Robert Hamer (director)
07 June 2019 (released)
07 June 2019
It’s a five-star review let’s just get that out of the way and there may be spoilers.
The film is now seventy years old and while one element has aged badly - as the audience is warned at the start – the rest hasn’t in any way at all. The humour is subtle, the writing sharp and witty, and the film considerably darker and more brutal than maybe it has been credited with.
The basic plot is that Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price), the result of an elopement between his mother, a member of the aristocratic D’Ascoyne and an Italian opera singer, is forced into menial jobs due to his mother’s excommunication. Her attempts at reconciliation are rejected. But after her dying wish is to be buried in the D’Ascoyne family crypt is denied Louis sets out to avenge her.
What this 4K restoration does give is a spanking new view of the film with more detail in particular around the homes and the fittings. Also highlighted are the ever more ludicrous hats that Sibella (Joan Greenwood) sports as she plays and manipulates Louis or as they each play each other for mutual gain or lust. It’s really not that clear what real affection there is between them, other than at the start of the film. As it progresses it become more complex with issues of convenience and survival coming into play.
And it’s worth looking at Greenwood’s close-ups on her face as we try to pick her thoughts as the circumstances change. And it’s not just the quality of the image other details spring out. Such as when Louis’ mother dies, her final request denied, the photo she is holding of her and her late husband falls on the floor. Suggesting maybe he wasn’t quite the love of her life.
We can also look again at the executioner as he prepares for his big day and then retirement - where to go next, royalty - and his palpable disappointment or is it?
Alec Guinness’s role can never be underplayed it is magnificent, even in the fly by roles of Agatha, Rufus and Horatio. The more developed are naturally more interesting and reveal the cold-blooded ruthlessness of Louis as he dispatches the Reverend Henry and finally the Duke himself, first hand. The others young Henry and Ascoyne are at arm’s length, if no less brutal.
It’s easy to miss that Price too has his moments donning guises to inveigh his way into the family and carry on his nefarious actions. It’s safe to say that he was never better and that’s what can probably be said for the unfortunate writer (with John Dighton) and director Robert Hamer.
Just as poorer films can be re-evaluated over a period of time and be reappraised so can the so called ‘masterpieces’. Kind Hearts and Coronets needs no reappraisal. It remains a masterpiece. It is without a doubt one of the sharpest films in the English language; the actors in a perfect storm glory in its versatility as they joust, bore, flatter and flay.
The film is in cinemas from 7 June. The DVD/Blu ray is released on 24 June and comes packed with extras that include commentary featurette, a booklet, art cards and theatrical poster.