There are some great dark comedies; Pulp Fiction, In Bruges, Heathers, Sightseers and from the arguable masters of the genre The Coen Brothers, Raising Arizona and Fargo. The best of all though was made in 1949 in Kent and London.
Kind Hearts and Coronets is the finest of the great films to come out of Ealing Studios in its heyday and is a wonderful celebration of a time when British film making was properly British. It shows a world were everyone is impeccably dressed and fiercely polite even when engaged in a violent killing spree.
Dennis Price plays a young member of the wealthy D’Ascoyn family but as the son of a disgraced and disinherited woman is very far removed from the privilege and titles enjoyed by his relatives. Their bad treatment of his mother prompts him to murder the people who are first, second, third, fourth, fifth, six, seventh and eighth in line to the dukedom.
Like many of the Ealing Comedies the film benefits greatly from the casting of the wonderful character actor Alec Guinness. Anyone who only knows Guinness as Obi Wan Kenobi does the man a great disservice as this is far from the best of his roles. He is brilliant in Bridge on the River Kwai and Great Expectations as well Ealing’s The Lavender Hill Mob and The Ladykillers. What is staggering is his versatility as an actor and nowhere is this more evident than in Kind Hearts and Coronets where he plays all eight of the beleaguered D’Ascoyn’s.
The film is a beautiful and charming example of 1940s British Cinema and while it clearly isn’t graphic or shocking it is dark and surprising and, unlike anything from The Coen Brothers, it features a deliciously satisfying ending.
Is this one for the kids?
Yeah, if they can handle Roald Dahl they can easily handle this.