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The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp(1943)
An aging military man looks back on the loves and friends who shaped his life.
For more about The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and the The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp Blu-ray release, see the The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on November 20, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Deborah Kerr, Anton Walbrook, Roger Livesey, Ursula Jeans, Roland Culver, James McKechnie
Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
» See full cast & crew
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, November 20, 2012
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" (1943) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors ITV Studios Home Entertainment. The supplemental features on the disc include a short introduction by director Martin Scorsese; a collection of behind the scenes stills, poster artwork, portraits, and film stills; text-format biographies; and a documentary. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
The film is structured as a series of flashbacks that chronicle the friendship between two men: Clive Wynne-Candy (Roger Livesey, The League of Gentlemen) and Theodore Kretschmar-Schuldorff (Anton Walbrook, The Red Shoes). The former is a patriotic British officer, the latter an equally loyal to his country German officer.
The two men meet when Candy arrives in Berlin to confront Kaunitz (David Ward), a brash German spy, who according to the beautiful English teacher Edith Hunter (Deborah Kerr, An Affair to Remember) is spreading lies about her beloved country. In a local café, Candy challenges Kaunitz and then publicly insults the officers of the Imperial German Army. Kaunitz chooses the young and naive Theo to defend his honor in a duel. While fighting, Candy and Theo both suffer serious injuries and end up in the same hospital, where they eventually become friends. Before they leave the hospital, Theo also confesses to Candy that he has fallen in love with Edith.
The two men meet again during WWI. While in France, Candy meets a much younger than him nurse named Barbara, who looks a lot like Edith, and later on marries her in England. Sometime after that, Candy tracks down Theo in a prison camp, but his old friend ignores him. Before he returns home, Theo changes his mind pays Candy a visit.
During WWII, Edith dies before she and Theo could leave Nazi Germany. Theo arrives in England as a refugee and his old friend vouches for him before the immigration authorities.
This most beautiful film directed by the legendary duo Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, which Winston Churchill once wanted banned, offers a fascinating examination of British values and culture. At its core, the film also mourns an entire era that was replaced by a new one during which cynicism and populism were embraced in the name of patriotism.
The entire second half of the film focuses on Candy's struggle to accept the changes that are reshaping his country. His conviction that there are honorable men on the other side, some possibly fighting for the same reasons his countrymen are, is one of the key "subversive" messages in the film. In the midst of the war Candy is something of a dinosaur whose views feel disappointingly outdated, dangerously anti-patriotic.
The second "subversive" message - which must have been the main reason why Churchill was infuriated by the film and tried to stop it - suggests that ideas and policies alone cannot be used to condemn people or justify wars, simply because they are not and cannot be universally accepted by everyone. The many interactions Candy has with Theo, for instance, promote a degree of tolerance that was undoubtedly quite unusual in 1943, which is when the film was completed. Giving the enemy a human face was not something British officials wanted to see in a film that was expected to support their policies.
Of course, the film also tells a beautiful romantic story that is also rather unusual. There are fascinating Bunuel-esque overtones throughout the film which at times give it a very atmospheric feel. Kerr, who plays the three beautiful women in Candy's life, is absolutely spectacular.
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp was photographed by Georges Perinal, who won an Oscar for his contribution to The Thief of Bagdad. Throughout his career Perinal worked with some of Europe's greatest directors, such as Rene Clair (Le Million), Jean Cocteau (The Blood of a Poet), Carol Reed (The Fallen Idol), and Alexander Korda (An Ideal Husband).
The film's excellent soundtrack was composed by Allan Gray (The African Queen, Stairway to Heaven).
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors ITV Studios Home Entertainment.
The restoration of The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp was supervised by Michael Pogorzelski and Heather Linville of the Academy Film Archive, with assistance by 20th Century Fox film archivist Schawn Belston. The restoration was done in association with the British Film Institute and ITV Studios Global Entertainment Ltd., the film's rights holders. Funding was provided by Cinema Per Roma Foundation, The Louis B. Mayer Foundation, and the Material World Foundation.
Recently restored in 4K, the film looks spectacular. Definition and clarity are often quite extraordinary (see screencapture #4), while depth is the best I have seen on a Technicolor film released on Blu-ray. Colors are lush, exceptionally well saturated and remarkably stable -- there isn't even a hint of color fluttering. There are no traces of excessive denoising and sharpening corrections. Unsurprisingly, the film has a pleasing organic look. I also did not spot any serious purely transfer specific anomalies to report in this review. Large damage marks, debris, cuts, and stains are nowhere to be seen. Lastly, when projected the film remains remarkably tight around the edges. All in all, I think it is fair to say that this is the very best The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp has every looked on any home video format. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 2.0. For the record, ITV Studios Home Entertainment have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The audio treatment is as impressive as the video treatment. I don't have any press notes with me to see exactly what type of work was done and where, but it is clear to me that various very serious stabilizations and optimizations must have been performed. Clarity and depth are excellent (listen to the can-can theme in the cafe) and there is a very good range of nuanced dynamics. Also, background hiss has been removed as best as possible. The dialog is crisp, very clean, stable, and easy to follow.
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The new 4K restoration of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, regarded by many as one of the greatest British films ever made, is a thing of beauty. I think that people who know the film very well and have seen it multiple times as well as those who are going to view it for the very first time will be very pleasantly surprised to see how healthy it looks on Blu-ray. Kudos to everyone involved with the restoration as well as the parties that funded it. Now let's hope that North American film aficionados will also be able to purchase The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp on Blu-ray in 2013. (Please note that in addition to the standard release, ITV Studios Home Entertainment are also offering a SteelBook Edition of the film. See our listing here). VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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