Kind Hearts and Coronets ★★★½

I checked out this DVD from the library when I picked out Gimme Shelter, solely on the fact that it featured the late Sir Alec Guinness. I didn't even read the synopsis on the back of the DVD package. I have read Guinness's autobiography and both of his published journals, but whatever discussion he may have made about this film in those pages failed to resonate with me. I came into this film knowing literally nothing about it. It was great fun watching him in the eight roles of the D'Ascoyne family. Some of the makeup was particularly effective; I had to look twice when I first saw him on screen as The Banker to be sure that was him.

I enjoy a nice black comedy, and that's precisely what Kind Hearts and Coronets is. I did briefly become concerned once we meet Edith D'Ascoyne that there would be some attempt to persuade us that the family isn't really bad, just misunderstood; that kind of thing. I was relieved (because I'm a terrible human being!) that no, the film does not attempt to sell us on any message of making peace.

For this year's challenge, I've already watched Spoorloos [The Vanishing] and earlier this summer I watched all of Downton Abbey, so it was fun to combine the serial killer with the British class system. I'm not an Anglophile per se, though I'm familiar enough with British social history that I can follow along with most stories set there.

I was fortunate that the library had this on DVD as it is presently out of print and not available to stream on HuluPlus.

The DVD
American Ending
The on-screen text introduction informs us that an extension was tacked onto the ending of Kind Hearts and Coronets because of film standards in America that insisted "crime cannot be shown to pay." When I saw the actual ending added, though, I could only roll my eyes. The original, proper ending ought to have been entirely sufficient. Only we Americans have to have everything spelled out for us. Morons.

Original theatrical trailer
Despite what many have come to believe, spoilers have been part of trailers longer than the last five years. It is with that knowledge in mind that I do not watch trailers on DVDs until after I've watched the film. There are some spoilers in this trailer, though at least they omitted pretty much everything about the deliciousness of the twisted relationship between Louis and Sibella and the machinations of their relationship.

Photo Galleries
Yawn. Nice photos, sure, but photo galleries are second only to filmography lists as the most boring bonus feature on a DVD.

"Ealing's Shadow Pride"
I did not find in Philip Kemp's essay anything particularly informative about Kind Hearts and Coronets that I hadn't already observed for myself, but what I did find was some interesting insight into director Robert Hamer and the nature of Ealing Studios. I knew the name of Ealing, but nothing of its history or storytelling aesthetics. Also, I found it helpful to learn about the source material, Roy Horniman's novel, Israel Bank and why some of the changes were made in the course of adaptation.

Disc Two: The Supplements
The two bonus features are a feature-length documentary about Ealing Studios and a 70 minute radio program featuring Sir Alec Guinness. Given that these are tangential to the feature, I'm electing to skip them right now since I have to return the DVD to the library today.

How It Entered My Flickchart
Kind Hearts and Coronets > Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero
Kind Hearts and Coronets > The Captains
Kind Hearts and Coronets < Summer Interlude
Kind Hearts and Coronets > Role Models
Kind Hearts and Coronets > Batman and Robin (1949 serial)
Kind Hearts and Coronets < Confessions of a Superhero
Kind Hearts and Coronets < Win Win
Kind Hearts and Coronets < Frida
Kind Hearts and Coronets < The Cooler
Kind Hearts and Coronets < U-571
Kind Hearts and Coronets < Mission: Impossible

Kind Hearts and Coronets entered my Flickchart at #221/1415