Charm, elegance, and serial murder are mixed together like a perfect martini in this exquisitely dry and quintessentially British black comedy. Directed by Robert Hamer, it's the first of the great run of comedies featuring Alec Guinness that emerged from England’s Ealing Studios. Dennis Price stars as an English duke and convicted murderer who, on the eve of his execution, relates in flashback how he methodically killed off all the rival heirs to his titles -- murders that become increasingly inventive and amusing as his chronicle unfolds. The peerless Guinness plays all of the victims -- male and female -- in a chameleonlike tour de force. That the conceit never feels gimmicky is an enduring testament to Guinness's brilliance. Price is wonderful, too; his would-be duke is one of the most appealing cold-blooded killers ever put on film. Consummately refined, yet spiced up with delicious twists and intrigues, Kind Hearts and Coronets stops short of hilarity, opting instead for a subtle comic tone that brings the morbidity of the narrative into startling relief. Perhaps the most familiar of Guinness's Ealing productions, it is also one of cinema's all-time great comedies.
Kind Hearts and Coronets is an elegant black comedy that is perhaps too much remembered for the gimmick of having Alec Guinness play eight different murder victims and too little remembered for the fine performance of Dennis Price as the murderer. One of several comedy classics of the post-WWII era from Ealing Studios, the film is both ironic and bitingly funny. While the ending of the British version leads the audience to believe that Price will escape punishment for his crimes, American censors insisted that the criminal had to be punished for U.S. distribution, and so a less amusing ending was tacked on for the benefit of overly sensitive Yanks. Also of note is Joan Greenwood's performance as the murderer's childhood friend Sibella. Ealing was often an underfunded studio, so the production values are modest, though adequate. If there is an area in which the tech credits shine, it is the make-up and costuming of Guinness.
Class is the great unmentionable of American movies, but the British positively swill in the subject. Seldom has it been treated with more elegance and bile than in Robert Hamer's 1949 Ealing comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets.
|Source:||Kl Studio Classics|