The first thing to say is that I am watching the Optimum UK disc. The film has had a chequered history over here. It took ages to be released, and then, when it finally became available it was only as a severely edited version. This version is the full 154 minutes, and, from the film's opening credits, that the print is the one done by The Criterion Collection. Given that it's currently just a fiver, that's a bit of a bargain.
On it's original release it was given an X rating, which seems rather strange given that it's only a 15 today. I'm not far enough through it to discover which content is likely to have caused such consternation, but it's interesting how standards have changed in some areas whilst not in others (The Godfather, for example, remains an 18 even today.)
The film's opening shot is of a gavel, and I suspect that this classic courtroom image will be significant. From a narrative point of view it is used to demand silence in order that the 13th Earl of Gurney can make a patriotic speech. It receives a rousing reception, but later, when Gurney is alone, we discover that not all of his theatrics are quite as mainstream, and the Earl accidentally hangs himself dressed in a judges wig and a tutu.
It soon emerges that this is something of a family trait. When the now 14th Earl of Gurney (Peter O'Toole) appears on the scene, it is clear that he not only as a strange obsession with execution devices and likes to dress up but that he also thinks he is God. The opening shot of O'Tools (pictured above) nicely shows him with a sort of naturalisitc halo.
Needless to say the sane members of the family are not particularly happy that their family name is being inherited by someone so deluded, and so the dead earl's brother hatches a plot to get the 14th Earl to sire the 15th, who will take the place of his insane father with immediate effect.
O'Toole clearly relishes his role as the lord with a God complex, though hopefully it won't become too tiresome by the end of the film, and there have already been some great lines. More to follow but in the meantime here are some other reviews coutesy of DVD Beaver: Boxoffice Online, Current Film, Digitally Obsessed, DVD Journal, DVD Laser, DVD Movie Central, DVD Savant, DVD Talk, DVD Talk, DVD Times, DVD Town, DVD Verdict, Images Journal, Mondo Digital, The ONION
Labels: Ruling Class