The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s classic 1943 Technicolor film about the life and loves of a quintessential British soldier, has been digitally restored with impressively lavish care and now gets a splendid Blu-ray release.
Made at the height of the Second World War, Colonel Blimp takes its title from Evening Standard cartoonist David Low’s satirical comic creation, which led Winston Churchill to object, famously, to the film’s production, fearing it would ‘give a new lease of life’ to the ‘Blimp conception of the [British] Army officer’. Yet as played by Roger Livesey, the film’s central character couldn’t be further from a caricature.
Livesey’s Colonel Clive Candy is a bluff, bighearted fellow whose decent but outmoded belief in ‘clean fighting and honest soldiering’ leads him from the Boer War through the First World War trenches and on to the Second World War. Deborah Kerr plays all three of the women in his life; and Anton Walbrook is the German officer who becomes his best friend.
It was this lifelong bond with a German, and not any fogeyish satire, that provoked the most fuss at the time of Colonel Blimp’s release but which can now be appreciated as an integral part of the film’s profound and moving meditation on friendship and honour, patriotism and growing old.