The Ruling Class [Criterion Collection] [DVD] [1972]

Full of biting British humor and musical numbers (an odd, but brilliant, combination), Peter Medak's The Ruling Class makes its way to DVD from Criterion. As usual, it has done a fine job with a classic title. The 1.77:1 anamorphic transfer is fairly standard. The flat look is most likely a symptom of early-70s filmmaking and a limited budget. The transfer shows signs of age, at times, with minor scratches and dirt, but, for the most part ,colors are well represented and detail is consistent. The 1.0 Dolby Digital track is nothing to get excited about, but confirms the fact that Criterion tends to leave the audio elements with the original soundtrack. Here, centered up front, and at times a bit shrill, the sound is good enough. Known for often adding a number of supplements to its titles, Criterion has included a fine commentary track recorded in 2001 by Medak, Peter O'Toole, and author/screenwriter Peter Barnes. Each discusses just about everything they can remember from 30 years earlier in a very engaging manner. Though probably appealing to a limited audience, there is also nearly 30-minutes of 16 mm silent "home movies" on location from Medak's collection. Finally, along with the theatrical trailer is an above-average photo gallery with many behind-the-scenes pictures. This is pretty much an average Criterion release, which, in terms of their DVDs, isn't a bad thing.
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Overview

Special Features

  • New 16 x 9 widescreen digital transfer supervised by director Peter Medak and restored to the original full-length version, never before available in the U.S.
  • Commentary track by Peter O'Toole, Peter Medak, and writer Peter Barnes
  • Peter Medak's home movies shot on location for "The Ruling Class"
  • A collection of rare publicity and behind-the-scenes production stills
  • Original trailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
  • RSDL dual-layer edition
  • 1.78:1 aspect ratio

Synopsis

The Ruling Class
An institutionalized schizophrenic with a Messiah complex inherits the position of an English Earl in this cutting satire of British society, based on a play by Peter Barnes. The film's irreverent tone is established with the disturbingly hilarious death of the thirteenth Earl of Gurney during a bizarre attempt at auto-erotic asphyxiation. To the dismay of the earl's family, the title passes to his son Jack (Peter O'Toole), who has been locked away for eight years after claiming to be the second coming of Jesus Christ. Mad but harmless, Jack is released to assume his seat. However, his embrace of Christianity proves incompatible with a position of power in "normal" society, where peace and love are considered serious weaknesses, and a somewhat unhinged psychiatrist is called to help him adjust. Meanwhile, Jack's scheming uncle, Sir Charles (William Mervyn), works on developing a complex scheme to trick Jack out of his position. Loaded with idiosyncratic touches from eccentric camera angles to unexpected outbursts of song, the film creates an experience nearly as inspired and mad as O'Toole's brilliantly hilarious central performance. The film's devilish invention may at times seem overloaded, but most drawbacks are redeemed by the sharpness of the satire, particularly during the memorably disturbing finale. ~ Judd Blaise, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Peter O'Toole
    Peter O'Toole - 14th Earl Of Gurney
  • Alastair Sim
    Alastair Sim - Bishop Lampton
  • Arthur Lowe
    Arthur Lowe - Tucker
  • Harry Andrews
    Harry Andrews - 13th Earl Of Gurney
  • Coral Browne
    Coral Browne - Lady Claire
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