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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

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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
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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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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5.0 out of 5 stars The best comedy ever made April 30 2004
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 of england actors,altogether with Laurence Olivier,Michael Redgrave,Leslie Howard, Gielguld, Burton,O Toole, Albert Finney, Trevor Howard,Dennis Price,Dick Bogarde, John Mills,Michael Caine amog others.
England experienced a sudden creative explossion of talent in that decade like no other country in the world. And the golden age of the english comedy places in this decade like no one else.
Remember the lavender hill mob,the lady killers, the Hobson choice, the man in the white suit. Unbelievable,do not you.
The fact that Sir Alec Guiness has played eight roles in that movie is just a little detail.
When you think it deeper,you will notice that this is an irreverent film . The plot is so well made,the sense of ambition reminds us the laughable side of the sinister Richard III and his epic efforts to reach the top.
All this puzzle flows with such organical coherence that leaves you stunned. The edition, the amazing plot, the creative situations will not let you indifferent.
If not for that movie, I would consider Dr.Strangelove like the most enjoyable black comedy ever filmed, but this film heads the five supremes comedies ever filmed. Kind hearts, Dr. Strangelove, The lavender hill mob, the lady killers and the gold rush can be in this group.May be you do not agree but in this particular selection. Three of this five are from the fifties decade and enriched with the presence of Alec Guiness, somehow the godfather of Peter Sellers, partner with Alec in Lady killers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Murder Has Never Been So Hilarious. Feb. 12 2004
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. But Louis was raised to value his blue-blooded heritage, with the understanding that he was in line to inherit the Dukedom of Chalfont and its accompanying wealth, although it was a very long line. Louis eventually becomes frustrated by his professional prospects and so spiteful of the D'Ascoyne's arrogance that he decides to elevate himself to the Dukedom...by murdering the 8 heirs that stand before him in the line of inheritance.
"Kind Hearts and Coronets" is probably the most acclaimed and widely appreciated of the "Ealing Comedies", which Great Britain's Ealing Studios produced after World War II under the reign of studio boss Michael Balcon. The film was directed by Robert Hamer and brilliantly adapted for the screen by Hamer and John Dighton. It is loosely based on the 1907 novel "Israel Rank" by Roy Harniman, although the novel is not a comedy, and its tone as well as the personality of its protagonist are very different from the movie. "Kind Hearts and Coronets" is probably best known for Alec Guinness' multiple comic performances. He plays all 8 members of the D'Ascoyne family, who range in age from 24 to about 80, with comic but convincing flair. Dennis Price, as Louis, recounts the film's events with wonderfully dry wit. His one-liners are priceless. Sociopathic behavior has never been more delightful. The filmmakers shamelessly lampoon the hereditary aristocracy, all in the form of Alec Guinness. "Kind Hearts and Coronets" is simply a thoroughly enjoyable film.
The DVD: Bonus features include a rather long theatrical trailer and a written bio for Sir Alec Guinness, also long. Dubbing is available in French. No subtitles.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars WHY the purchaser returned video to Seller!
It is a great pity to take a famous film 'par excellence' and because too many viewings i.e. video store,etc. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Allison Burko
5.0 out of 5 stars This is indeed a, "Quintessessential British Comedy" --Empire Magazine...
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. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Peter Liima
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece is subtle comedic writing
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. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Mr. Frederick B. L. Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Be sure to find the Criterion version
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... Read more
Published on Jan. 17 2006 by bernie
5.0 out of 5 stars The best black comedy ever filmed
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... Read more
Published on April 30 2004 by Hiram Gomez Pardo
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 Amazon Customer
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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