The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1943)

Structured a lot like Lawrence of Arabia, a film that constantly reminds The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp even if Lawrence was made twenty years later, Colonel Blimp feels fresher and deserves as much if not more recognition than the other British film. The structure evoked before, is how the prologue of the film opens with actions that will brings us back in the story where it all begins. Another War drama influenced by this film of The Archers: Patton, the persona of the main character especially, reminds of the romantic good hearted Colonel Blimp. Made in vibrant colours like many of The Archers’ films of the 1940’s, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is one of the most notorious films of this prolific duet. Although the saturation of the colours didn’t overshadows the quality of the ensemble of the film.
The strengths of the Powell/Pressburger “mise en scène” is the sober approach and the clear subtext to every script they directed together. Their classic placing of cameras, the terra cotta palette used in Colonel Blimp gives a clear naturally neat feeling to the package.

Secondly, the subtext of their scripts is important because every story told by The Archers has its meaning in terms of sexuality, violence, philosophy, and life. The mainstream appeal of the story is the perfect setting to reach a wider audience while spreading concepts that goes beyond the actual script. The imagery of Powell & Pressburger is clear and the situations have plenty of deep meanings. The camaraderie between Colonel Blimp and his fellow military men is important and it shows how romantic Blimp conceives War and life in general. There’s also the aspect of time passing by the characters without any other clear indicator than the aging of the main character getting grades and being more and more into the bourgeoisie of high military ranks. The lesson we feel like getting is that success always isolate those who are earning it. This is the case here with Colonel Blimp.

Overall, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is a nice gem of British Cinema that most of the times is shadowed by Powell/Pressburger’s other great films like The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus and also by other epic films like Lawrence of Arabia, Patton, and The Bridge on the River Kwai. There’s probably the age factor, made in 1943, and the fact that The Archers are not as widely known as Francis Ford Coppola or David Lean. Anyhow, they deserve much more recognition for their extraordinary work on their films. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp ranks amongst their strongest efforts. Highly recommended.


  1. Good review. Colonel Blimp is definitely one of my favorites. Its a bit short on plot but the gorgeous pictures and really likeable characters make it a treat to watch. I have no idea how Powell and Pressburger managed to make this film in the middle of World War II.

  2. Thank You Groggy Dundee, I had the same thought about the film made during the War!


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