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The Ruling Class (The Criterion Collection)

4.2 out of 5 stars 76 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Peter O'Toole gives a tour-de-force performance as Jack, a man "cured" of believing he's God-only to become Jack the Ripper incarnate. Based on Peter Barnes' irreverent play, this darkly comic indictment of Britain's class system peers behind the closed doors of English aristocracy. Insanity, sadistic sarcasm, and black comedy-with just a touch of the Hollywood musical-are all featured in this beloved cult classic directed by Peter Medak.

Special Features

  • New digital transfer of the full-length version supervised by the director
  • Peter Medak's home movies, shot on the set of The Ruling Class
  • A collection of rare pubicity and production stills

Product Details

  • Actors: Peter O'Toole, Alastair Sim, Arthur Lowe, Hugh Owens, Harry Andrews
  • Directors: Peter Medak
  • Writers: Peter Barnes
  • Producers: David Korda, Jack Hawkins, Jules Buck
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Special Edition, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures
  • DVD Release Date: October 30, 2001
  • Run Time: 154 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005O3V8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,271 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Ruling Class (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
I will eschew the plot summary which ye will find in other reviews above . . . as well as a few spoilers!
This is one of my favorite films that examines a number of issues, particularly what is "acceptable" in a religion. It is extremely well-cast, with Peter O'Toole turing in one of his best performances. It is a pleasure to watch Alister Sim--the best Scrooge ever--as a befuddled Anglican bishop. Fans of the Blackadder will enjoy seeing "Nursey" as a village busy-body who wishes to bring back flogging.
The DVD is a wonderful treatment. The US release--and subsequent videos--lacked some scenes lost for length. This is a film that is based on a play, and every character had a soliloquy--until someone cut them! Here, finally is the complete film. Visually, it is beautiful.
A big suprise is the "goodies." The running commentary includes the director, Peter Medak, the playwright/screen writer Peter Barnes, and even Peter O'Toole. It is an excellent addition to the movie rather than voices blathering about themselves.
The insert also has a nice essay from a British film professor.
Fans of the film need this DVD.
A review above complained it was not "funny." How one cannot laugh at Harry Andrews in a tutu, military garb, hanging himself in order to [CENSORED--Ed.] I do not know?! However, it is NOT a comedy. It is a play that has social satire, some comedy, a fair amount of farce and darkness and tragedy.
The only warning that I give is the DVD back-notes reveals some spoilers! If you have NOT seen the film or stumbl'd upon them in some reviews above, make sure you do not read the back!
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Format: DVD
The Ruling Class is a brilliant film, based on a brilliant play. The story is simple enough. The Earl of Gurney dies, his heir is mad, and thinks he is Jesus Christ. The other members of the family attempt to dislodge the new nutty earl so that they can keep the cash. Their attempts to commit the earl trace the flaws in the English class system with unpleasant accuracy and a great deal of sometimes very black humour. It all comes to a sticky and very black ending.
It says alot that Peter O'Toole is continually upstaged by just about everyone else in the cast. His Christ figure is very well delivered but, all in all, lacks some level of "humanness" that the other characters, particularly Arthur Lowe as the butler, have in abundance. Arthur Lowe literally steals scene after scene with one or two lines while the vast tracts of dialogue that O'Toole's character must deliver can quickly alienate a less than motivated viewer.
The above said, this can be a very funny film and is directed with enough aplomb that one is not continually reminded of the scripts start as a stage play. While it was obviously controversial when it was made and while the ideas it traces are just as pertinent now, somehow time seems to have dealt poorly with it and left it less a "searing indictment" and more of a historical curiosity.
The DVD master is brilliant, sharp and without any artifacting, and as one expects from Criterion, in the correct aspect ratio. If you want to see this film this is a magnificent way to do it.
As far as owning it goes, Arthur Lowe's performance will delight anyone with a sense of humour for years to come.
Quite highly recommended but a bit self indulgently black.
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Format: DVD
"The Ruling Class" is the kind of sharp, intelligent, vicious satire that only the Brits can do this well. It is by turns, curious, silly, dry, sharp and nasty as a cat's litter box. The plot twists are as crazy as the main character, and the movie's theme, "the idle rich have a way of protecting themselves" is as pertinent today as it was in 1972. Indeed, this is the type of movie which could only be made in the 1970's, the last time when the authority structures and "the ruling classes" were regarded with general suspicion by the rest of society.

In a bravura performance which should have won him an Oscar, Peter O'Toole plays Jack Gurney, heir to an English earldom. There's only one problem: Jack is in the looney bin because he thinks he's Jesus Christ. The plot revolves around how the rest of Jack's relatives plan to "cure" him so he's just "sane" enough to inherit and then manipulate him to their own ends. Needless to say, sly, cynical jokes about religious and social hypocrisy are abundant, and they're all right on the money.

Like the very best of British satires, the more you bring to this movie, the more rewards it holds. A knowledge of Verdi operas, 19th Century French Romantic literature, English music hall traditions, and English public school songs will enhance one's enjoyment of this movie immeasurably, although none of it is necessary to appreciate the wit and silliness of what's going on here. Alistair Sim, as the nervous, confused and senile archbishop is a gem throughout, a man whose conflicts are all too obvious because they're all too human.

Eventually, Jack is "cured," and the change his personality undergoes is radical, to say the least.
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The Ruling Class (The Criterion Collection)
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