A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
One of the many miracles of "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" is the way the movie transforms a blustering, pigheaded caricature into one of the most loved of all movie characters. Colonel Blimp began life in a series of famous British cartoons by David Low, who represented him as an overstuffed blowhard. The movie looks past the fat, bald military man with the walrus moustache, and sees inside, to an idealist and a romantic. To know him is to love him.
Made in 1942 at the height of the Nazi threat to Great Britain, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's work is an uncommonly civilized film about war and soldiers--and rarer still, a film that defends the old against the young. Its hero is a blustering old windbag Clive Wynne-Candy, a war-horse of the Army since the Boer War, now twice retired from regular duty and relegated to leading the Home Guard.
As the film opens, the general has ordered military training exercises and announced, "War starts at midnight." A gung-ho young lieutenant decides that modern warfare doesn't play by the rules, and jumps the gun, leading his men into the General's London club and arresting him in the steam room. When Wynne-Candy bellows, "You bloody young fool--war starts at midnight!" the lieutenant observes that the Nazis do not observe gentleman's agreements, and insults the old man's belly and mustache.
Wynne-Candy is outraged. "You laugh at my big belly but you don't know how I got it! You laugh at my mustache but you don't know why I grew it!" He punches the young lieutenant, wrestles him into a swimming pool--and then, in a flashback of grace and wit, the camera pans along the surface of the water until, at the other end, young Clive Candy emerges. He is thin and without a mustache, and it is 1902.