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Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
He chopped down the family tree...
Director: Robert Hamer

When his mother eloped with an Italian opera singer, Louis Mazzini was cut off from her aristocratic family. After the family refuses to let her be buried in the family mausoleum, Louis avenges his mother's death by attempting to murder every family member who stands between himself and the family fortune. But when he finds himself torn between his longtime love and the widow of one of his victims, his plans go awry.

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

Three Gimmicks

These little projects are worth watching just to see what gimmicks are pulled to breathe life into what otherwise would be fairly minor charms.

In this case we have one actor (not a great one) playing all the murdered people. We have a double blackmail plot and we have the gimmick that attracts me: The story is presented as a book that is read as it is written about past events. We see those events in a slightly comic telling.

Then the movie ends. Except the hero walks away from the book which now will factor in the story that follows what we see, and we know it will be his undoing.

There is nothing along the way other than this.

It still is the case that the financiers of a movie will base the whole thing on a few gimmicks like this and assume that with moderate quality elsewhere it will pass. Comedy is particularly prone to this problem.

The reason such a thing happens is not because how films are financed. I thought it would be thus, because financiers need a few phrases on which to bet the farm. But I discovered that the studios at least had people with pretty deep awareness of the whole composition and why it might work.

No, I discovered, these gimmicks come from the shorthand used to coordinate all the players and the artistic team. It is what Spielberg calls the concept, sometimes the high concept. If you can say something about a movie in a few words, then that becomes the movie.

Posted in 2005

Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


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