Long before Alec Guinness was Obi-Wan Kenobi (or Prince Feisal or Colonel Nicholson for that matter), he played eight characters in what is one of the best black comedies ever made. Kind Hearts and Coronets is the story of Louis D'Ascoyne Mazzini (Dennis Price), related to the aristocratic D’Ascoyne family. Louis’s mother married his father for love in spite of his lowly position as an opera singer and was promptly disowned. Even her dying wish to be buried in the family crypt is disregarded by her haughty relatives. Louis is disgusted by their conduct and decides that the only solution is to murder the remaining D’Ascoyne family members (all played by Alec Guinness) to avenge his mother and inherit their dukedom.
The whole twisted story is narrated with the greatest dry British humour by Louis himself and so, what could be a drama becomes a hilarious comedy. For example, after Louis unties a boat in which an older relative (played by Alec Guinness of course) was cavorting with his younger mistress and causes them both to fall over a waterfall to their deaths, he tells the audience, “I was sorry about the girl, but found some relief in the reflection that she had presumably during the weekend already undergone a fate worse than death.”
For a clip of a few extremely comical death scenes, click here.
For the trailer (which is not nearly as amazing as the above clip), click here.
Kind Hearts and Coronets is available in the Mendel Music Library and through Netflix.