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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary featuring director Michael Powell and filmmaker Martin Scorsese
  • Video introduction by Scorsese
  • A Profile of "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp," a twenty-four-minute documentary
  • Restoration demonstration, hosted by Scorsese
  • Interview with editor Thelma Schoonmaker Powell, Michael Powell's widow
  • Gallery featuring rare behind-the-scenes production stills
  • Gallery tracing the history of David Low's original Colonel Blimp cartoons

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Starring: Anton Walbrook, Deborah Kerr, Roger Livesey, Roland Culver, Harry Welchman, Arthur Wontner, Albert Lieven, John Laurie, Ursula Jeans, James McKechnie
1943 | 163 Minutes | Licensor: ITV Global Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #173
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: March 19, 2013
Review Date: May 18, 2013

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SYNOPSIS

Considered by many to be the finest British film ever made, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, is a stirring masterpiece like no other. Roger Livesey dynamically embodies outmoded English militarism as the indelible General Clive Candy, who barely survives four decades of tumultuous British history (1902 to 1942) only to see the world change irrevocably before his eyes. Anton Walbrook and Deborah Kerr provide unforgettable support, he as a German enemy turned lifelong friend of Candy's and she as young women of three consecutive generations-a socially committed governess, a sweet-souled war nurse, and a modern-thinking army driver-who inspire him. Colonel Blimp is both moving and slyly satirical, an incomparable film about war, love, aging, and obsolescence shot in gorgeous Technicolor.

Forum members rate this film 9.5/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Michael Powellís and Emeric Pressburgerís ambitious The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp receives a Blu-ray edition from Criterion. The new high-definition transfer, presented in 1080p/24hz, comes from a new 4K restoration taken from the original 3-strip Technicolor negatives. The film is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.37:1.

I never had a true problem with Criterionís original DVD, the transfer of which was taken from a restored interpositive. It delivered a sharp image and excellent detail, and now, even upscaled, itís held up pretty well. Most of its issues had to do with the source: there was plenty of shifting in the frame, noticeable but insignificant damage, general shifts in quality as the film played, and the colours were open to improvement, coming off a bit dull or leaning a little too much to one end of the colour spectrum, either too yellow or too red in places. Colour separation was also a constant problem. Yet despite these issues I was generally pleased with it.

I was expecting an improvement from the new Blu-rayís presentation of the new restoration, but the transfer and restoration both go above and beyond what I would have ever expected. This Blu-ray delivers an absolute stunner of an image. The restoration has removed just about every bit of damage with only a few minor inconsistencies remaining, and the colours come off so much bolder, and brighter. The red tone has been tamed down a bit and is better saturated, and the blues and greens come through so much clearer now. Also, as an added bonus, I did not notice an instance of colour separation or blurring. This is easily the cleanest Iíve ever seen the film.

The transfer itself presents no noticeable artifact or digital issues. It renders a clean, stable, and natural looking image. Every detail pops off of the screen, edges are sharp and crisp, and the digital manipulation has been kept to a minimum. It looks absolutely magnificent, as close to a projected film as you can probably get on the format, and itís easily the best Iíve seen the film.

9/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The Blu-rayís audio, presented here in lossless PCM 1.0 mono, also offers a noticeable improvement. The DVD presented a noticeable hiss which is now gone. The track also comes off a bit sharper and clearer, and the music also offers an improvement with less of an edge to it. Dialogue is sharp and easy to hear, and the track is free of any pops or drops.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion carries over all of the disc supplements from their original DVD, starting with the audio commentary featuring Martin Scorsese and Michael Powell that was originally recorded for the Criterion laserdisc in 1988. Itís still a wonderful track that hasnít lost any value over the years. The two were unfortunately recorded separately, though I guess that allows each participant to stay focused. Thereís a surprising amount of dead space in places but itís generally an active and informative track. Powell talks about making the film, the issues he had with the war office, personal touches, and gets into detail about Pressburgerís ďenemy alienĒ status which was an important plot point in the film. Scorsese talks about the film in a more analytical manner, going over the aspects of it that influenced him (the duel scene was a huge influence for sequences in Raging Bull) and also talks about first discovering the film on television, and the long quest in finding the original cut after only seeing the truncated American version for years. From this he also talks about how the versions differ in either timeline or scenes being cut. Itís certainly a track one should listen to if they havenít done so yet. Itís 25 years old but no less significant.

New to this release is an introduction by Martin Scorsese recorded for this edition. The 14-minute piece offers a sort of summation of his comments in the commentary, where Scorsese recalls how he first saw the film, its differing edits, and the issues Powell and Pressburger had with the War Department in the making of the film. No new information is really offered here but itís always wonderful to get Scorsese talking about his favourite films.

Also pulled over from the original DVD is the 24-minute A Profile of ďThe Life and Death of Colonel BlimpĒ, which I believe was originally made for a 2000 DVD edition of the film released in the UK. Including interviews with Kevin MacDonald, Stephen Fry, Ian Christie, and others, it goes over the influence of the film and its problematic production, problematic because of concerns of Churchill and the War Department. It offers a more rounded and focused look at the filmís production, but itís still a fairly standard making-of with most of the material already covered in the excellent commentary track.

A 5-minute restoration demonstration has Scorsese talk about the lengthy and time consuming restoration of the film, which called for each strip to be transferred and restored, and we get some before and after examples.

Optimism and Sheer Will is a 29-minute interview with editor Thelma Schoonmaker Powell, Michael Powellís widow. With the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret prominently displayed in the background (shameless plug?) she recalls first meeting Powell, which was during a screening of The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, and then shares her thoughts on the film, going over the many details within it that she admires. She also worked on the restoration (at least colour timing) and talks a little about that, and also points out some of the details she never noticed before, only noticing them now because she had been watching the movie over and over again during the restoration. She also heavily criticizes how Churchill handled the film, and seems offended that Churchillís favourite film was The Lady Hamilton, which she doesnít think was a particularly good film. Probably the best feature on here after the commentary.

Criterion then thankfully carries over the galleries that were found on the DVD. We first get a gallery of production stills, publicity photos, and posters and other materials for the film. Criterion then includes a gallery for David Lowís Colonel Blimp, which features many notes, photos of Low, and a large collection of the cartoons.

The booklet then features an essay on the film by Molly Haskell. Criterion has dropped the essay written by Ronald Haver for the laserdisc edition (also used in the DVDís insert.) It also drops the excerpt from David Lowís autobiography where he talks about the film and the general reaction to it, as well as his horror to how the film was handled in the States. It was a great inclusion and Iím sad it didnít make it here.

In all the supplements certainly offer an improvement over previous editions, though a lot of the material is repeated throughout.

8/10

CLOSING

A wonderful new edition from Criterion, which sports an amazing new transfer of the film, while carrying all of the features over from the old DVD and offering a couple of worthwhile new ones. Overall it comes with a very high recommendation.


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