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Kind Hearts and Coronets (The Criterion Collection)

4.6 out of 5 stars 155 customer reviews

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(Feb 28, 2006)
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Editorial Reviews

Director Robert Hamer's fiendishly funny Kind Hearts and Coronets stands as one of Ealing Studios' greatest triumphs, and one of the most wickedly black comedies ever made. Dennis Price is sublime as an embittered young commoner determined to avenge his mother's unjust disinheritance by ascending to the dukedom. Unfortunately, eight family members (all played by the incomparable Alec Guinness) must be eliminated before he can do so. SPECIAL FEATURES: New, restored high-definition digital transfer, BBC programs on Alec Guinness and the history of Ealing Studios, Gallery of archival production and publicity photographs, Original theatrical trailer and A new essay by film critic and historian Philip Kemp.

Special Features

  • Feature-length BBC documentary on the history of Ealing Studios
  • Rare, 70-minute talk show appearance by Alec Guinness, from 1977
  • American Ending
  • Gallery of archival production and publicity photographs
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • Booklet with a new essay by film critic and historian Philip Kemp

Product Details

  • Actors: Dennis Price, Valerie Hobson, Joan Greenwood, Alec Guinness, Audrey Fildes
  • Directors: Robert Hamer
  • Format: Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: February 28, 2006
  • Run Time: 106 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (155 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000CS45S8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,225 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Kind Hearts and Coronets (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on September 30, 2002
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This film belongs in my top ten list, and is my favourite comedy. Dennis Price is very much the center of this film as an angry and avenging "gentleman" with aspirations to kill his way to a Dukedom. Yet with such lines as "revenge is a dish best served cold", or "I shot an arrow in the air - she fell to earth in Berkeley Square!", we cannot help but laugh at his deadpan matter-of-factness in his flash-back narration. His motivations are based on the neglect of his mother by her family for marrying "beneath" her, and by the initial rejection of his proposal of marriage by the delicious Joan Greenwood as the somewat amoral Sibella. Alec Guiness plays the various victims with a brilliant feeling for each, and yet we can also see them as intentional caricature - particularly the Vicar. The plot then takes some unexpected twists and turns before a wonderful "oh-no!" ending. Finally, the script-writing is superb! Rarely is the English Language so well served in ANY film. Fortunately, they kept the original ambiguous ending, rather than the US release, where it was mandated that the film remove any doubts about his being brough to justice.
The film is black and white, and not DVD subtitled, but it is closed-captioned. In any case, for the US audience, the British accents (particularly Price's) are generally easy to follow. The DVD resolution, contrast and video noise levels are quite good. Sound is par for a 1950 release.
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This film is most famous as the one in which Alec Guinness plays eight roles, but I have always been somewhat uncomfortable with the film being characterized in that way, because it makes it sound as if the main attraction of the film is a gimmick. In fact, this is a first rate comedy in many ways. This was one in a series of great comedies produced by the Ealing Studios in the 1940s and 1950s.
The film stars Dennis Price as the narrator, Louis Mazzini. He recounts his efforts to wreck revenge on the members of his mother's titled family who had disowned her when she married an Italian opera singer. His particular form of revenge consists of murder, and the film consists of his various efforts in this direction. Guinness, who in the course of his career managed to die in an astounding number of films, in this one manages to die eight times. He is excellent in each and every incarnation of a member of the D'Ascoyne family. Valerie Hobson is as elegant as always in playing the widow of one his victims with whom he later becomes romantically involved. Hobson was a great light of British cinema in the forties and early fifties, but gave up acting to marry politician John Profumo, who would be the principal public figure to fall in the Christine Keeler scandal. The film also features one of my all time favorite actresses, Joan Greenwood, who may have possessed the most delicious voice of any female in the history of film. Mention must also be made of Miles Malleson, who has a small but memorable role as the hangman.
The makers of the film manage a perfect concoction of highbrow wit that still managed to border on the absurd. For instance, at one point Mr.
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I consider this one of the finest, most enjoyable films of all time, and probably the second best comedy of all time (only the great Dr. Strangelove can top it, I submit). This film simply defines black comedy -- that most delicious form of the genre -- and when considering the time of its creation, in the glum early cold war paranoiac late '40s, it must be considered a miracle of cinema. Told in the deadest of deadpan styles, with marvelous performances by Dennis Price and the immortal Alec Guiness (in 8 roles!), it continually horrifies while amusing, as all black comedy must. Time hasn't dimmed its luster one jot. If you haven't seen this gem, run -- don't walk -- to own it and enjoy it over and over again.
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"Kind Hearts and Coronets", a rather odd title for one of the darkest and most gleefully perverse comedies ever made, in Britain or any other country. The title is a reference to a line by Tennyson, "Kind hearts are more than coronets, And simple faith than Norman blood." Well, plenty of Norman blood is shed in this signature Ealing farce. I had not previously seen the film until the day the Criterion release came out, but I had heard a lot of positive about it and figured a blind buy would be worth it.

What a purchase! I never expected a film from 1949 to be so amoral and sexually charged. The movie opens in jail, with a hangman making the final preparations for the execution of the 10th Duke of Chalfont, Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price). The remainder of the movie is told in flashback with Mazzini's narration - he tells us, quite detached from the events on screen, exactly how he came to be in such a precarious position.

Mazzini's mother, a member of the wealthy D'Ascoyne clan, ran off with an Italian opera singer and was barred from associating with her family again. On her deathbed, as a result of a tragic accident, she made a last request to be buried in the family plot - which was refused. In his anger, Mazzini vows revenge, and decides to murder all the remaining members of the D'Ascoyne clan one by one - which would also make him the next Duke of Chalfont. Throughout all this, there is also another running subplot involving his childhood friend Sibella Holland (Joan Greenwood) and her equally intriguing scheming, and how they play off each other.

Did I mention this a comedy?
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