Oh man. Did you say you’ve never seen any of the Ealing Studios comedies with Alec Guinness? I envy you the joy you are about to experience.
I know most everyone loves the Cohen Brothers – and rightly so, they are artists of great skill in their own right – but when I watch their films I mainly admire how proudly they wear their influences on their collectives sleeve, particularly Preston Sturges and Ealing Studios chief among them.
And since we are looking at the dark and macabre this month, let’s start with the absolutely jaw-droppingly great Kind Hearts and Coronets, a deeply and deliciously dry pitch-black comedy, exemplifying Ealing at its best.
The plot concerns an undesired, discarded minor noble who kills his way through his family tree, all played by the young Alec Guinness (including the Lady Agatha!), to inherit the dukedom of the Descoyne family.
But really, this film serves as a vehicle for a young Alec Guinness to play eight separate roles, each funnier than the last. The script is as sharp-edged and bon-mot-filled as an Oscar Wilde play and the direction is as precisely perfect as any film student could ever dream to see.
So, here are a few more critics, directors and actors raving about how much they adore Kind Hearts & Coronets in case you need any more convincing. Absolutely well-worth watching, whether you’re feeling your most murderous or you just want some high level snark. You can catch the whole film on Turner Classic Movies or borrow the Criterion version from Netflix.