70 years might have passed from when KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS was released but Ealing Studios masterpiece is still as razor sharp as ever. Following the exploits of Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price), son to a mother from noble birth. From the family D’Ascoynes no less. She has been cast out after falling for opera singer. Someone they consider beneath her. After she is refused her dying wish of being buried in the family plot, Louis sets about making amends. You see if eight family members expire, Louis becomes Duke of Chalfont (the family estate bequeathed them after backing King Charles the II.) The problem is, they might need a little encouragement. Louis is more than happy to oblige.
Stone cold masterpieces. I often say how I am lucky to review films. It is a lie mostly. I see awful films. Some films that are so terrible that I grimace and wish never to see another film. Then you get KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS. Michael Balcon wanted to make social realism films but also original films. With this and 5 other films (LAVENDER HILL MOB, THE LADYKILLERS, HUE AND CRY, PASSPORT TO PIMLICO and THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT) Ealing and he, nailed it. British society is parodied with vim. Blackly comic tales of an age of decline and transformation. Some focus on London. HUE AND CRY zings and fizzes in a London rebuilding. Youth and age fight it out for a better life and a better world. Some take on the science like THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT. The new dream subject that was a blessing and a curse. Sending many a person to the sky with money, but also to the gutter when it failed. KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS however takes on the great British problem. Class. A device which has entrap many. Like the caste system in India, it sets you apart from birth. Louis is trapped by this societal judgement. His mother married for love and has cursed many a generation. For love is a poison to those who want control and stock. Like cattle no less. What rises KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS above all of this however is that it gets this point. Then never pulls punches in its jabs toward the ignorance, stupidity and absurdity of it all. Louis becomes what any Duke or Duchess would want from their child. A clever, scheming, calculating opportunist. Taking what is his without remorse. A working class hero, who is gentry from the start.
Right enough of my guff, lets get to why you are here!
Right the BFI archive have scanned in 4K resolution at 16bit the film. Added anything? Yes and No. Its tidied up the DVD and Blu Ray grim and grot. The exterior scenes in the country and finally clear and yes that last scene has been tonally corrected. However I am less than convinced I would part my cash for it.
Some we have seen before. Alternate US Ending for instance. This said what are the best 3?
1 -Audio Commentary with Terence Davies, Peter Bradshaw and Matthew Guinness. Top draw. A great British film maker, critic and Sir Alec son all digest the film and throw opinion, information and a feast of Ealing film love. Its great to hear about Alec opinion on the film from his son as well.
2 – Those British Faces: Dennis Price. Seen it before but Price is an under appreciated acting genius and this goes a very small way to solving that.
3- Once More with Ealing. New looks on old themes. My favourite interview is with Whit Stillman. His work can be seen to have a lot of inspiration from KIND HEARTS. To which he makes ample acknowledgement.
The Collector’s Edition includes the restored film on Blu-ray, DVD plus booklet, art cards and theatrical poster.
Once More with Ealing – a brand new featurette including interviews with filmmakers Whit Stillman, Paul King, Stephen Woolley and critic Peter Bradshaw discussing their love for Ealing and the brilliant legacy of Kind Hearts & Coronets;
Audio Commentary with Terence Davies, Peter Bradshaw and Matthew Guinness;
Alternate US Ending + commentary;
John Landis intro;
BFI’s Introducing Ealing Studios;
Those British Faces: Dennis Price;
Behind the Scenes stills gallery;
Costumes stills gallery