Review Written by: Emma Crouch
What the MPAA Rating should be: G
Directed by: Robert Hamer
Written by: Robert Hamer and John Dighton
Based on the book by: Roy Horniman
Produced by: Michael Balcon
Starring: Alec Guinness, Dennis Price, Valerie Hobson, Joan Greenwood
Studio: Focus Features
When possible Duke Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price)'s mother dies, she leaves him a dying wish of being buried in his aristocratic family's plot who have shunned her all her life, he sets about getting it done. Imagine his fury and dismay when they say no. He sets about getting revenge as well as winning the heart of the mercenary woman he loves through murdering each of the eight d'Ascoyne family members that stand between him and a title, riches and everything that he feels he deserves.
Wearing the Ealing black comedy streak on its sleeve and gleefully black, Kind Hearts and Coronets
has got to be one of the funniest films about murder to be made. Much of this owes kudos to Alec Guinness' fantastic performance, a true tour-de-force in comedy. He plays all eight of the family members, from the suffragette feminist Lady Agatha d'Ascoyne to the dull and dim Reverend d'Ascoyne with commendable diversity, changing his tone, stature, facial expressions and accent to play each character as if they were a completely new person. Such a performance could only prepare us for good things, which Guinness then continued to deliver.
That said, Dennis Price takes the lead excellently. As Louis Mazzini d'Ascoyne, he murders, poisons and drowns each of the characters without a sense of remorse that could seem cold and inhumane, but the audience find amusing. We eagerly await his calculation of the death of another, because we know it will have hilarious consequences and the plot never holds back. However, his dry narration tells a story that hides a sad tinge, as well as delivering sardonic social commentary on post-war Britain, where the gold digging (played with disgusting sugariness by Joan Greenwood) women were everywhere and to some people, rank was all that mattered. This is what makes each of the deaths so comical, giving us a little glee that the snobs are getting what they deserve.
For those who don't want to watch a film for the history lesson, no fear...Kind Hearts and Coronets
truly shines as a comedy. Even now, the one-liners and biting irony rings and every scene has a joke to laugh at. Under director Robert Hamer's ultra-capable hands, a warm-hearted satire has been crafted. You really can't get much better or much intelligent than this.
You can read more of Pizzicato Crouch's clever writing at: http://www.mysticdollarredemption.blogspot.com/
Alec Guinness in one of his many roles in Kind Hearts and Coronets.