Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

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Released 4-Aug-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer-2:52
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1949
Running Time 101:56
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Robert Hamer
Studio
Distributor
Ealing Studios
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Dennis Price
Valerie Hobson
Joan Greenwood
Alec Guinness
Alec Guinness
Alec Guinness
Alec Guinness
Alec Guinness
Alec Guinness
Alec Guinness
Alec Guinness
Audrey Fildes
Miles Malleson
Case ?
RPI Box Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Kind Hearts and Coronets is a bit unusual, in that we find ourselves barracking for the villain of the piece. It is also one of the funniest films ever made.

    It concerns the exploits of Louis (Dennis Price). Louis is the son of a daughter of the house of D'Ascoyne — she was disowned after she married an opera singer. Due to unusual conditions, Louis will be eligible to inherit the ducal title, if only all the people in the way were to expire. When Louis reaches manhood, there are only eight people between him and becoming the Duke of Chalfort. Of course, that assumes that none of the eight produces any further progeny. It is when the D'Ascoyne family refuses permission for Louis's mother to be buried in the family vault that Louis finally decides to arrange the prompt interment of the remaining members of the family.

    The remaining candidates for duke, and the Duke himself, display a strong family resemblance. There's a good reason for this: every one of the eight is played by Alec Guinness. Quite a performance, outshining the three roles played by Peter Sellers in Dr Strangelove, and the four played by Kirk Douglas in The List of Adrian Messenger.

    There are two women in Louis' life: Sibella (Joan Greenwood), a childhood friend, and Edith (Valerie Hobson), the widow of one of Louis' victims. This develops into a very interesting triangle, and becomes central to the ironic twist of fate that I must not reveal.

    This story is told in the first person, with frequent voice-over from Dennis Price. Normally I'd find this annoying, but it works extremely well in this film, giving us a beautifully enunciated insight into what goes through the mind of this multiple murderer. It also provides some of the most dead-pan comic lines (I particularly liked the remark about "caviar to the general"). It becomes quite easy to sympathise with him, and even to cheer as the unpleasantly arrogant aristocrats drop one by one.

    This is a delightfully funny film, and one that I recommend to you without reservation.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This DVD transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced. The film was shot in the Academy ratio of 1.37:1, so this will do nicely.

    The image is fairly sharp and clear almost all the way through, although there's a poorly focussed shot around 37:18, and a deliberate soft-focus shot at 94:17. Shadow detail is quite good, and film grain is not troubling except in a couple of model shots around 56:00. There's no low-level noise.

    Colour? This is a monochrome film, and shows a good range of tones from thoroughly black blacks through to quite acceptable whites. There are no false-colour artefacts, and no blooming.

    This film was released in 1949, making it well over 50 years old. For a film of that age, it has surprisingly few film artefacts. That's not to say that it lacks them — there are spots and flecks aplenty, plus occasional scratches and even a hair or two (such as at 39:31), but they don't detract significantly from the enjoyment of the film.

    There is a little bit of aliasing, but it's not objectionable. There is no moiré. There are no MPEG artefacts.

    There are no subtitles. Well, actually, there are two subtitle tracks, but I have been unable to select them, so I cannot tell what they contain.

    The disc is single-sided and single-layered, so there is no layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The soundtrack is provided in English, in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 192kbps. It's perfectly adequate, but shows the lack of fidelity that one might expect from the recording equipment of the time. There is, surprisingly, no noticeable hiss.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand, although a few lines sound a bit muffled. Dialogue sync is not a problem.

    There is no score for the greater part of the movie, and there is no credit for the music that does appear. Once again the music is performed by The Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Mr Irving.

    This soundtrack provides no signal for the surrounds and subwoofer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu is static, with music.

Trailer (2:52)

    This is an amusing trailer, and it makes it very clear how poor the film could have looked — this trailer illustrates all of the artefacts with which the film might have been afflicted.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this disc was released some short time back, and I eagerly picked it up (this film was earmarked for a place in my collection a long time ago). It is interesting to compare it with the new Region 4 release.

    The Region 4 disc is missing:

    The Region 1 disc is missing:

    There's not a lot to tell these two transfers apart, except that one is PAL and one is NTSC. For some reason I don't understand, I find the lower resolution of NTSC more obvious in black-and-white. The result is that the NTSC transfer looks a bit flat.

    I'd recommend the Region 4 disc over the Region 1, but if your system will only display NTSC, you should be suited well enough by the R1.

Summary

    A marvellously funny film, presented very well (for its age) on DVD.

    The video quality is very good for its age.

    The audio quality is reasonable.

    The extra is only useful for illustrating how good the film looks.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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