Written by: John Dighton & Robert Hamer, based on the novel Israel Rank by Roy Horniman
Directed by: Robert Hamer
Starring: Alec Guinness, Dennis Price, Joan Greenwood, Valerie Hobson, Audrey Fildes
- Theatrical trailer
- Guinness bio
Released by: Anchor Bay
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: Own it.
Louis Mazzini (Price) has had a pretty hard life. As he sits in prison, waiting to be executed, he puts down his tale for posterity. It’s a story of his mother (Fildes), who married beneath her sphere for the sake of love–and who hoped that one day her son would be accepted by her family, the D’Ascoynes (Guinness–yes, that’s right, all eight of them). You see, the D’Ascoyne family has a dukedom–and Louis’ mama married a singer. However, fate and the elitist nature of the D’Ascoynes leads to tragedy…and to Louis’ solemn vow: despite the sheer number of family members standing between him and the title of Duke–he’ll just kill all of them one by one till he gets what he feels is rightfully his.
[ad#longpost]Yet another Ealing Studios comedy–this one is ridiculously dark with the gleeful number of homicides taking place, and the majority of them involving the same actor. Speaking of that actor, Guinness is not only extremely funny in his multiple roles–but he plays all of them without repeating himself. He is both instantly recognizable as Guinness, but instantly easy to forget that the actor behind the role exists…it’s just amazingly brilliant. For the matter, Price does an excellent job of playing the cool-as-a-cucumber, bent on revenge black sheep of the family.
Also in fine form are both of the ladies in Louis’ life, Edith (Hobson) and Sibella (Greenwood). Greenwood drifts towards the edge of being grating but somehow manages to miss that sharp curve, and Hobson plays Edith as so terribly understanding–it’s easy to believe that she could be duped into falling in with a murderer.
Unfortunately, the disc is almost devoid of features. The Guinness bio included is the same on that you find on the other entries in Anchor Bay’s Guinness Collection, but it is a nice one and fairly extensive–so they at least get points for that. And also the trailer is truly genius. It’s sad when a trailer of more than fifty years ago is put together better than some that you see today. Well, sad, but not altogether unexpected.
Like the other Guinness discs, I’m at a loss for what you could do to add. All the principals and the director are lost to us, unfortunately. Like I suggested for Ladykillers, a featurette on the Ealing comedies might have been warranted. But alas–this is probably the best edition of this film we could hope for, so I advise you to buy it forthwith.