62 of 63 people found the following review helpful
This is one of the classic Ealing comedies which lingers long in the memory and leaves a very happy aftertaste. It is unique because of Alec Guinness's tour de force in personifying all the D'Ascoignes, but it has many other virtues too - the suave and solid work of Dennis Price and of Valerie Hobson, beautiful and remote with just a hint of earthy lustfulness, and Joan Greenwood, much more worldly and playful and every bit as characterful. The screenplay is full of intelligence - I have always enjoyed the superannuated parson's description of the west window of his church as having 'all of the exuberance of Chaucer without, happily, any of the concomitant crudities of his period' - and the plot is neat and clever, with the irony of Price's downfall resulting from the one death he was not responsible for and then, when all seems well after all, the strong hint that it may not be. I've seen the film a number of times and it always gives delight. It is one film which fully justifies the epithet 'well-liked', and that is just what it deserves to be.
65 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on 22 March 2001
"Kind Hearts and Coronets" is probably the best of the
Ealing comedies. The acting, the characters, the storyline and
especially the wonderful black humour blend together perfectly. What's
more, the print used by Warner Home Video for this DVD release is
absolutely immaculate...unfortunately it's also in French!!! Whilst
the DVD contains an English soundtrack, the opening credits and even
parts of the film appear on screen in French (such as a letter written
by Louis D'Ascoyne). I thought at first that they'd put the wrong disc
inside the case, however the small print on the back confirms it is
indeed the French version. With the possibility of further Ealing
comedies being released on DVD in the future, I made my feelings =
known to Warner by returning this DVD for a refund. Five stars for the
film, none for this poor DVD.
37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on 11 March 2001
This is one of my favourite films and and after a long wait for the DVD release, finally it came out and of course I snapped one up on the day it came out.
Imagine my disappointment when I played it and all the written material in the film (credits, letters, a warning sign) was in French! I purchased the disk from a UK store so am mystified about this.
Needless to say I returned the disk and now await a proper re-release appropriate to the UK market. Five stars to the film itself, but zero stars for the UK DVD release.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
"Kind hearts are more than coronets, and simple faith than Norman blood." - from the 1842 poem "Lady Clara Vere de Vere" by Alfred Lord Tennyson
This is one of the great Ealing comedies. A truly great family film, which is both funny and profound.
Released in 1950 and staring the late, great and extremely underrated Dennis Price as Louis Mazzini and Alec Guinness as all 8 members of the D'Ascoyne family.
His quest was to extract revenge for the treatment of his mother by the D'Ascoyne family. His mother, a member of the D'Ascoyne family, had married for love not for status or money and was therefore disowned. After her death she was refused burial in the family crypt and this was the tipping point for Louis. He decides that the only way to get revenge is to become the Duke. Unfortunately for Louis there are 8 other D'Ascoynes in the way, he must dispose of them all before he can become Duke.
This is my favourite film, it is the one that I come back to time after time, because of this I highly recommend this film.
Oh, and my favourite line is: "It is so difficult to make a neat job of killing people with whom one is not on friendly terms." It tells you so much about the tone of the film. Enjoy.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 14 October 2011
I was greatly looking forward to this digitally restored version of one of the great black comedies of all time. I need not extol the well-known virtues of the film itself: the intricate and imaginative story, the extraordinary acting and actors, the flawless design and execution. It is, quite simply, an icon in film history.
I wish I could say that this release lives up to the film's reputation, or my expectations. But it is flawed in a major way. For reasons known only to the themselves, Optimum chose to letterbox the film on all four sides of the picture, leaving a small picture in the center of the screen. This was a conscious choice on their part as bonus features on the disc are presented in normal full-screen mode.
On a standard 4:3 picture tube, therefore, we see black bars on all four sides of the small picture. It should, of course, fill the entire screen as it was filmed in the standard 4:3 format of the day.
The picture will be even smaller on a widescreen TV, relative to the entire screen. One can zoom in to fill the screen top to bottom but resolution is lost thereby, somewhat defeating the improvements of the digital restoration.
In the interests of full disclosure, there should be a warning on the package and on this page regarding Optimum's manufacturing choice. I found it most disconcerting, and one which made it impossible for me to enjoy a film which I love and admire.
As for the commentary, it is less interesting and weaker than I'd hoped for. Two critics share a few good anecdotes and facts but, aside from that, it boils down to their thrilling at the fabulous campiness of the stars, especially Joan Greenwood. Her performance is 'delicious' -- I agree with them entirely about that -- but I don't need to hear them go on about it for an hour and forty minutes. Matthew Guinness is also on board to talk about his father's amazing octagon of characters in the film, but he has relatively little to say in the face his more vociferous colleagues.
Update 11/28/11: It has been pointed out to me that other buyers have not had the afore-mentioned problems with format. I cannot explain, then, why I have had the same issue on both copies I have owned. I tried them on different machines with the same results. But I am glad that others have not been disappointed as I was.
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
"Kind hearts are more than coronets/And simple faith than Norman blood. - Lord Tennyson."
Tennyson could have been writing about the movie "Kind Hearts and Coronets," a wonderfully twisted movie all about killing one's relatives to get ahead in the world. This classic black comedy is blessed with excellent acting by Dennis Price and Alec Guinness, as well as some very inventive murders and wry dialogue.
A young lady of the D'Ascoyne family was ostracized when she married an Italian singer (he dropped dead when their son was born). Louis (Price) was raised hearing all about his noble relatives, but ignored by them -- and when his mother is refused burial at the family plot, and his devious girlfriend Sibella (Joan Greenwood) spurns him for a rich, dull man, he decides to become the next Duke.
To do that, he has to kill off several relatives, which he does in various ingenious ways. He's also wooing the widow of one such murdered relative, the kindly Edith (Valerie Hobson), while still frisking with Sibella. But you can't commit six murders -- no matter how clever -- without raising some suspicions, and soon Louis finds himself a Duke on death row... but is there a way out?
The whole story is told in flashback, as Louis writes his memoirs in his cell, and there's only a little bit after the memoirs' completion that explains what happened next. But from the first moments onward (the executioner getting excited about the "privilege" of hanging a duke), it's pretty obvious that "Kind Hearts and Coronets" has a rare, wicked sense of humor.
Much of that is through the irony (Louis is morally opposed to hunting, but not murder) and brilliantly dark dialogue ("I shot an arrow in the air; she fell to earth in Berkeley Square"). One of the best things is Louis' narration -- we learn that he's intelligent, droll, and as much of a snob as his richer relatives.
But there's also the great ways in which the D'Ascoynes expire -- exploding labs, drifting boats, shooting down a hot air balloon with an arrow, and a battleship that goes the wrong way and crashes into ANOTHER battleship. A string of murders might normally be dull, but Robert Hamer keeps the wry humor in everything Louis does.
Price does a simply brilliant job as Louis, a poor relation who uses charm, intelligence, pleasant lies, kindness and some disguises to murder his relatives (many of whom are much kindlier than he). Only crackly-voiced Greenwood is as wonderfully amoral as he. And Guinness showed his versatility by playing all the D'Ascoyne relatives -- the dotty vicar, a rather ugly suffragette, a pigheaded admiral, and others.
"Kind Hearts and Coronets" is a brilliantly dark comedy, with some great acting from Guinness and Price, a twisted sense of humor, and a great finale. Definitely a must-see for fans of murder and wit.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This and the ladykillers are the only 2 of Ealings output that have really stood the test of time and theres a very good reason for it. As a young man sets about bumping off the various pompous members of the D'Ascoyne family you delight as each upper class twit meets their gruesome end and it seems that nothing will stand in his way, so far so the same as ladykillers but whereas Guiness is the villain in that film,here he plays all the hapless members of the doomed family and the ending here is not the same all too convenient 'happy' good prevails but rather a dark and surprising twist that leaves you rooting for the bad guy and regretting his failure.
To be honest I could really happily live with just catching this on its occassional tv airings but what sets this package up as one to buy is Criterions usual eye for detail. If you've bought one of their dvds before then you dont need me to tell you that they've done everything humanly possible to get their mitts on the best available print and then polished it until it shines.But what matters here is disc 2 that contains a facinating 70 min doc. on Ealing studios and a rare tv appearance by Guiness,a 75 min q&a with Michael Parkinson,(seeing them both talk about Guiness' 'latest' film role in a promising new film called star wars is great stuff),.These 2 make this worth the entry price alone but with a buffed up main feature and very interesting written essay this is one well worth crossing the pond for.(don't forget you'll need a multi-region dvd player to play it.)
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Kind Hearts and Coronets,"(1950), a black comedy/drama, is one of the most famous, and acclaimed, post World War II releases by the British Ealing Studios. See The Definitive Ealing Studios Collection [DVD]. It's generally agreed to be a minimalist masterpiece of wit and irony, made in black and white. Roy Horniman wrote the novel on which it's based, Robert Hamer wrote the screenplay and directed. Two celebrated witty novelists, Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, were hired to work on the script, though nothing specific seems to survive of their efforts. The title of the film is quoted from a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The picture is a costume drama, set at the turn of the 20th century, though it's generally held to reflect the mood of post-war disillusionment common at the time it was made. And some viewers may be startled by the film's use, three times in a few minutes, of the racist n----r word: it was in common use in the U.K. at the time, in the child's nursery rhyme "Eeeny, meeny, miny, mo."
Dennis Price, a leading man of the British cinema in the 1940's, (A Canterbury Tale [DVD] ) stars as Louis D'Ascoyne Mazzini. His Mumsie was a D'Ascoyne, one of a leading, influential, titled and wealthy family that disowned/disinherited her when she eloped with an Italian tenor, leaving her to a life of miserable poverty after the singer's untimely death. And to crown insult with injury, they won't even allow poor Mumsie to be buried in the family crypt after her death. So Louis vows revenge - something he's happy to point out that the Italians have always preferred served cold. He decides to murder all the eight D'Ascoynes that stand between him and the family dukedom and estates. He doesn't actually know any of them, of course, not as a poor man working as a sales assistant in a shop, but where there's a will, there's a way. And this is surely the lightest treatment of a serial killer that the world ever has seen, with a cleverly ironic ending.
The movie's probably best known now for the fact that all eight of Louis's victims are played by the talented young Alec Guinness, (most honored recently, as the Jedi Obi Wan Kenobi in 1977's Star Wars - The Original Trilogy [DVD] ; he also won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for 1957's The Bridge On The River Kwai [DVD] ). Guinness was hired to play four of the victims, and volunteered to play them all, in a feat that's never been matched and probably never will be. The vics are of different ages and sexes, talk and walk differently, have different mannerisms, etc. Unfortunately, his two funniest performances are also two of the briefest, the General, and Lady Agatha, suffragist - he's got the galumphing British actress Margaret Rutherford Agatha Christie's Miss Marple Collection - Murder she Said / Murder Ahoy / Murder At The Gallop / Murder Most Foul (4 Discs) (Box Set) (DVD)) down pat, if only he were a little heavier. Guinness said at one point that he lived in terror he would confuse his characters: that he would open his mouth as the "Suffragette," as he persisted in calling this character -- and the General's voice would come out.
The young Joan Greenwood, (The Man In The White Suit [DVD] ), famous for her plummy, husky, sexy voice, and chosen by "Empire Magazine" as #63 of the 100 Sexiest Movie Stars in 1995, plays Louis' life-long chum, and then mistress, the fickle, selfish, manipulative Sibilla. That tall, quintessentially beautiful and elegant English rose (though she was born in Northern Ireland), Valerie Hobson,Great Expectations [DVD] , plays prim Mrs. Henry D'Ascoyne, whom Louis first widows, and then marries. And, says, Louis, how well he could love the one, if only the other were not there.
Miles Malleson briefly shines as a snobbish hangman, wondering how to address a duke, before hanging him. The Welsh-born Hugh Griffith, ( "The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain"), who joined the British Army and served in India and Burma during the War, plays Lord High Steward. Hobson, daughter of a British Army officer, was married to John Profumo, a Member of the British Cabinet, when a sex scandal broke around him in 1963 and rocked the country. She retreated to private life, where she did outstanding charity work for leprosy sufferers.
Dennis Price, star of the film, was a tall, suave, elegant, popular leading man of the time. He was born to privilege, as the son of a brigadier general, whose family expected him to go into the army or the church, as they had for generations. But he became an actor, generally playing upper-crust characters. His initial entry into the theater was mentored by John Gielgud and Noel Coward. Hello; you have to say, didn't that ring any bells, as both performers were members in good standing of Britain's elite gay mafia? And his vibe in the movie is hardly that of a lusty man? Be that as it may, very soon after making "Kind Hearts," by the 1950's, Price was a serious alcoholic, no longer capable of carrying a movie. (He did contribute a good cameo to 1959's I'm All Right Jack [DVD] . Sadly, it seems likely his double life undid him. Truth is so much tougher to handle than fiction.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
"Kind Hearts and Coronets" is an exquisitely written and performed film, which still appears fresh and vital today. Dennis Price is memorable as the aristocratic serial killer ,Louis, with his mellifluous accent ,perfect turn of phrase and winning way with the ladies. Almost as impressive is Alec Guinness who plays all eight of Price's victims ,as Louis seeks to establish himself as Duke of Chalmont by murdering his rivals. The leading ladies ,Joan Greenwood (Sibella) and Valerie Hobson (Edith), who vie for Louis' attention both give magnificent performances as well. The storyline and dialogue is excellent and the characterisation and acting superb. "Kind Hearts" is a classy film , a timeless one, with a rich vein of black humour running through it. Let's hope Hollywood don't do a remake.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 19 August 2007
There must be a lot of film fans out there who have no time for anything which is more than a few years old and this is a great shame because so many old films have retained their brilliance over long periods of time. Without entering a long discourse on my feelings towards what passes as brilliance in todays diet of pap, enough to say that Kind Hearts and Coronets, at 58 years old, still has the power to entertain.
Although packaged as comedy, it probably won't have you rolling in the aisles but you may be hard pushed to not watch it with a big grin on your face from start to finish. It's completely charming and much of this charm has been amplified by the passage of time: no special effects here, just the odd painted backdrop and some beautiful locations in late forties rural England, all beautifully shot by Douglas Slocombe, whose CV is nothing short of impressive (check out Indiana Jones).
The performances here are beautifully judged. Alec Guinness, despite having considerable screen time in the guise of various characters, does not have the lead role but is exceptionally versatile. The lead goes to Dennis Price, as a charming but caddish (serial?) killer who generates a strong chemistry with the two leading ladies, Joan Greenwood and Valerie Hobson. John Penrose pulls off a remarkably convincing drunk act too.
The film teeters a little two thirds of the way through but soon recovers and then sets off in a slightly different direction and you may well find yourself thinking 'Oh no', before Louis does, but this matters not a bit. For me though, it's real strength lies in the dialogue which is both witty and poetic. And charming. See it and fall in love.