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Kind Hearts and Coronets
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Kind Hearts and Coronets More at IMDbPro »

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

A virtually flawless film about a disowned member of an aristocratic family who allows no one to stand between him and the dukedom he desires.

Author: schuhhorn from Canada
2 October 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Although best known nowadays for Alec Guinness's multiple roles, this film is even more notable for brilliant performances by Dennis Price in the lead role, accomplishing the neat trick of making a serial murderer seem likable, and by Joan Greenwood as the amoral femme fatale. Her throaty voice is totally sexy.

Valerie Hobson manages to make a priggish woman seem appealing. Miles Malleson makes the most of a very minor part, that of the executioner who, by insisting on reading a poem exhorting the condemned man to repent, is instrumental in saving his life. The ending soon afterward is splendid, in that it permits the viewer to create his own.

The film is one of the most superb black comedies ever made: elegant, cool, wickedly understated, and extraordinarily clever. My teen-aged sons saw it last summer (2005) and loved it. Indeed, it is difficult to believe that anyone can dislike it. Made when Ealing Studios were doing some of their best work, it ranks with 'Kind Hearts and Coronets' as among the best films produced in post-war Britain.

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Murder Most Fun

Author: Jem Odewahn from Australia
31 May 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Another brilliant film, this time a delicious Ealing dark comedy. Its the one where Alec Guinness plays the eight D'Ascoynes who Dennis Price, as the ultimate Machiavellian usurper Louis Mazzini, coolly, humorously and charmingly knocks off in order to ascend to a Dukedom.

This film has to have one of the most amazing scripts ever filmed. Guinness, wonderful as ever, is truly great but Price is perhaps even better. Ealing gave Price the role of a lifetime as Mazzini, and Price responded with the performance of a lifetime. His voice-over is just, ahem, "priceless". Joan Greenwood plays the selfish, sexy Sibella who Price romances while also courting the elegant widow Edith D'Ascoyne (Valerie Hobson) of one of his unfortunate victims.

Everyone please see this film! I beg you! Your life is not complete without it!

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Subtle and Wickedly Funny

Author: no-skyline from London, England
3 August 2005

This is my out and out favourite of all Ealing comedies even in my eyes surpassing classics such as the Ladykillers. Dennis Price manages to be cold, calculating, manipulative and evil but somehow we still root for him as he single handedly tries to wipe out a noble family who had disregarded his mother many years before. Along with Price's remarkable performance Alec Guiness is also outstanding playing no less than nine separate character (all members of the noble family). The film has a similar tone and style to the aforementioned Ladykillers and if you liked that you will certainly be at home with this. The humour is dark and full of wit a satire on the class system in England at the time (which in some areas is still in effect today). I first thought this film wouldn't show well to a non - UK audience but speaking to a few American and Canadian friends the darker side of British humour works just as well on the other side of the pond.

Excellent humour with a wicked streak, great performances, fantastic script 8/10

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

The Classic Ealing Comedy And A Masterpiece OF Mannered Satire

Author: ShootingShark from Dundee, Scotland
18 June 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The grandson of a Duke whose mother married a commoner and was shunned by her relatives as a consequence, plots his revenge against the pompous D'Ascoyne family who spurned her so cruelly. One by one he bumps off the eight people whose bloodlines stand between him and the Dukedom, but a female admirer begins to suspect his schemes.

Arguably the best of the great Ealing comedies, and one of the greatest black comedies ever made, this is a mannered, twisted, delicious peach of a film. As a piece of simple melodrama it would be entertaining enough, but its wit and satirical bite - Oscar Wilde meets Agatha Christie - elevates it to a near masterpiece. Price is unforgettable as the dastardly yet lovable Louis Mazzini; a man whose moral double-standards are both admirable and detestable. His smooth, measured delivery of some of the best British film dialogue ever written is a sheer delight. The rest of the cast are equally to be treasured, especially Greenwood as the vain, preening Sibella, whose hideous self-absorption is matched only by the ugliness of her hats. This movie is most famous however for Guinness' incredible Star Turn as the unfortunate D'Ascoynes - eight of them (a dandy, a banker, a photographer, a parson, a suffragette, a general, an admiral and a duke) - all of whom Price gleefully murders. Guinness is both amazing and amazingly funny; my favourite is the doddery old vicar ("Sir, the port is with you."), but it's Price's movie all the way. Brilliantly written by Hamer and John Dighton (very loosely based on Roy Horniman's novel Israel Rank, with a title from Tennyson's Lady Clara Vere De Vere), with tremendous photography by Douglas Slocombe, this is an absolute gem of a picture, polished to perfection.

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Guinness at his best; Rank at its best

Author: funkyfry from Oakland CA
15 October 2002

A deranged but normal-seeming young man (Price), bolstered by his dead mother's conviction that he would someday become a Duke of the Realm by right of succession -- despite the fact that he is 8 times removed from the title -- sets out to make her dream a reality by murdering all 8. In one of the best casting choices in film history, Alec Guinness played all 8 eccentric relatives, male AND female. He is truly excellent, and the film is one of the best dark comedies ever, as well as one of Rank's best films. Very memorable.

I noticed from the votes history (and there is a substantial enough number of votes to make it fairly accurate) that this movie is MUCH more popular with an older audience. I think that can fairly accurately be attributed to its remarkable sophistication, so that it is a comedy almost without a single "laugh out loud funny" line or scene, but it emerges as one of the best comedies ever made in the U.K.

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Nasty. Vicious. Delicious.

Author: SimonHardyB from Forest Hills, NY
24 July 2002

Kind Hearts and Coronets is probably one of the nastiest movies ever made. And there's hardly an ounce of onscreen violence in it. I first saw this flick as a child, and although I liked it, I was probably too young to understand it fully. Well, now I do. It's brilliant. Dennis Price as the vengeful, amoral (yet, in his own way, strangely moral) Louis Mazzini turns in a fantastic, beautiful, even sympathetic performance. (Would you believe *sympathetic?*) He is complemented--though not overshadowed--by the inimitable Alec Guinness in eight roles as members of the D'Ascoyne family. And Joan Greenwood is every bit Price's conniving equal as Sibella. I should also mention that the script is mind-boggling. It's all nasty stuff covered up by Victorian gentility. Scathing attack on nobility, too. Also on folks who seem to miss the point about art (like Guinness' portrayal of the priest).

I'm running out of ways to express my enjoyment of the film, but I'd like to make a final point. I read a comment allegedly attributed to Lindsay Anderson that indicated the movie's visuals didn't live up to the screenplay. Just want to respectfully disagree. I believe the visuals were perfectly suited to the film, as they framed the action perfectly, called attention to the comic moments without creating any distractions (via camera or otherwise) and provided clean, clear visuals. In other words, a perfect appearance for a nearly perfect comedy. The strong editing also helped. So, while this is not a visually innovative film on the level of, say, "Citizen Kane" or "Battleship Potemkin," it doesn't need to be...nor should it be. The sum of its parts makes a thoroughly delectable whole.

How many stars are we allowed to give it? :-)

- Simon

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8 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Richard III turned on its head

Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
17 October 2005

Kind Hearts and Coronets is one quietly amusing Edwardian comedy of manners, famous for showing off the versatility of Alec Guinness. The talented Sir Alec plays eight, count 'em eight different members of the D'Ascoyne family. These folks stand between Dennis Price and his quest for the title of Duke of Chalfont.

Seems as though Price's mother was read out of the family when she married an Italian music teacher. She never forgot who she was and brought her son up to never forget as well.

Price's supercilious narration which sets the tone for the film as he describes his various acts of murder tell as much about him as it does about the various people of the D'Ascoyne family. He's probably a bigger snob than all of the people he's killing.

When you think about it, what is Price doing that Richard III didn't do to gain a throne in Shakespeare's adaption of his story? Interesting how we can be amused at Price bumping off his relations and be horrified at Laurence Olivier doing the same in his Richard III film. Then, that's black comedy.

Alec Guinness was given great acclaim for essaying those many roles. My favorite has always been that doddering old fool of a clergyman whom we are told is in the proper profession.

Kind Hearts and Coronets is set during Edwardian Britain when class and stature meant far more than they do now. It's a great tribute to the skill of the players and the writers that audiences today, even American audiences can enjoy it set in a world that is unimaginable to us.

Besides Guinness and Price, Joan Greenwood as the femme fatale and Valerie Hobson as the widow of one of the Alec Guinnesses do some of their best screen work here.

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8 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

A wonderfully droll script delivered with two (ten?) great performances

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
24 May 2004

Sitting in his cell with an 8am death sentence awaiting him, Louis Mazzini decides to write his story to last after he is gone. His story starts with his mother marrying outside of her class by going with an Italian singer (who dies on Louis' birth). With her money all gone, Mrs Mazzini decides to appeal to her relatives in the D'Ascoyne family – who reject her without reply. With her birthright denied she schools her son in her family tree in the hope that he will someday gain his inheritance. When she dies suddenly, her only wish is to be buried in the family plot – a wish that is denied, enraging Louis. Selecting the living members of the D'Ascoyne family, Louis decides to kill them one by one in revenge.

It is a shame that this film has slowly started to be lost to modern audiences and is not as highly regarded by younger viewers as it is by older ones (look at the voting history for IMDb – not proof but an indication). The reason for this in my mind is that this is not a rip-roaringly hilarious comedy that will have you rolling in the aisles but one that is dark, clever and wonderfully droll. The script is dripping in humour but it is the drip of bile and blood – a very cruel humour that is as deadly as an assassin. The plot is pretty simple and it's main thrust works very well. The only bum note is Louis' relationship with Sibella, which serves to slow the film down a little bit and take away from the slick pace that it manages to have for most of it's scenes. For audiences who expect a comedy to have them laughing every 30 seconds, this film will be an enigma – where are the laughs they will shout, where is the comedy? It is likely that those that would say this would be unlikely to come to such an 'old' film but it is sad that they will likely not have the patience to see the beauty in the film. To me the humour of the film seeps from every pore – it is in the droll dialogue and in the absurdities of the characters.

Of course this film would not have been so good were it not for two fantastic performances from two actors who totally 'got' the film's sense of humour and deliver their characters absolutely spot on to make the humour work. Although he is naturally overlooked in favour of his co-star, Price is great (and also plays more than one character). He has to carry the less showy side of the film (ie his plot with Sibella) but his delivery is great both in performance and in his droll narration. He could have played it up for laughs but, as I say, he understood the humour and delivered accordingly. Guinness is simply brilliant. Some of his roles are very small (the Admiral for example) and others are rather ordinary but others are wonderfully absurd and he delivers them perfectly. His Parson is my favourite character as he is the most obviously absurd and enjoyable. His delivery of them all is great – very different characters even if most of them do look unmistakably like Guinness himself.

Overall this is a marvelously classy film that will still be a great film no matter how much the tastes of a modern audience plummet below the patience that the film requires to enjoy it. The script is darkly humorous – dripping in dark humour throughout (albeit with few actual laugh-out-loud moments). The two leads are wonderful and their performances show a real understanding of the film's aims. It is sad that this is not shown more on television – a fact that may be due to the use of the n-word several times in the final 10 minutes rather than anything else.

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10 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Polished Dark Comedy

Author: Snow Leopard from Ohio
26 October 2004

This polished dark comedy might be most worthwhile for Alec Guinness's multiple role, which is interesting and sometimes quite creative. It also features an entertaining, if morbid, story-line and some quietly witty dialogue and other touches. It is also creative in taking the quaint yet widespread pre-occupation with titles and the peerage, and turning it on its head.

All of the humor is of the driest, most "British" and often ironical kind, and indeed some of it is so underplayed that you don't catch it all in one viewing. Likewise, in the lead role Dennis Price is consistently restrained and even distant, and it's easy to wonder whether a somewhat less cool performance might have made the movie even better. On the other hand, too broad of a performance clearly would not have worked at all.

Guinness, while always careful not to stretch a character or a scene too far, provides his characters with identifiable and usually interesting personalities. The variety helps out the movie by adding a dimension that's not always there in the major characters.

The feature is generally satisfying, and always interesting, because of its refined and often ironically elegant style. At the same time, for much of the time it remains curiously unaffecting, since there is often little reason to care about the characters, other than for their entertainment value. It makes it an unusual classic, maybe not a great movie, but carefully crafted and enjoyable to watch.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

A smart, pitch-black comedy that shouldn't have been funny, but is

Author: Rickting from London
4 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Dennis Price plays a young man who murders his way through his bloodline to become a duke. The brilliant Alec Guinness, who has given so many great performances outside of Star Wars, superbly plays 8 roles and dies 8 times. It's not like modern comedies at all, but Kind Hearts and Coronets doesn't feel dated. It's not your typical laugh out loud comedy. It's conveyed in a very dry, detached way, but it's very funny in an incredibly dark way. Admittedly, there are times when you don't know whether you're meant to laugh or not but it still has loads of genuinely funny moments. This is a film which actually manages to make murder funny, but what's most impressive about it, aside from the great performances, is the social commentary. The main character is pretty despicable, yet he is sympathetic and the moment where he confronts the last victim and explains his motives is actually very moving as well as blackly comic. This is an excellent mix of drama and humour, and it is easily one of the darkest comedies ever made. The fact that it manages to make such dark material so entertaining and do so in such a clever way solidifies the film's position as one of the definitive Ealing comedies.


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