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The Powell & Pressburger Pages

Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.

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Submitted by Mark Fuller

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

From: Tribune
18 June 1943

The Life and Death of Col. Blimp made me feel like a character from "Itma". I go - I come back! - I like it - I don't like it ! First then, comes the ha'pence of praise before the kicks of criticism.

     It is the best Technicolor yet turned out by any British film. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger have done a good job of work, and Hollywood will have to look to its laurels if this goes on. Many of the shots had the quality of beautiful paintings, one, particularly, of a cafe in Berlin, might have come from the brush of Renoir. It was full of sparkling light and gay atmosphere.

     It is excellent entertainment, despite its long-drawn-out story of the Colonel's indiscretion in Berlin as a young officer fresh from the Boer war, right down through the trench warfare in the last war to his War Office appointment in this war. Roger Livesey's performance, as Blimp, is as good, and better, than anything we have seen on the screen for a long time. It can, without exaggeration, be called a classic piece of acting, on either stage or screen. No-one could have been better, and everyone concerned owes him gratitude, for if he had been a flop no Technicolor, nor patriotic intentions could have saved the piece. Anton Walbrook, too, was excellent as an Uhlan officer. It was not his fault, but that of the author of the story, when he turned into a refugee intellectual at the end of the film, and cluttered up the place with long meanderings. Deborah Kerr as the three women in the Colonel's life knocks spots off all the glamour girls that ever came from Hollywood. It would have to be a bad film, indeed, that obscured her shining brilliance and her sure knowledge of what she is doing. She has been an asset to the British screen ever since she stepped on to her first set.

     Now for the kicks. It is too long, and I don't care if it did cost twenty-five million pounds (or something like that), that's nothing to do with the point. A short film costing tuppence might knock it sideways. It is too long, moreover, because no-one decided exactly what they wanted to say with it! I don't know now, and I have thought about it hard, whether the point was that Old Blimp was a jolly good sort and ought to have been given a good job in this war, or that he was a feeble old buffer but SWEET, and good enough for the Home Guard. After all, the H.G. is not a dustbin. Or even whether David Low needs counteracting, and we can now realise that Old Blimp is a DAMN GOOD SORT and feudal England not so bad. Or Tories are really gentlemen and sound at bottom! You can pay your money and take your choice. And all that is a grave fault in a propaganda picture, which is what "Blimp" is, or supposed to be.

     Worth seeing, though, if only those advertising blokes would stop screaming their heads off -"All entertainment will be judged by it", they sob hysterically, till we long to choke them or determine NEVER to see it.

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