Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1943 (8.2*)Entertaining spoof of traditional 18th century British military aristocracy, which became a mid-war critique of the ‘gentleman’s war’ mentality of previous wars, now being rendered obsolete and ineffective against the Nazis. This version is a restored 1983 one that added back originally deleted footage, so now the running time is over 2.5 hrs, making it an epic comedy; though many call this version a masterpiece of cinema, I think that's overblown. It's more like that generation's Dr. Strangelove, though a lot slower and less innovative. It is to be praised for the stand it took however, actually being critical of the British military's 'old guard'.

Roger Livesey has a career role as General Wynne-Candy, a part originally written for Laurence Olivier but his studio wouldn’t release him to Archer for this film. Deborah Kerr has a field day in three separate roles, one for each generation, as the film covers half a century in a man’s life. Despite some incredible individual scenes (such as a duel that features a rising camera shot from above), down a star for the length hurting the overall pace.

Based on a British newspaper cartoon called Colonel Blimp, which poked fun at the outdated military aristocracy that had ruled during the Crimean and other wars up through WW1. Churchill fought the film’s release, thinking it would hurt morale, and the attempted ban made the film a box office giant as the studio advertised the “film banned by the government”, who then (in a secret memorandum) said the film “is so boring that hardly anyone will sit through it.

Note: Powell (director) and Pressburger (writer) also did The Red Shoes in 1947, and Black Narcissus (1947) which were better films overall.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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