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A Very British Serial Killer

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Mark Kermode | 10:16 UK time, Friday, 19 August 2011

This week the classic Ealing comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets is re- released in UK cinemas. This brilliant black comedy about a serial killer is 60 years old but is still just as edgy and outrageous as the day it was made.

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Related links
Ealing studios celebrates 80th anniversary

Hear Mark Kermode review the week's new films every Friday from 2pm on BBC Radio 5 live. Kermode & Mayo's Film Review is also available as a free podcast to download and keep.


  • Comment number 1.

    Kind Hearts.... was the first Ealing comedy I saw as a child in the States, and possibly the first movie that I was aware of its "Britishness". It helped make me a confirmed anglophile (and that was even before I saw the rest of their canon, or found Powell/Pressburger). I loved not just the irony, but the accompanying morbid wit. Luckily I saw the original open ended ending.

    I eventually got to see Sir Alec on stage once, I was really disappointed that he played only one part. Looking forward to seeing a fresh print.

  • Comment number 2.

    these are the films I grew up with and with a certain sentimentality I will am always happy to watch the LadyKillers the scene where mrs wilberforce comes in for the third time (at least i think its the third time) and herbert lom has his violin upside down still cracks me up.

  • Comment number 3.

    Kind Hearts has a very special place in my heart. When I was a stupid, gauche teenager I didn't watch B&W films. Especially not B&W English films. But my girlfriend wanted to watch it when it came on the TV, so she made me sit through it too. I was determined not to enjoy it, in a way that only a teenager can. However once it got started I was completely entranced. It was darker than pretty much any other film I had ever seen. And it did it without gore or swearing or any obvious on screen violence. It was dark and witty, a combination that never occurred to me could even exist. It remains to this day one of my favourite films. And if it wasn't for Kind Hearts opening my mind to B&W English films I never would have seen The Lady Killers, The Lavender Hill Mob, Passport to Pimlico and The Third Man, to name but a few.
    And all thanks to my stubborn girlfriend who really did know what I would like better than I did. Perhaps that's why I married her?

  • Comment number 4.

    I don't do favourite films, but if I'm pressed to, this is always one of the first to come to mind. This is one of those films I never, ever, get tired of watching - I've been known to watch it more than once in a single 24-hour period. In fact, in those long-ago days when I did GCSE English, I wrote a comparative essay between this and Great Expectations. Alec Guinness rightly gets a lot of praise for the film, but Dennis Price is excellent too.

    I could go on, since my effusiveness for this film knows no limits, but I think it's better for everyone if I don't.

  • Comment number 5.

    Whilst Alec Guinness always gets mentioned when talking about this film, Dennis Price makes this film for me, his subtle mannerisms and fey voice over makes the "fate worse than death" line incredibly caustic and it's the best role of his career.Price was a homosexual which i think accounts for his characters coolness and gives the revenge killings another edge.While we're talking about Ealing films i would like to mention 'The maggie' which is the negelcted jewel in the Ealing crown, directed by Alexander Mackendrick (man in the white suit, ladykillers) but starring no big names deserves to be more widely acknowledged for the gem it is.

  • Comment number 6.

    Oh and my wife and I have booked our tickets for your talk in Brighton and were both very very excited.....hopefully a good rant or two.

  • Comment number 7.

    I have this on a free DVD froma newspaper (not sure which as my mum brought it round as she cannot work a DVD). Will actually try to get round to watching it!

  • Comment number 8.

    It is only about a month ago since I saw it for the first time - It really is a British Masterpiece - One of the most pleasurable film experiences I have ever had -

  • Comment number 9.

    Isn't it about time they remade this? With Eddie Murphy in the Alec Guinness role(s) & Russell Brand taking Dennis Price's part?

  • Comment number 10.

    Very nice intro, I adore Kind Hearts and Coronets. I grew up watching Ealing Studio films with my Dad, my favourites being Hue & Cry and Dead of Night. The good old, bad old days were the best. Bravo Dr K.

  • Comment number 11.

    I love this film, it's one of those films that whenever it's shown, you end up watching it, no matter how many times you've seen it before. I love the way it makes you as amoral as Mazzini because, at times you actually want him to succeed. I agree with others, that while Alec Guiness' multiple roles are impressive, it's Dennis Price's sociopathic deadpan that steals the show.
    Favourite quote: 'I shot an arrow in the air; she fell to earth in Berkeley Square.'

  • Comment number 12.

    I am so looking forward to being able to see this in a cinema at last. One of the best endings to a film ever - always makes me smile.

  • Comment number 13.

    "At best fluffy"... LOL
    But please hurry back Mark. The podcast isn't the same with Larry, Darryl and Darryl filling in.
    And somewhat surprising to me, KHAC is already in my movie queue. I just have to get to it.

  • Comment number 14.

    Yet another opportunity to respond to our comments pertaining to 'Transformers 3 And The Truth About Blockbusters' squandered by the Doc. I'm beginning to think he's skirting the issue as I pretty much negated what he had to say, didn't I!

    Regardless, the topic's SEVEN weeks old this coming Tuesday...

  • Comment number 15.

    Is there any possibility that you could offer a transcript of this blog?

  • Comment number 16.

    Having had the misfortune of having to work with some of the the most arrogant obnoxious snobs in England, i have a certain affinity with our hero!! Particularly when he says he saved from a fate `worse than death`!!

  • Comment number 17.

    I too am a lover of not just Kind Hearts and Coronets but the Ladykillers, Whisky Galore and all the other great Ealing comedies. However, does no one else think it a disgrace that the rights to the output of this great studio has been scattered around over the years to such an extent that if you go looking for these classics on DVD, you will end up with some great films with lousy looking prints and terrible sound.

    These films are part of British film heritage but is a shame that the people who oen the right to the Ealing films have treated these movies with nothing short of contempt.

    At least with Kind Hearts and Coronets it is coming out on Bluray and that release has not just a cleaned up print but a commentary and various extra that help to illuminate and inform the audience as to why this is such a great movie.

  • Comment number 18.

    Far sadder, surely, is that Dennis Price ended up appearing in Jess Franco films - arguably a greater fall than Bela Lugosi spending his later years in Edward D Wood's more famous but less terrible movies.

  • Comment number 19.

    We watched this in University, fantastic film. Why don't they make them like that anymore?

  • Comment number 20.

    A truly great movie; I make a point of watching this at least a couple of times a year. It's a bit like David Lean's "Great Expectations" on steroids... Tragically Dennis Prices best movie.

  • Comment number 21.

    Can someone explain what's happening with the bars on the cell in the still at the beginning of Mark's blog?

  • Comment number 22.

    It's great that one of my favourite film comedies of all time has been re-released but sad that only a few independent/arthouse cinemas will screen it to niche audiences of die hard fans like those commenting here. Let's hope your plea that people go and see it for the first time creates a wider audience for this absolute gem of British comedy.. BTW I presume the studio exec was using double irony when he said about selling Irony to us Brits. 'The port is with you' not the force Alec!

  • Comment number 23.

    Someone said, about time for a remake, am sure that was an attempt at humor, as we all know what happened with 'The Lady Killers'


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