Clare's Criterion Collection

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The Ruling Class – Review # 7

on August 24, 2013


Spine #132

Available on DVD

Special Features:

  • New 16×9 widescreen digital transfer, supervised by director Peter Medak and restored to the original full-length version, never before available in the U.S.
  • Commentary track featuring Peter O’Toole, Peter Medak, and writer Peter Barnes
  • Peter Medak’s home movies, shot on location for The Ruling Class
  • A collection of rare publicity and behind-the-scenes production stills
  • Original trailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
  • Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer editionNew cover by Gordon Reynolds

Please note that whilst I try to not give away vital plot details/scenes/developments of the film, some reviews may contain mild spoilers.


Oh dear, my first bad Criterion experience 😦

I really tried with this film, I watched without distraction and to the very end but I just could not get into it.  But, this Blog takes the rough with the smooth, the good with the not so good, so I continued and took notes during the film in order to write this review.

It started off decent enough with a hilarious introduction to the 13th Earl of Gurney.  As expected for an Earl, he lived in a big house and had a Butler.  The Earl seemed to be an eccentric type and as he walked through the house he was undressing, throwing his clothes on the floor for the Butler to pick up.  Once he reached his bedroom we saw that there was a standing arrangement between the two as to what would happen next.  A ballet tutu was donned, a rope attached to the ceiling and, accidentally, a ladder fell over!  Suffice to say, the 13th Earl of Gurney was soon replaced by the 14th.

I did find the film a little comical, the scene mentioned above was followed by another when the Will of the deceased was read.  As mentioned earlier, the Butler seemed to have had the ear of the deceased and as reward inherited “30 thousand smackers”, cue the first of many breaks into song & dance during the film.  This then brought us to the 14th Earl of Gurney (Peter O’Toole) who also, according to himself, was Jesus.  I shall presume this was the “start” of the film but for me this was where it actually started to taper off.  Sure there were still funny moments, mainly from the Butler, who, even after his inheritance, took to very forthright and candid comments towards his employers.  Title fleabags & privileged assholes who can afford to be bonkers is one of his better descriptions of “the ruling class”.

The film continued with the 14th Earl marrying the mistress of his Uncle (13th Earl’s Brother, who had his eye on the title for himself and his hapless Son), producing an Heir and no longer believing he is Jesus.  He instead moved his attention to 19th Century killer Jack the Ripper.

Now this part of the film interested me, who isn’t by Jack the Ripper?  When I read the brief synopsis on Criterion it was this part that first attracted me to the film.  The history and theory that the perpetrator was a member of the Upper class, some say even a member of the Royal Family was the connection with this film.  Maybe if this had been the Earl’s chosen “character” from the start I would have connected with the film better, who knows.  I have yet to watch the Extras that come with this Criterion, maybe they will help me see the film in a different light?

A note to animal lovers, there is a scene of a foxhunt.  I am uncertain to how graphic it is as I hit fast forward.  The scene starts at the 1 hour 58 minute mark.  There is also a scene in an animal laboratory in which a rat is injected and another is seen cut open.  I do apologise but I did not note down the time for this scene but you will be able to spot it as two characters walk through a laboratory before the animals are seen.

If you do choose to watch I hope you enjoy.  This is by no means a bad film, just not for me.


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