Kind hearts and Coronets
(1949)

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Matabele land

 

Director:                       Robert Hamer
Producers:                   Michael Balcon
                                      Michael Relph
Script:                           Roy Horniman (novel)
                                      Robert Hamer (screenplay) & John Dighton

Cinematography:        Douglas Slocombe
Music Score:                Ernest Irving   
          

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The films of Ealing Studios can often be characterised as good-natured, down-to-earth comedy offerings, light-hearted in tone and always steering towards the attainment of community betterment; characters typically conclude the film having learned a valuable lesson, and the ending is usually most ideal for all concerned. Later films such as 'The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)' and especially 'The Ladykillers (1955)' returned to the murky themes of Hamer's film, but they couldn't avoid reinforcing the age-old adage that "crime doesn't pay," whereas this comedy leaves ample room for the possibility of our killer escaping scot-free

Our film's antihero is verbose, narcissistic Louis Manzzini (Dennis Price), who is awaiting his own execution for the murders of eight members of the d'Ascoyne family. That's the "what" of the story… the "who" and "why" are revealed as the Manzzini, ever the egotist, jots down his memoirs in his jail cell. Manzzini's mother, it is revealed, was once part of the d'Ascoyne family but was disowned for marrying beneath her class (to a tenor, no less!). As a result, she is forced to raise Louis in poverty and never lets him forget her misfortune. Louis's frustrations in life come to a head when his mother dies and his true love Sibella, a smarmy gold digger, dumps him for a dull but wealthy beau. When Louis discovers he's technically ninth in line for the title of Duke d'Ascoyne, he schemes to kill off each successor one by one until he gets what's rightfully his (his job is made a little easier when one dies from illness).

Greenwood is especially remarkable, with lush bedroom eyes, a voice like a dipso courtesan, and a talent for drawing big laughs from her character's selfish pronouncements. She's so monstrous at times, teasing out Louis's early expressions of desire and taunting him about his aspirations for dukedom ("Maybe pigs will fly"), yet as the tale unfolds and she finds herself on the outside of Louis's bright future, we find ourselves pulled as much by her desperate, dark measures as we have been by Louis's. The two, as they agree, are made for each other.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                          

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Kind hearts and Coronets