~ Sidney Jenkins

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Kryssa Schemmerling
Satirical, tragic, nostalgic, and sentimental in the very best way, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is an epic unlike any other. Made by the great British writing-directing-producing team Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, it chronicles 40 years in the life of an aristocratic British soldier, Major-General Wynne-Candy (Roger Livesey), as he evolves from a dashing and rebellious young officer into an aging career military man who can’t grasp the nature of modern warfare. Taking Wynne-Candy through the Boer War, World War I, and World War II, Colonel Blimp shows how the chivalry and duels of pre-World War I Europe finally gave way to fascism and bombing raids. Yet it’s less a war picture than a character study and a meditation on the nature of love, friendship, and aging. The character of Wynne-Candy is based on Sir David Low’s famous cartoon character, Colonel Blimp -- a ridiculous and archaic remnant of the vanishing British Empire that became an emblem of what modern England was trying to leave behind. Rather than ridicule him, however, Powell and Pressburger, with their signature humanism, find the man behind the caricature and show him in a sympathetic light. They similarly smash stereotypes by making Wynne-Candy’s greatest friend (Anton Walbrook) a German soldier who abandons his country after the rise of Hitler and gives the film’s most vehement condemnation of nazism. Livesey (a last-minute replacement for Laurence Olivier) gives one of the screen’s most moving and virtuoso performances, while Walbrook and Deborah Kerr, who plays Wynne-Candy’s romantic ideal, are also superb. This Criterion Collection edition restores the frequently butchered Colonel Blimp to its full length and vivid Technicolor beauty. Powell and longtime fan Martin Scorsese provide insightful commentary. Archival materials, such as letters from Winston Churchill and Low’s original cartoons, add much to the experience of watching this masterpiece.
All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
By today's standards, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Life And Death of Colonel Blimp seems a brilliantly written and executed character study with period overtones -- "the British Citizen Kane, as one critic described it in recent years. But the 163-minute movie was one of the most controversial productions in England during the war, and the disputes over its content and distribution overshadowed the film's virtues for nearly 40 years. Powell and Pressburger, also known as "The Archers," had already courted controversy in 1941 with their propaganda movie 49th Parallel. Blimp seemed as if it was designed to engender displeasure from the government: Anton Walbrook, who was the leader of the anti-Nazi Germans in 49th Parallel, plays an even more sympathetic expatriate German in this movie; the title character, who represents the epitome of the British officer class of the First World War, is depicted as a well-meaning but doddering old buffoon, incapable of dealing with the Nazi threat; and the hero, Clive Candy (brilliantly played by Roger Livesey), makes his name on a civilian escapade during the Boer War, just as Prime Minister Winston Churchill had. The movie seemed certain to attract official censure, and it did. Powell and Pressburger were denied the use of military equipment or personnel while Blimp was in production, and the government voiced its further strenuous objections to the parties financing the movie. Once it was completed and released, the film was denied an export license to the United States until almost two years after the war, by which time it had been shorn of nearly an hour of material. It took 40 years for the uncut version to reach America in its original Technicolor splendor. After the wait, audiences found a movie that seized upon many of the structural elements found in Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, with its back-to-front-to-back narrative path. The Archers took the class satire and social consciousness found in the best work of Noel Coward -- as well as in the original David Low cartoon whence the Colonel Blimp character originated -- and turned those elements into something uniquely theirs, a film very wry and dry in its tweaking of British sensibilities, universal in its observations on life, love and longevity in the middle of a world war.

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Special Features

New digital master from the film foundation's 2012 4K restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack; Audio commentary featuring director Michael Powell and filmmaker Martin Scorsese; New video introduction by Scorsese; A profile of "The life and death of Colonel Blimp," a documentary from 2000; Restoration demonstration, hosted by Scorsese; Optimism and sheer will, a 2012 interview with editor Thelma Schoonmaker Powell, Michael Powell's widow; Gallery featuring rare behind-the-scenes production stills; Gallery tracing the history of David Low's original Colonel Blimp cartoons; Plus: a booklet featuring an essay by critic Molly Haskell

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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Roger Livesey Clive Candy
Deborah Kerr Barbara Wynne,Edith Hunter,Johnny Cannon
Anton Walbrook Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff
Roland Culver Col. Betteridge
Albert Lieven Von Ritter
Spencer Trevor Period Blimp
James McKechnie Spud Wilson
Ursula Jeans Frau von Kalteneck
John Laurie Murdoch
Phyllis Morris Pebble
Arthur Wontner Embassy Counsellor
Count Zichy Col. Borg
Carl Jaffe Van Reumann
Eric Maturin Col. Goodhead
Captain W. Barrett The Texan
Frith Branbury Babyface Fitzroy
Helen Debray Mrs. Wynne
Thomas Palmer Sergeant
Marjorie Gresley Matron
David Hutcheson Hoppy
Harry Welchman Maj. Davis
Reginald Tate Van Zijl
A.E. Matthews President of Tribunal
Valentine Dyall von Schonbron
Muriel Aked Lady Margaret
Felix Aylmer Bishop
Neville Mapp Stuffy Graves
Vincent Holman Club Porter, 1942
Dennis Arundell Cafe Orchestra Leader
James Knight Club Porter, 1902
David Ward Kaunitz
Jan van Loewen Indignant Citizen
Robert Harris Embassy Secretary
Jane Millican Nurse Erna
Diana Marshall Sybil
Yvonne Andre Nun
Norman Pierce Mr. Wynne
Edward Cooper BBC Official
Joan Swinstead Secretary
Wally Patch Sergeant clearing debris
Ferdinand "Ferdy" Mayne Prussian Student
John Varley Actor
Patrick MacNee Actor
John Boxer Soldier

Technical Credits
Emeric Pressburger Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Michael Powell Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Joseph Bato Costumes/Costume Designer
George Blackler Makeup
Lt.Gen. Sir Douglas Browning Consultant/advisor
Jack Cardiff Camera Operator
W. Percy Day Special Effects
Desmond Dew Sound/Sound Designer
Allan Gray Score Composer
Dorrie Hamilton Makeup
Alfred Junge Production Designer
Tom Payne Asst. Director
Tom Payne Asst. Director
Georges Périnal Cinematographer
John Seabourne Editor
C.C. Stevens Sound/Sound Designer
Sydney Streeter Production Manager
Geoffrey Unsworth Camera Operator


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The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is either the best British film ever made, or the best film ever made about Britain. It is about friendship, fair play, loyalty to one's country, and love. The title is from a 1930's political cartoon that attacked those in the British government appeasing the Germans, but the story is all about an old soldier realizing that times have changed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
To pick the single best of Michael Powell's films is nearly impossible. Of all the films that might make that claim, A Matter of Life and Death, the Red Shoes, Tales of Hoffman, etc., my selection would have to be the Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. Roger Livesy, Anton Walbrok, and Deborah Kerr all did brilliant work elsewhere, but in Blimp they are perfection. The film is alternately funny, enlightening, and deeply moving. The scene where Theo sees the face of Clive's driver, and Walbrok's quiet, underplayed look of understanding of his friend, an understanding that Clive will never have of himself, is one of the single greatest moments in film, and always brings tears to my eyes. A simply wondrous film, and the Criterion Collection edition does it justice, with extras galore, including a fantastic commentary track with Martin Scorcese and Powell himself.
KubrickerJM More than 1 year ago
Ferociously good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
KatzCJ More than 1 year ago
This is an interesting DVD with very good performances. Also the technicolor is absolutely gorgeous. If you don't know much about British goings-on during WWII, you might be a bit lost at first, but hang in there. The movie gets better and better as you go along and everything is resolved by the end. The time frame is from 1902 to the second world war - this film was actually made during that war. Blimp has quite a lot of action in it and deals with three distinct time periods - the Boer War, WWI, and WWII - and the hero's adventures during these times - including his love life. It was made by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger - two great filmmakers. All in all, I would give this movie an A-.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago