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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Special Restoration Edition)


Starring: Roger Livesey, Deborah Kerr and Anton Walbrook
ITV Studios Home Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 22 October 2012

Major General Clive Wynne-Candy has a long and distinguished career in the British army stretching from the Boar War to World War Two. Arriving home from the Boar War, Candy as a young man receives a letter from Berlin from an English teacher reporting that a certain Kaunitz is spreading anti British propaganda. Soon after his arrival Candy inadvertently insults the whole of the imperial German Army and has to fight a duel with Theodore Kretschmar-Schuldorff. Surviving the duel the two become firm friends as their respective countries convulse under the strain of two World Wars. The two friends share a moral philosophy and a love for Edith Hunter...

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943 - 2 hr, 37 min, 06 sec) is a comedy drama from the creative pairing of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. For much of his life and certainly after the critical reaction to Peeping Tom (1960) pretty much ruined his career, Michael Powell’s contribution to British cinema has been woefully underestimated. He did live long enough to see his legacy revived and his films reassessed to the point that many now appear on university film courses.

The film opens, in 1943, with Candy (Roger Livesey), now an elderly gentleman, engaging in war games with the Home Guard, when a brash young officer breaks the rules of the games and tries to take Candy prisoner, who is so incensed by his attitude that he attacks the young man just before the film skips back forty year to a time when Candy was also overly brash.

Here, he meets both Edith Hunter (Deborah Kerr), the teacher in Berlin and Theo (Anton Walbrook) with whom he fights the duel. This strange set of meetings begins a lifelong friendship between the two men and even rivalry for Edith’s affections. There is an oddity in the film that although Theo ends up with Edith, Kerr turns up in two other roles looking exactly like Edith, almost as if Candy’s failure to woo Edith does not sit right with the universe, which keeps throwing copies of her at him.

When the film was first created it ran into problems with Churchill, who objected to the portrayal of a German character as honourable, as well as his friendship with Candy and the understanding that they achieve through their lifelong friendship, even though it is made plain that Theo turns his back on his own children when they become Nazis.

The film has undergone lengthy restoration to bring it back to the Technicolor marvel that it originally was. The fund raising was led by Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker and there is a short feature in the extras, Martin Scorsese Restoration Piece (4 min, 28 sec) with Scorsese taking us through the process. There are also textual biographies of the two film makers and the three main characters. The disc is rounded off with a picture gallery. To go with the gloriously restored picture the film has a digitally restored DD 2.0 audio track.


Charles Packer

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