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Directed by Robert Hamer

United Kingdom 1949 106 mins.

“Murder, being a delicate matter, needs to be kept within the family. What surer cause for it is there than the kind of prolonged companionship that usually settles into a family relationship? It is all very well for such as André Gide to pose the thought of murdering a stranger in order to demonstrate the acte gratuit. But among people of taste and quality, the proprieties of murder—shall we say its art?—depend upon familiarity and intimacy. The artfulness of the film is to have all its victims, the D’Ascoynes family, played by one actor, Alec Guinness. This manages to add to the satire on family and nobility-such resemblance, but such eccentricity. Guinness also provides a model of that English acting which delights in pretense and regards distinct character as an illusion. The black humor, the iconoclasm and the going-in-drag are rooted in English history, but this film marks their special importance in the years since the war, and starts a movement that leads directly to Monty Python.”—David Thomson.

Genres: Comedy, Crime