Peter O'Toole gives a tour-de-force performance as Jack, a man "cured" of believing he's God-only to become Jack the Ripper incarnate. Based on Peter Barnes' irreverent play, this darkly comic indictment of Britain's class... more » system peers behind the closed doors of English aristocracy. Insanity, sadistic sarcasm, and black comedy-with just a touch of the Hollywood musical-are all featured in this beloved cult classic directed by Peter Medak.« less
Christopher Zayne Reeves | Columbus, OH | 11/17/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Ruling Class achieves something that is almost completely unheard of in film comedy. It hits the ground running with an unforgettable cameo by the great Harry Andrews and almost never loses its kinetic pace for 2 1/2 hours. Peter O'Toole is best remembered as Lawrence Of Arabia and by later generations as the eccentric dandy in My Favorite Year & Creator. But in this gem of a "Only in the 70's" satirical comedy O'Toole gives what will probably rank as his best film performance. It is certainly the best script he has ever had to work with in his brilliant, if erratic, film career. A star turn in every sense of the word, O'Toole is beatific, haughty, a song and dance man, warm, wise, petulant, frightened and VERY terrifying in his incarnation as Jack The Ripper. He is positively electric in the same way that the 1950-1954 era Brando was. Except that what is so marvelous about O'Toole here is his focus and articulate nature. When he's on top of his game, O'Toole comes across as the most intelligent and the most gloriously insane actor ever caught on film. Whether delivering a long speech or tossing off a one-liner, O'Toole makes Barnes' great words beautiful to hear. And what a supporting cast! Alastair Sim was at the end of a magnificent career and this gave the actor a truly great send off as a bumbling, didactic Bishop. The scene where he feebly attempts to preside over O'Toole's nuptials is perhaps the most hilarious moment ever captured on film. Coral Browne and a host of great British character actors round out the flawless ensemble. And steering the ship with a steady hand is the underrated Peter Medak. Much like how Spike Jonze brought a dark, melancholy reality to Being John Malkovich, Medak deserves credit for maintaining a consistent reality to ground us in the world of these insane characters and circumstances.The Ruling Class is almost peerless among screen comedies. Only the best of Buster Keaton, the Marx Bros. WC Fields, Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story and top-flight Preston Sturges can stand toe-to-toe with it. It was once noted that all great comedies are either very intelligent or incredibly low brow. The Ruling Class, along with those other giants of screen comedy, succeed in achieving both and make it look effortless."
Simply wickedly good
Christina Brooks | Sydney, N.S.W Australia | 12/04/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Ruling Class is a brilliant film, based on a brilliant play. The story is simple enough. The Earl of Gurney dies, his heir is mad, and thinks he is Jesus Christ. The other members of the family attempt to dislodge the new nutty earl so that they can keep the cash. Their attempts to commit the earl trace the flaws in the English class system with unpleasant accuracy and a great deal of sometimes very black humour. It all comes to a sticky and very black ending.It says alot that Peter O'Toole is continually upstaged by just about everyone else in the cast. His Christ figure is very well delivered but, all in all, lacks some level of "humanness" that the other characters, particularly Arthur Lowe as the butler, have in abundance. Arthur Lowe literally steals scene after scene with one or two lines while the vast tracts of dialogue that O'Toole's character must deliver can quickly alienate a less than motivated viewer. The above said, this can be a very funny film and is directed with enough aplomb that one is not continually reminded of the scripts start as a stage play. While it was obviously controversial when it was made and while the ideas it traces are just as pertinent now, somehow time seems to have dealt poorly with it and left it less a "searing indictment" and more of a historical curiosity.The DVD master is brilliant, sharp and without any artifacting, and as one expects from Criterion, in the correct aspect ratio. If you want to see this film this is a magnificent way to do it.As far as owning it goes, Arthur Lowe's performance will delight anyone with a sense of humour for years to come.Quite highly recommended but a bit self indulgently black."
A Fantastic DVD of a Fantastic Film
doctorx9 | 03/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I will eschew the plot summary which ye will find in other reviews above . . . as well as a few spoilers!This is one of my favorite films that examines a number of issues, particularly what is "acceptable" in a religion. It is extremely well-cast, with Peter O'Toole turing in one of his best performances. It is a pleasure to watch Alister Sim--the best Scrooge ever--as a befuddled Anglican bishop. Fans of the Blackadder will enjoy seeing "Nursey" as a village busy-body who wishes to bring back flogging.The DVD is a wonderful treatment. The US release--and subsequent videos--lacked some scenes lost for length. This is a film that is based on a play, and every character had a soliloquy--until someone cut them! Here, finally is the complete film. Visually, it is beautiful.A big suprise is the "goodies." The running commentary includes the director, Peter Medak, the playwright/screen writer Peter Barnes, and even Peter O'Toole. It is an excellent addition to the movie rather than voices blathering about themselves.The insert also has a nice essay from a British film professor.Fans of the film need this DVD. A review above complained it was not "funny." How one cannot laugh at Harry Andrews in a tutu, military garb, hanging himself in order to [CENSORED--Ed.] I do not know?! However, it is NOT a comedy. It is a play that has social satire, some comedy, a fair amount of farce and darkness and tragedy.The only warning that I give is the DVD back-notes reveals some spoilers! If you have NOT seen the film or stumbl'd upon them in some reviews above, make sure you do not read the back!"
D. J. Zabriskie | Park Ridge, NJ USA | 10/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Ruling Class" is the kind of sharp, intelligent, vicious satire that only the Brits can do this well. It is by turns, curious, silly, dry, sharp and nasty as a cat's litter box. The plot twists are as crazy as the main character, and the movie's theme, "the idle rich have a way of protecting themselves" is as pertinent today as it was in 1972. Indeed, this is the type of movie which could only be made in the 1970's, the last time when the authority structures and "the ruling classes" were regarded with general suspicion by the rest of society. In a bravura performance which should have won him an Oscar, Peter O'Toole plays Jack Gurney, heir to an English earldom. There's only one problem: Jack is in the looney bin because he thinks he's Jesus Christ. The plot revolves around how the rest of Jack's relatives plan to "cure" him so he's just "sane" enough to inherit and then manipulate him to their own ends. Needless to say, sly, cynical jokes about religious and social hypocrisy are abundant, and they're all right on the money. Like the very best of British satires, the more you bring to this movie, the more rewards it holds. A knowledge of Verdi operas, 19th Century French Romantic literature, English music hall traditions, and English public school songs will enhance one's enjoyment of this movie immeasurably, although none of it is necessary to appreciate the wit and silliness of what's going on here. Alistair Sim, as the nervous, confused and senile archbishop is a gem throughout, a man whose conflicts are all too obvious because they're all too human. Eventually, Jack is "cured," and the change his personality undergoes is radical, to say the least. To tip it off would be to give things away, but its rather remarkable what the filmakers have to say is a socially acceptable alternative to wanting to be Jesus Christ. Watch out for the ending of this movie. It's violent, vicious and totally uncompromising. It's meant to repel the viewer and does so effectively. Don't let that prevent you from enjoying the rest of all the brilliance and wit this film has in such abundance, however. Yes, the scene in Parliament is over-long, overdone and the one flaw in the movie, but, that aside, this film will make laugh, make you cry, make you think and make you angry, all at the same time. How many movies today can you think of that manage to do all that?"
I came in with expectations...
Wesley | Chicago, IL United States | 09/14/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"and those expectations were totally wrong. I read reviews that tried to be overly critical of exactly what was satirized in the film. I read the attempts to place this in its status as a classic film and to categorize it. All of that misled. In the first few minutes of the film, I began to understand what The Ruling Class was for me. It was (and is) a hilarious masterpiece. I came in with a little more plot knowledge than I wanted, but even with that extra knowledge of some of the big jokes, I found myself with a smile on my face for the majority of the film. It was intelligent enough to keep me occupied for it's 2 and 1/2 hours. It was eccentric enough to fit my tastes and to break out of the norm of so many movies that just don't stand up to multiple viewings (plus it completely changed my view of Peter O'Toole). This is a movie I will re-visit time and again."