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The Ruling Class (1972)

 -  Comedy | Drama | Music  -  25 May 1972 (UK)
7.6
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 4,199 users  
Reviews: 61 user | 36 critic

A member of the House of Lords dies, leaving his estate to his son. Unfortunately, his son thinks he is Jesus Christ. The other somewhat-more respectable members of their family plot to steal the estate from him. Murder and mayhem ensues.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Hugh Owens ...
...
...
William Mervyn ...
Coral Browne ...
James Villiers ...
Dinsdale
...
Bishop Lampton
Hugh Burden ...
Matthew Peake
...
Michael Bryant ...
Henry Woolf ...
Inmate
Griffith Davies ...
Inmate
Oliver MacGreevy ...
Inmate (as Oliver McGreevy)
Kay Walsh ...
Patsy Byrne ...
Mrs. Treadwell
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Storyline

A member of the House of Lords dies in a shockingly silly way, leaving his estate to his son. Unfortunately, his son is insane: he thinks he is Jesus Christ. The other somewhat-more respectable members of their family plot to steal the estate from him. Murder and mayhem ensues. Written by Mark Logan <marklo@west.sun.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Music

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

25 May 1972 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

La clase dirigente  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film's writer, Peter Barnes, went to school just outside Bristol, in Stroud. Also just outside of Bristol is a mental hospital, in the village of Barrow Gurney; "Barrow Gurney" has long been associated in local patois with mental illness. Naming the central family in this play "Gurney" seems more than mere coincidence. See more »

Goofs

Jack and Truscott sit after singing, and their positions change between shots. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Toastmaster: My Lords. Gentlemen. Pray silence for Ralph Douglas Christopher Alexander Gurney, the thirteenth Earl of Gurney.
13th Earl of Gurney: The aim of the Society of Saint George is to keep Gurney a memory of England. We were once the rulers of the greatest empire the world has ever known. Ruled not by superior force or skill, but by sheer presence.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Venus (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

Goodnight(I'm Only a Strolling Vagabond)
(uncredited)
Music by Eduard Künneke
English Lyric by Adrian Ross
See more »

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User Reviews

 
One of the best black comedies ever to come out of Britain... a side-splitting indictment of their class system.
20 August 2003 | by (Bethesda, Maryland - USA) – See all my reviews

British `dark comedy' was possibly as its zenith with this rich Peter O'Toole offering by director Peter Medak. O'Toole is Jack Gurney, the youngest and `somewhat eccentric' heir to the House of Gurney. He suddenly finds himself being forced by his late father's will into taking up his role in British society - assuming the family seat in the House of Lords. The biggest problem is not that the late Earl of Gurney has just accidentally hung himself wearing a cocked hat and a ballet skirt, or that Jack has just released himself from `hospital' where the doctors were treating his `nerves.' No the biggest problem is that, on a good day, the new 14th Earl of Gurney thinks he's Jesus Christ and, on a bad day, he thinks he's Jack the Ripper!

And if that mix of the macabre doesn't make you chuckle, try this unexpected twist. At several poignant moments throughout the film, the cast will suddenly break from straight-faced dialogue into a full-blown, song and dance numbers, some of which would make Busby Berkley proud. In one case, the tune of `Connect 'dem Bones' is ushered up to punctuate a scene with O'Toole lecturing the local gentry about the need for capital punishment. Herein lies one of the big reasons why this film is so off-the-wall and refreshingly funny.

For my money, this is one of the most original, thought-provoking and honest critiques of the British class system ever to be put on film. O'Toole is simply mesmerizing as he juggles Jack's multiple personalities, the funniest of which is Christ or, as he prefers it, `J.C.' It's hysterical to watch the cumulative effect of J.C.'s `touched' outlook on the members in his stuffy, conspiring family who are out to get Jack committed permanently.

A true `Must See Film' for anyone who enjoys a juicy, sardonic, intelligent black comedy, especially when the topic focuses on the silly pomposity of the British upper classes.


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