"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.
It doesn't get any better than this. With the delectable Dennis Price at his most seductive, sheer brilliance from Alec Guiness, loveliness from Joan Greenwood, this is the driest, blackest comedy imaginable: extremely modern for its time and still wears extremely well after 68 years.
The greatest of all Ealing comedies and also their blackest.Dennis Price is marvellous as Louis who muders his way to dukedom by eliminating all the members of the dAscoyne family but whose undoing and imprisonment is the result of a death of which ironically he is innocent of.The performances of Price,Valerie Hobson and,Joan Grennwood are a joy to behold but its Alec Guinness playing all eight members of the dAscoyne family thats the real acting tour-de-force.I shot an arrow in the air-it fell to earth in Berkeley Square.
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.