Kind Hearts and Coronets

Sunday, 21 August 2011 00:00

Set in the Edwardian era, this is another one of those movie classics which everyone needs to see at some point in their lives, and at what better time that now given that it is now available as a Blu-ray disc?  Another Ealing Studios comedy, despite him not having top billing this is very much a tour de force for Sir Alec Guinness, in a role he would rather be remembered for than that of a Jedi! Guinness takes on no less than eight roles in this escapade, in a style which Sir Roger Moore would eventually try to emulate in “A Death in the Family”, an episode of The Persuaders!

Guinness plays various unfortunate members of the D’Ascoyne family, who find themselves in the crosshairs as they stand between an outcast cousin, Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price), and the Dukedom which he has every intention of inheriting. Mazzini's mother was a D'Ascoyne by birth, but she ran away with an opera singer and was disowned as a result. When her dying wish to be buried in the family crypt is refused, Louis vows to get his revenge.

Kind Hearts and Coronets comes to Blu-ray As Mazzini climbs up the social ranks, he is torn between his love for now-married childhood sweetheart, and equally devilish Sibella (Joan Greenwood), and the saintly wife of one of his victims, Edith D’Ascoyne (Valerie Hobson). It is a choice between heart and head, and one that he is simply unable to resolve, trying to work out how to have slices of both cakes, as it were!

Dennis Price put in a career-defining performance as the outrageous Mazzini, a serial killer in a time before the phrase had even been thought of.  He also pre-shadows the crooked bankers that are to be so prevalent in the 21st Century. When Sibella’s husband Lionel Holland (John Penrose) comes cap-in-hand to Mazzini’s bank for money, after losing everything ‘selling short’ – gambling on the stock market – it can be with no small smile from the audience that he is turned down.  It emphasises Mazzini’s character while also playing to the crowd!

Also look out for Arthur Lowe in a very early role, coming in right at the end as ‘The Titbits Reporter’.

The film featured stunning and inventive cinematography by Douglas Slocombe, and a groundbreaking first-person narrative structure that, legend has it, inspired Scorsese to make use of the same device in “Goodfellas”. It was produced by Michael Balcon, directed by Robert Hamer, and written by Robert Hamer and John Dighton, based on the novel by Roy Horniman.

Extras on the DVD and Blu-ray release include:

  • Audio Commentary with Peter Bradshaw, Terence Davies & Matthew Guinness
  • John Landis Introduction
  • Those British Faces: “Dennis Price” (excellent documentary about his career. Channel 4, 1993, 26 minutes)
  • BBC Radio 3 Essay by Simon Heffer (audio, original TX 16 September 2010, 14 minutes)
  • Alternative American Ending (i.e., for the hard of thinking!)
  • Restoration Comparison
  • Behind the Scenes - Stills Gallery
  • Excerpt from BECTU Interview with Douglas Slocombe (audio, 28 minutes)
  • Trailer

“Kind Hearts and Coronets” was scanned in 2K definition on a Northlight 2 Film Scanner from the original 35mm negative elements and restored in High Definition. The picture was restored using Film Master DVO restoration tools and PFClean software systems, removing dirt, scratches, warps, torn or replacing torn or missing frames and improving stability issues. The sound was also improved, with instances of pops, clicks, hiss and distortion minimised or removed.

“Kind Hearts and Coronets” will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on 5 September 2011, but is currently playing in selected cinemas in its digitally restored version. It has a ‘U’ certificate, a running time of 106 minutes approx, and RRPs of £19.99 (Blu-ray) and £15.99 (DVD), or get it for less at

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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