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The Ruling Class
cast: Peter O'Toole, Harry Andrews, Arthur Lowe, Michael Bryant, and Alastair Sim

director: Peter Medak

154 minutes (PG) 1972
Momentum Vintage DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Denise Wayne
The Ruling Class is a virulent and scathing black comedy fantasy that attacks just about everything that defines British society and its institutions: politics, religion, homosexuality, racism, morality, fashion, and especially our class structures, from the House of Lords to their dedicated or disloyal servants.
   Peter O'Toole delivers perhaps his most effusive performance ever with a quip, a theatrical song, and a voluble persona for every occasion, as the mad son of the Earl of Gurney (Harry Andrews, playing yet another of his crusty old duffers) who we see hang himself, by an unfortunate accident, in a tutu and full military regalia during an early scene. The Earl's greedy family receive nothing in the deceased's will, but a tidy fortune goes to the Earl's butler, Tucker (Arthur Lowe, who nearly steals the film!), while the rest is left to O'Toole as first heir. Yes, there's some prancing about and weird hallucinatory sequences (including a chamber of dusty 'noble' corpses) during the ceremonies, psych tests and psychodrama therapy, as O'Toole changes from Jesus Christ to Jack the Ripper, gets married to his fantasy woman, and acts out seemingly random whims - resulting in more offbeat twists to the backstabbing and murder plot. And yet, despite the sterling efforts of Carol Browne, Michael Bryant, Nigel Green, James Villiers and, yes, the incomparable Alastair Sim, certain loony particulars of this cutting satire have regrettably lost some of their original sharpness - since the passing into history of Monty Python, especially when compared to the similarly themed works of Lindsay Anderson.
   There are no DVD extras but for scene selection in 18 chapters, and the picture is presented in full-screen ratio.
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