Starring Peter O’Toole, Alistair Sim, Arthur Lowe and Coral Browne
Screenplay by Peter Barnes based on his play
Directed by Peter Medak
Running time 154 minutes
Our last movie Black Cat, White Cat was a wildly anarchic farce about two fathers and their gypsy gangster families. Our next film The Ruling Class is a dark, comic satire about an equally ruthless clan - but this time they are British and part of the landed gentry.
Peter O’Toole is Jack Arnold Alexander Tancred Gurney - the only surviving son of the 13th Earl of Gurney - released from an insane asylum to inherit the family fortune when his father dies during a bizarre sexual act. The consequent family intrigue and plotting unleashes a very different side of Jack to the harmless peace-loving man he is at the beginning…
The Ruling Class began life as a play by Peter Barnes. It was Barnes' writing debut in 1968 and with Peter O’Toole in the lead enjoyed a long West End run and picked up several prestigious theatre awards. O’Toole bought the film rights and was persuaded to reprise his role on film by director Peter Medak. Medak cast a fantastic group of British character actors in the lead roles including Arthur Lowe as the communist Butler Tucker, Alistair Sim as the hypocritical Bishop Lampton and Coral Browne as the sinister Lady Claire.
The Ruling Class is by turns outrageous, disturbing and coruscating as it puts the British political and class systems through the mincer. Like Lindsay Anderson’s O Lucky Man!, made a year later and which we showed a few years back in the AFC, the satire seems just as chillingly relevant today as it did back then. The play was revived this year and has just finished a sell-out run with James McAvoy in the lead. McAvoy was widely praised for his performance as Jack but it pales next to O'Toole's - don’t miss this rare opportunity to see a neglected British classic.