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Kind Hearts and Coronets (Full Screen/B&W)

Dennis Price , Alec Guinness , Robert Hamer    Unrated   DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
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Set in Victorian England, Robert Hamer's 1949 masterpiece Kind Hearts and Coronets remains the most gracefully mordant of the Ealing comedies. Dennis Price plays Louis D'Ascoyne, the would-be Duke of Chalfont whose mother was spurned by her noble family for marrying an Italian singer for love. Louis resolves to avenge his mother by murdering the relatives ahead of him in line for the dukedom, all of whom are played by Alec Guinness. Guinness's virtuoso performances have been justly celebrated, ranging from a youthful D'Ascoyne with a priggish wife to a brace of doomed uncles and one aunt. Miles Malleson is a splendid doggerel-spouting hangman, while Valerie Hobson and Joan Greenwood take advantage of unusually strong female roles. But the great joy of Kind Hearts and Coronets is the way in which its appallingly black subject matter (considered beyond the pale by many critics at the time) is conveyed in such elegantly ironic turns of phrase by Price's narrator/antihero. Serial murder has never been conducted with such exquisite manners and discreet charm. --David Stubbs

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece is subtle comedic writing Feb. 4 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Of course, this film is a classic. The writing and understated acting one doesn't find much anymore. Hard to beleive that Alec Guiness was so young. A must for anyone who appreciates all those wonderful films that came out of Ealing Studios in the late '40's and early '50's. A true masterpiece. I am very grateful that this film is now available on DVD.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kind hearts... not Feb. 22 2007
"Kind hearts are more than coronets/And simple faith than Norman blood. - Lord Tennyson."

Tennyson could have been writing about the movie "Kind Hearts and Coronets," a wonderfully twisted movie all about killing one's relatives to get ahead in the world. This classic black comedy is blessed with excellent acting by Dennis Price and Alec Guinness, as well as some very inventive murders and wry dialogue.

A young lady of the D'Ascoyne family was ostracized when she married an Italian singer (he dropped dead when their son was born). Louis (Price) was raised hearing all about his noble relatives, but ignored by them -- and when his mother is refused burial at the family plot, and his devious girlfriend Sibella (Joan Greenwood) spurns him for a rich, dull man, he decides to become the next Duke.

To do that, he has to kill off several relatives, which he does in various ingenious ways. He's also wooing the widow of one such murdered relative, the kindly Edith (Valerie Hobson), while still frisking with Sibella. But you can't commit six murders -- no matter how clever -- without raising some suspicions, and soon Louis finds himself a Duke on death row... but is there a way out?

The whole story is told in flashback, as Louis writes his memoirs in his cell, and there's only a little bit after the memoirs' completion that explains what happened next. But from the first moments onward (the executioner getting excited about the "privilege" of hanging a duke), it's pretty obvious that "Kind Hearts and Coronets" has a rare, wicked sense of humor.

Much of that is through the irony (Louis is morally opposed to hunting, but not murder) and brilliantly dark dialogue ("I shot an arrow in the air; she fell to earth in Berkeley Square").
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1.0 out of 5 stars WHY the purchaser returned video to Seller! Feb. 4 2014
Format:VHS Tape|Verified Purchase
It is a great pity to take a famous film 'par excellence' and because too many viewings i.e. video store,etc. leaves a VCR movie unwatchable in many machines, a movie of 30 or 40 years cannot be sold as 'good' condition! Older films have to be tested on a few machines before sending
it to buyer who has paid for it before viewing! TRUST is a valuable commodity in shopping: don't lose it!
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Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
NOTE: This movie is coded region B so not all N/A Blue Ray players will play it.

This movie is one of the favorites in our household. The script is excellent and is a wonderful example of the versatility of Alec Guinness playing 8 characters. The sets, costumes, cinematography and direction have the usual Ealing Studios delightful quality. This is one of the best "dark" comedies produced, that also happens to be rated as one of the best 100 best British Films of the 20th Century. It is indeed a "must have" in our classic movie library. As the film critic Pauline Kael commented on this film, "The film is heartless and that is the secret to it's elegance". "...It has the exuberance of Chaucer happily, without the concomitant crudities." -- One of the Alec Guinness characters in the film.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good transfer of an excellent British comedy Oct. 17 2002
No need to add much to the comments above and below about this excellent post-war (1949) British black comedy, so I'll restrict myself to the DVD.
This is a good transfer of a film which is now well over 50 years old. Criterion might have got more out of it, but this release wouldn't do that company any shame.
Damage is virtually non-existent, contrast is excellent and the image very sharp. There is an occasional hint of grain, but this is a much better DVD transfer than I was expecting on such an inexpensive disc. Just check out the trailer which is almost indiscernible image-wise to show what a good job they have done.
The sound is mono and sounds a little thin at first but Dennis Price's beautiful narration is clear and the ear soon adjusts.
All in all, a very good DVD release.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Be sure to find the Criterion version Jan. 17 2006
By bernie TOP 100 REVIEWER
Here is Alec Guinness, and Alec Guinness, and Alec Guinness, and...

Louis D'Ascoyne (Dennis Price) would be next in line except for one thing; his mother ran off with an Italian singer. Now he is disinherited by his immediate and extended family. His mother dies rejected and it is pure murder trying to get back into the good graces of his family.

ALIC Guinness plays the different characters that are relatives including The Duke/The Banker/The Parson/The General/The Admiral/Young Ascoyne/Young Henry/Lady Agatha.

Based on a novel by Roy Horniman It is a story of revenge and reluctance to give people their due.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best black comedy ever filmed April 30 2004
It`s useless to state we are in the presence of the biggest black comedy in all the cinema's story. Every detail is perfect, from the direction, passing through the superb cast, in which Dennis Price gives the best role of his brilliant career. Alec Guiness shows us why he's who he's. A wonderful actor. Not only because in this film gives us eight different roles, but the elegance , the organical flow of its monumental script.
Together with Lavender hill mob, Hobson's choice, the man in the white suit and The lady killers, the english cinema never before had literally had an explossion of talents in multiple aspects.
Ironic, cynical, ravishing, ambitious, with a lot of laughs and surrealistic situations, this movie reminds us the other side of the coin about Richard III, because no matter how many crimes you have to commit for reaching your goal.
A must for everyone who loves the craft's cinema.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The best comedy ever made
This film is outstanding. Exhilarating, superb with an overpowered cast. Dennis Price in the best role of his life and Sir Alec Guiness showing once more why he is in the top list... Read more
Published on April 30 2004 by Hiram Gomez Pardo
5.0 out of 5 stars Murder Has Never Been So Hilarious.
Louis D'Ascoyne Mazzini (Dennis Price) is the forgotten heir of the aristocratic D'Ascoyne family, who ostracized his mother when she married well below her station. Read more
Published on Feb. 12 2004 by mirasreviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A sublime masterpiece.
This film is perfect. The humor, dry, understated but unwavering; the acting, positively first-rate by all parties. Dennis Price & Joan Greenwood have never been better. Read more
Published on May 29 2003 by inframan
5.0 out of 5 stars A droll and hilarious case study in the gentle art of murder
Alec Guiness is justly celebrated for playing eight roles in the classic 1950 Ealing Comedy "Kind Hearts and Coronets," but you do have to remind yourself when you are enjoying... Read more
Published on May 4 2003 by Lawrance M. Bernabo
5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie...a classic
This is one of the funniest, most amazing movies ever made. Its subtle humor has you laughing at the weirdest times. A dark humor classic!
Published on Dec 27 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Dry, Witty, and Dark
Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price) is sitting on death row in 19th century England waiting on his execution the following morning. Read more
Published on Oct. 13 2002 by Kim Anehall
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