I saw this at an impressionable age (seven?). That first viewing addicted me to the English comedy of manners, and in many revisitings over the years Kind Hearts has lost none of its luster. Narrated by the fastidious Louis Mazzini (Denis Price), who has plotted to murder eight members of an aristocratic family that had slighted his saintly mother, the film proceeds on tiptoe through the blackest of comedy. It’s fun noir. Price and his fellow conniver Joan Greenwood, whose voice plays dark music over every seductive syllable, are splendid, as is Alec Guinness as all eight d’Ascoynes. My favorite: the elderly parson, who delights in showing off his medieval chapel (“And I always say that my west window has all the exuberance of Chaucer without, happily, any of the more concomitant crudities of his period.”) Hamer’s direction is a thing of dry delicacy, but it’s the script that makes it the definitive Ealing Studio comedy. This is one of the few works of dramatic literature, and the only film I know, whose epigrammatic wit and wickedness bear comparison to Oscar Wilde’s. In a word, perfection!
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