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The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp(1943)
Aging military man Clive Candy reflects on the loves and friends who shaped his life, as well as four decades of turbulent British history.
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 February 18, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Directors: Michael Powell (I), Emeric Pressburger
Writers: Michael Powell (I), Emeric Pressburger
Starring: Deborah Kerr, Anton Walbrook, Roger Livesey, Ursula Jeans, Roland Culver, James McKechnie
» See full cast & crew
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, February 18, 2013
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" (1943) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include an exclusive new video introduction to the film by director Martin Scorsese; restoration demonstration; profile of the film; new interview with Thelma Schoonmaker Powell; rare behind-the-scenes stills; two galleries with stills tracing the history of David Low's original Colonel Blimp cartoons; and an audio commentary featuring Michael Powell and Martin Scorsese. The release also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by critic Molly Haskell. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "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 Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray release:
"The digital master presented here was made from The Film Foundation's 2012 restoration. For the restoration, the original 35mm three-strip Technicolor negatives were scanned at 4K resolution on an Imagica wetgate scanner at point360 in Los Angeles. The soundtrack was digitally restored from the original monaural optical soundtrack by Audio Mechanics in Burbank, California.
Restoration supervisors: Mike Pogorzelski/Academy Film Archive, Hollywood; Schawn Belston.
Restoration consultants: Martin Scorsese, Thelma Schoonmaker Powell.
Colorist: Ray Grabowski/Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging (MPI), Burbank, CA.
Digital picture restoration: Reliance MediaWorks, Burbank, CA."
Similar to the UK and French releases, Criterion's release uses as a foundation the new 2012 4K restoration by The Film Foundation. Needless to say, the film looks spectacular. Detail and especially image depth are often quite extraordinary (see screencapture #4). Colors are remarkably rich and well saturated (see screencapture #5). Contrast and brightness levels are also notably stable. I did a few quick comparisons with the other two releases mentioned above and as far as color saturation and brightness are concerned the Criterion and ITV releases appear to be closer to each other (the brightness levels are slightly elevated on the Carlotta Films release). Furthermore, there are absolutely no traces of problematic lab corrections. Compression is also very good. There are no damage marks, debris, scratches, or warps to report in this review. To sum it all up, this is arguably the most impressive restoration and presentation of a Technicolor film to appear on the home video market since the high-definition format was launched. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A 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 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The dialog is consistently crystal clear, clean, and stable, while the music is well rounded and well balanced. There are no sudden spikes or drops in dynamic movement. Also, there are no pops, cracks, background hiss, audio dropouts or distortions to report in this review.
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
Having already seen the ITV Studios Home Entertainment and Carlotta Films releases of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, I feel comfortable stating that Criterion's upcoming release is the one to own. Similar to the other two releases Criterion's release uses as a foundation the terrific new 2012 4K restoration by The Film Foundation, but it has the best selection of supplemental features. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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