Approx advert and trailer run time: 25 mins
Film run time: 1hr 42m
One of Ealing’s most beloved masterworks receives a much-deserved restoration, a darkly comic and mercilessly devious satire on English social injustice and the murderous methods required to correct them.
Cast out with his mother from the aristocratic D’Ascoyne family due to his improper birth, Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price) learns of his loose connection to a notable dukedom, which is separated from him by eight other heirs, each played by Alec Guinness in one of his first film performances.
Undeterred, Louis sets out to destroy every one of them through various inventive methods (most notably exploding caviar), while carrying on an affair with his equally unscrupulous childhood friend Sibyl (Joan Greenwood), who soon cottons on to his schemes.
The film is most famous for Guinness’s masterclass of aristocratic caricatures, ably assisted by the ingenious cinematography, and Price’s urbane, Wilde-esque and venomous serial killer.
Completely devoid of cosiness or prestige, the film savagely attacks British hypocrisy and privilege (the director boasted that it ‘paid no regard to established moral convention’) through rich, witty language and action, presenting a world so rotten in its structure that murder seems like a justified response.