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I shot an arrow in the air; she fell to earth in Berkeley Square.


Kind Hearts and Coronets
(1949)

Umpteenth viewing of Robert Hamer's masterpiece, which has a strong claim on the title of best comedy film ever made. Alec Guinness receives all the bouquets for his multi-performances as the D'Ascoyne family (I particularly like his suffragette Lady Agatha), but it's Dennis Price's suave, cool and witty serial killer that makes the film work. 

The backbone of the plot may be a satire of the class system (apparently the novel on which it is based had as its focus anti-semitism) but it's never foregrounded so as to feel clumsy. Indeed, the film smartly juggles a number of taboo subjects; if cheerful, remorseless murder doesn't seem that outlandish a character trait today, the overt extra-marital affair conducted between Price's and Joan Greenwood's character still feels somewhat daring. Speaking of whom, Greenwood is one of the most deliciously sexy actresses ever, and certainly has the most seductive voice ever (no wonder it featured in Barbarella); her crafty Sibella is every bit the equal of Price's Louis. One of those films where every line is quotable and every scene a gem.

Hamer also directed "The Haunted Mirror" segment of Dead of NightFather Brown and School for Scoundrels (the latter being another of my favourites); he was an alcoholic who died at only 52.

A remarkably svelte Arthur Lowe pops up as a reporter in the closing scene. The US Hays Code version of the film altered the ending to show Louis' memoirs being discovered, toned down the adultery and comments regarding the clergy and also changed "nigger" in "Eeny, meeny, miny, moe" to "sailor".

*****

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