Celebrating its 70th birthday in a pristine digital restoration, director Robert Hamer’s Kind Hearts and Coronets upholds its position as one of the funniest, most perfectly pitched black comedies ever made.
Dennis Price is the living embodiment of wronged entitlement as Louis Mazzini, a young draper’s assistant determined to avenge his mother’s disinheritance by ascending to dukedom. Eight other scions of the D’Ascoyne family are all that stand in his way. The incomparable Alec Guinness plays each dotty one of them, young and old, male and female.
Joan Greenwood savours every syllable as the taunting Sibella, who may or may not have a role in Louis’ murderous project, while Valerie Hobson is surprisingly touching as the one pure heart abiding in Hamer’s smouldering bonfire of vanities. — BG
“Secure in the knowledge that Guinness will return in another form, the audience suffers no regret as each abominable D’Ascoyne is coolly dispatched. And as the murderer takes us further into his confidence with each foul deed, we positively look forward to his next success.” — Pauline Kael
“Robert Hamer’s 1949 film is often cited as the definitive black, eccentric British comedy, yet it’s several cuts better than practically anything else in the genre… Hamer’s direction is bracingly cool and clipped, yet he’s able to draw something from his performers (Price has never been deeper, Guinness never more proficient, and Joan Greenwood never more softly, purringly cruel) that transcends the facile comedy of murder; there’s lyricism, passion, and protest in it too.” — Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader