Review: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (PG)

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A welcome re-release for another Powell/Pressburger classic, this one based on the popular comic strip about the blustering old duffer Colonel Blimp.

What might have been a shallow examination of reactionary patriotism becomes a scathing satire of blinkered traditionalism as the title character – played by veteran soldier Clive Wynne-Candy – realises too late that his notions of fighting a gentlemanly war are outmoded.

Powell and Pressburger, under the title The Archers, created their own stock company over several years. Heading it was Roger Livesey, here playing a bluff old duffer whose notions of war with honour are based on romantic memories of the Boer War and First World War.

The Nazis’ approach to conflict ends all that. Interesting that The Archers chose to present this telling reveal courtesy of Candy’s sympathetic German friend – a highly contentious move in 1943 at the height of the Second World War.

The romanticism of the piece also extends to Candy’s own love life, and this idiosyncratic love story is told via his three loves, all played by Deborah Kerr (another Archers regular).

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp represents a shift of mood: in British filmmaking, in attitudes and in The Archers’ visual extravagances that made them, for a time, the most exciting and visionary writer, producer and director partnership working in the UK.

Livesey was cast in lieu of Laurence Olivier whose involvement was vetoed by the Ministry of Information on the grounds that it was critical of a certain brand of English patriot. Sharp-eyed film buffs may notice Denton Hall, near Ilkley, in Wharfedale, among the film’s locations.

On limited release