Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
Directed Robert Hamer
Starring: Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood, Valerie Hobson, Dennis Price
Louis Mazzini (Price) was raised by a mother who thought he deserved more. Specifically, his mother felt that her distant relationship to the D’Ascoyne family had earned him a better life. With his mother gone, Louis believes that he can increase his odds of inheriting the family title by eliminating the other heirs. This odd collection of D’Ascoyne family members each have their own challenges that make the work a bit tricky. Now he’s checking off his list as be bumps off the heirs (Guinness) on his way to the title.
If only comedy was written this way now. In 1949 Robert Horniman’s novel was brilliantly adapted for the screen by Robert Hamer and John Dighton. The script was put to use in this incredibly funny film that features a great cast. Dennis Price (Victim), Joan Greenwood (Tom Jones), and Valerie Hobson (Great Expectations, 1946) all do a great job in this film. The real star of the film is Sir Alec Guinness (The Bridge on the River Kwai) who brings eight characters to life. As Guinness shows off his talents he manages to create the entire D’Ascoyne family, each with their own unique personalities. This cast does an awesome job with this dark comedy, making a movie that’s still relevant today.
The movie does a lot of things right from all aspects. The makeup and costuming for Alec Guinness really allows him to transform. Additionally, the movie keeps the story just beyond reality, but close enough to be a bit uncomfortable. Remember, this is a movie entirely about murder for personal gain. The comedy comes not only from the great setups, but also from some very witty dialogue. Another great aspect of the movie is the great visual work done to set up some of the more important scenes. Every detail seems to matter, making this a very intelligent film.
This movie should be more well-known than it is. The comedy is still great today. This should appeal to fans of dark comedies. It also might appeal to fans of comedic stars like Mel Brooks and Woody Allen. The sarcastic wit makes this a fun experience. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.