Today: February 24, 2024

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

Based upon the satirical comic strip character invented by cartoonist

Based
upon the satirical comic strip character invented by cartoonist David Low (Colonel Blimp), Col. Clive Candy, is
one of the most extraordinary and beloved characters of 20th century
cinema.
Over the course of 40 years Powell and Pressburger present to us a
funny, moving and enthralling character study that has not only stood the test
of time but is still hugely entertaining.

When we first meet Col. Candy he is on
the receiving end of a bungled military operation during World War II. He comes
across as brash, arrogant and a senile old fool. Then the film takes a step
back in time to the early 20th century, just after the Boer War,
where Candy has been awarded the Victoria Cross and is considered a war hero.
Yet compared to his older self, the younger Candy has a much more humble and
friendly exterior. Despite this though he is not uncommon to controversy or
confrontation and dimwittedly becomes entangled in an international duel with a
German officer whilst in Berlin. This is where the films comes to life as he
befriends his foe, the uniquely named Theo Kretschmhar-Schuldorff and
falls in love with a young British woman, Edith Hunter. The film then moves
onto World War I, where Candy is stationed in the trenches of the front line.
Once again Candy falls in love with another woman, a young nurse of the name
Barbara Wynne. The final installment of the film shows Candy as a much older
man who has resigned himself to a life in the home guard of England, where his
day to day life is taken care of by another young girl, Johnny Cannon.

The main thing that has allowed TLADOCB
to remain pristine and enjoyable is the great feats of acting on show. Roger
Livesey
as Candy seems to effortlessly be able to change his mannerisms from
that of a fit and young soldier to a rotund and broken down colonel. However
this isn’t done in a melodramatic or sympathetic way, Livesey is having an
immense amount of fun as he chews up scene upon scene adding a much needed air
of eccentricity to an already intriguing character. Equally as good is Anton
Walbrook
as Kretschmar-Schuldorff. In contrast to Livesey’s flamboyant
Candy, Schuldorff is much reserved character, whose broken English allows the
man’s generosity and intelligence to shine. Some of the most intellectual and
thought provoking things about war the film covers are spoken by Schuldorff. But
the real star turn here is by Deborah Kerr, who pre-empts Peter
Sellers
by playing three different roles in one film. Kerr plays every
woman that Candy shares a relationship with. She gives each woman a real air of
dignity but more importantly a personality of their own. Although you are sure
that she is playing all these different characters, you really have to do a
double take and then fully appreciate the level of acting on show. What is even
more impressive is that she does all of this whilst looking absolutely
stunning.

Apart from the acting the one thing
that makes TLADOCB a true classic is the wonderful cinematography on show. A
pastoral palette of colours is painted across the screen in virtually every
shot. It has such vibrancy about it that you often find yourself wishing that
real life looked like this and that somehow all films could return to this
intensity. Alongside this fantastic use of colour is a keen eye for grandiose
set pieces that consume everything in sight and give the story a much greater
sense of importance. Yet room for the intimate hasn’t been forgotten and when
it does it has mad clockwork energy to it that is comparable to a model railway
set.

Overall, Colonel Blimp may not have the
iconic status of some of Powell and Pressburger’s other films like Black
Narcissus, The Red Shoes
and Peeping Tom but it does have an
overwhelming sense of pride and achievement about it. Made it 1943 in the midst
of WWII and during a time when London was being heavily bombarded by the
Luftwaffe, it was originally seen as an extremist satire on the British army,
which was even criticised by Winston Churchill himself. It is actually a
brave and rewarding film about age and how one day we will all be old but
whilst we can, lets not forget our youth and the amazing things we did back
then.

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