Blu-ray Review: Kind Hearts and Coronets | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, February 28th, 2020  

Kind Hearts and Coronets

Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

Oct 02, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

The well-mannered Louis D'Ascoyne Mazzini (Dennis Price) is ninth in line for the dukedom of the esteemed D’Ascoyne family. His mother was spurned by her family when she ran away to marry a lowly singer, and she and her son were immediately disowned by the rest of their aristocratic lineage. When his mother passes and must suffer the indignity of being buried in the churchyard rather than her family’s vault, Louis declares he’ll seek revenge on the family that denied them their rightful heritage by murdering every one of the D’Ascoynes who stands between him and the title of duke.

While that sounds like the setup for a horror movie, Kind Hearts and Coronets is the blackest of black comedies. Released in 1949, Kind Hearts and Coronets is among the highlights of Ealing Studios’ lauded run of British comedies in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s. As Louis Mazzini, the charmingly despicable Dennis Price makes Hannibal Lecter look about as calm and cultured a serial killer as Leatherface.  Where lesser scripts would have had a hard time getting audiences to sympathize with their murderous protagonist—even he admits many of the targets on his hit list don’t deserve to die—Kind Hearts finds clever ways around the situations that make him seem like less a monster than a friendly, debonair angel of death. The movie miraculously avoids being swallowed in its own darkness.

All the attention for Kind Hearts understandably goes to future Obi-Wan, Alec Guinness, who plays nine members of the D’Ascoyne family that stand between Louis and his title. Where this sort of stunt has been played out in garish ways in Hollywood comedies of the last few decades, his appearance in so many roles is so subtle here that viewers could potentially not notice. Director Robert Hamer does not draw extra attention to the fact that it’s the same actor being killed over and over again; it’s only when Guinness dons drag to play Louis’ aunt, Lady Agatha, where he doesn’t disappear into his role.

Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray edition looks fantastic, and comes loaded with a commentary by the always-reliable historian Kat Ellinger. Also included are a brief appreciation from filmmaker John Landis, an interview with late cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, and a featurette on star Dennis Price. An alternate ending that was tagged on for American audiences can also be found; it doesn’t diminish the film’s delectable twist so much as over-explain it for its dimmer viewers.



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