The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp Movie Review

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is not about a Colonel named Blimp. Instead it is a long, epic film about a British soldier named Clive Candy. Directed in 1943 -- by the amazing duo of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger -- the film is not quite as triumphant as their many collaborations, but if you stick with it for its 163 minute running time it is ultimately rewarding.

The film is told in flashback and covers the time period from 1902, well before World War I, to 1943, near the end of World War II. In that time the world went through major changes most specifically in the way wars were fought. Clive Candy (played by the hoarse-voiced actor Roger Livesey) is a relic of the past. He is a soldier who defines war by a 19th century paradigm in which war was considered a gentleman's game - an old-fashioned way of thinking about modern combat.

The film is based on a comic strip called "Colonel Blimp," created in England by David Low in the 1930s that was both sarcastic and frequently harsh about the old British imperial attitudes that defined the late 19th century conservative men of the military. But even though Powell and Pressburger clearly satirize the old guard they also give the film a romantic angle by memorializing the main character while also pitying him.

Starring alongside Roger Livesey - who in a marvelous performance manages to get fatter and grayer as the film goes on - are Anton Walbrook who plays a German soldier who becomes Clive's best friend, and Deborah Kerr who plays three roles which cover three primary periods in Clive's life; as a young man, as an aging soldier, and as an elderly man. In each time period she represents the ideal woman for him.

Like all of the Powell/Pressburger films, this one has a masterful use of cinematic language. There are impressive editing techniques, striking shot selections (in Technicolor), grand use of music, wonderful acting, and a strong and sometimes witty script.

An example of this mastery comes when Clive and Theo are preparing to fight a sword duel in a large building. Powell sets up the scene in a very deliberate manner using the space in the building and the editing to build tension. But right as the duel begins the camera goes up into the air, floats away into the snowy night sky, and comes down to a carriage, which waits for Clive.

Virtuosity aside, this duel sequence turns out to be the pivotal scene for the entire film because it sets the stage for the rest of Clive's life, specifically in the way he faces danger with a sense of genial spirit and deprecation - an attitude that will win him friends but lose him wars.

The team of Powell (who directed) and Pressburger (who wrote the scripts) created many great films such as The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus, and A Matter of Life and Death. This film doesn't quite have all of the magic of those others - some scenes linger a little too long - but it is certainly better than any old run-of-the-mill epic and is more than worth a look whether you are a fan of their work or have never heard of them.

The Criterion Collection DVD of the The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp adds a lot to the film. Included are an informative and astute commentary track - comments were recorded separately and spliced together - by Martin Scorsese and the late Michael Powell. There is also a 24 minute video-documentary about the film as well as a selection of David Low's "Colonel Blimp," cartoons and a good number of production stills from the film.

Cast & Crew

Director :

Comments

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: PG, 1943

Advertisement

Editors Recommendations

Get Ready For ‘Moana’, Disney’s Latest Heroine Who Will Set Sail In 2016

While some of us may not be ready to let Frozen go yet, Disney is at...

Get Ready For ‘Moana’, Disney’s Latest Heroine Who Will Set Sail In 2016

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 - Trailer

With the incredible ramifications of the end of the yearly ritualistic sacrificial...

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 Trailer

Emerging Soul Virtuosos St. Paul And The Broken Bones Announce 2015 European Tour

St. Paul & The Broken Bones are the latest musical knockouts to...

Emerging Soul Virtuosos St. Paul And The Broken Bones Announce 2015 European Tour

Hipster Disney: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Mixtape Set for Cassette Release

Disney has announced it will release Guardians of the Galaxy mixtape on...

Hipster Disney: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Mixtape Set for Cassette Release

Bryan Cranston Jokes About 'Breaking Bad' Action Figures Petition

Bryan Cranston has laughed off a petition signed by 6,000 concerned parents...

Bryan Cranston Jokes About 'Breaking Bad' Action Figures Petition

What We Do In The Shadows - Trailer

Wellington, New Zealand. A documentary film crew were granted access into a secret society...

What We Do In The Shadows Trailer

Orbital To Split after 25 Years, Paul Hartnoll to Release Solo Album

Orbital have announced they are to split after 25 years performing together...

Orbital To Split after 25 Years, Paul Hartnoll to Release Solo Album

Nicholas Brendon (Buffy's Xander) Apologizes for Hotel Lobby Arrest

Nicholas Brendon, the actor best known for playing Xander Harris on the...

Nicholas Brendon (Buffy's Xander) Apologizes for Hotel Lobby Arrest

Broods - Mother & Father [Live] Video

Following the release of their debut studio album, 'Evergreen', the New Zealand duo the Broods have released a live...

Broods - Mother & Father [Live] Video
Advertisement