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Saturday: February 25, 2006

Movie: The Ruling Class

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:55 PM GMT-0500

Seen today: The Ruling Class (1972), starring Peter O’Toole as an insane duke who thinks he’s God until his depraved family succeeds in curing him, which turns out to be a big mistake. Worth seeing again? Yes. Worth buying? Maybe.

Desultory comments:

  1. It didn’t take much to get an X in 1972, at least in Britain: brief female nudity, occasional spurts of blasphemy and foul language, a brief closeup of a urinating fox, the occasional brutal stabbing — PG-13 by today’s U.S. standards.
  2. Lush scenery. I could definitely get used to living in Harlaxton Manor, as long as I didn’t have to share it with any of the aristocratic characters. Barring that, a wide-screen TV wouldn’t have hurt.
  3. There were plenty of surprises in the plot, both large and small — at least they surprised me. Lots of witty lines, too, and a few that were more than witty, for instance this one from Dr. Herder, the psychiatrist: “Don’t come to me for the truth, only explanations.”
  4. Most dated scene: Members of the House of Lords going on about coddling criminals and the need to bring back flogging and hanging. We are obviously expected to sneer at the ridiculous old farts, but changes in the crime-rate in Britain and elsewhere over the last three decades make that a bit more difficult. My main problem with the film was that the moral valuations were kneejerk. We were obviously expected to sneer at the fox hunt, as well, and the political discussions, and a lot of other things. I like brutal satire, but it works better if the targets are not confined to the landed aristocracy: it seems unsporting to aim at a target so impotent and decrepit.
  5. IMDb confirms that the Master in Lunacy (Truscott) was played by Graham Crowden, later the male lead (Tom Ballard) in the TV series Waiting for God. What I found interesting is that I did not recognize his face at all, even after I figured out who he was from one or two characteristic facial expressions.
  6. The mad duke invents (and explains) the word “insinuendo”. Does the Oxford English Dictionary list this as the first use? I won’t be able to check until tomorrow.

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