Anton Walbrook, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
Credit: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp: Kobal Collection

Released in Great Britain while London was under attack, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s quirky The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, and epic about the longtime friendship between a British career soldier (Roger Livesey) and a sympathetically portrayed German officer (Anton Walbrook), didn’t sit well with Mr. Churchill, who initially tried to suppress the film despite its obvious anti-Nazi slant. Controversy aside, ”Blimp” splendidly marries a sprawling narrative to stunningly imaginative filmmaking. Take, for instance, the famous duel scene between Livesey and Walbrook: It builds, very slowly, to a tense face-off; suddenly the camera swoops away from the swordplay, dissolves through the roof to a sparkling, snowy night, and then glides down to a close-up of a carriage — from which we see an ambulance presumably carrying the two men away. It’s just one sublime example of Powell and Pressburger’s expectation-defying artistry.

On the commentary (recorded in 1988 for the laser release), enthusiastic fan Martin Scorsese and an 83-year-old Powell alternately expound upon everything from Deborah Kerr’s shining performance as three different women over the film’s 40-year span to cinematographer Georges Perinal’s gorgeous use of lighting and Technicolor. Other extras include a stills gallery of the David Low ”Colonel Blimp” cartoons that inspired Livesey’s character and a crisp making-of doc. Good show!