Sunday, September 5, 2010


The Ruling Class (1972) - Medak
Lord Earl of Gurney, an important parliament member, dies in an autoerotic asphyxiation accident in a tutu, leaving his estate to a schizophrenic mental patient son, Jack (Peter O'Toole) who thinks he is Jesus Christ. It's a natural progression really, his German psychiatrist explains- what could be more holier than the British ruling class? Only god himself.

The power hungry relatives of the deceased has a plan: they will declare Jack insane soon after he produces a son. So they introduce us to lovely Grace (Carolyn Seymour), the implant of Charles Gurney, the brother of the deceased. She immediately falls for love-preaching jolly, silly JC. She does a very hot striptease on her wedding night, not for Jack, but for us audiences.

There are many great scenes in this 2 hr 30 minute extravaganza. One has to do with when Jack is asked to perform a miracle. Another is when Jack is confronted with another delusional false god, angry one at that (he proclaims to be the vengeful god from the Old Testament). If there is only one god, which one is the fake?

This satirical look at upperclass snobbery and the rise of conservatism is filled with plenty of sudden musical numbers and O'Toole's eyebrows. It starts out pretty impenetrable with all the wide angle crane shots of gilded interiors and British twit talk. Then it settles nicely into outrageous black comedy that resembles Monty Python on a quiet day, with a set of fangs.

The Ruling Class is the flip side of A Clockwork Orange in a sense. Jack's transformation as the remnant of the innocent flower child of the '60s to the fear mongering conservative with Jack the Ripper undertones while maintaining his god complex is needless to say, pretty heavy handed. But it's O'Toole's show: he is a great physical comedian!

I wonder why Brits are so good with satires but not Americans, especially about class differences. Is it the good old American Dream that prevents us from making fun of them? The American ruling class is not funny?

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