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Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Classic Film Review: Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

Kind Hearts and Coronets stars Dennis Price as Louis, the distant heir to a dukedom who plots to murder the eight family members standing in his way. The film opens with Louis in prison writing his memoirs and we find out how the law caught up with him We also see his relationship with Sibella (Joan Greenwood) develop, his first love who disparages his pretensions and marries Lionel (John Penrose) instead, only to start an affair with Louis later, and the widow of one of his victims, Edith (Valerie Hobson), who he takes a real shine to and is more equal to him in station. What will be the cause of Louis's downfall?

This is a brilliant film. It's a softly satirical piece of comedy, no laugh out loud moments but utterly hilarious in its way. Dennis Price does a good job as the suave, disgruntled killer but the real star of this is Alec Guinness who plays eight members of the D'Ascoyne family including Lady Agatha. The most interesting of these is probably the vicar is probably the best, dithering and pondering as he shows Louis, dressed as a continental bishop, around the church. Each death is excellent, completely different to the one before and Louis pulls them off with aplomb.

Joan Greenwood as Sibilla certainly grows in prominence and personality throughout the film. From an ambitious young woman, she becomes a coy adulteress and, finally, a manipulator worthy of Louis himself. She is a nice foil to Edith who is desperately nice and far too good for the murderer. He and Sibilla certainly deserve each other.

The twist towards the end was very welcome and fitting. The final scene when Louis realises what he has forgotten is golden and it allows you to fill in your own conclusion. Ultimately, Kind Hearts and Coronets is a dark comedy about jealousy and revenge but it also serves as a reminder that sometimes it's the things you don't count on that bring you down - and that nothing is as dangerous as a woman scorned.

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