The Ruling Class 1971

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Another Oscar nomination for Peter O’Toole didn’t go far in cementing the reputation of Peter Medak’s 1972 version of Peter Barnes’ play, adapted by the author. O’Toole plays Jack Arnold Alexander Tancred Gurney, who in the first half of The Ruling Class believes he’s Jesus Christ, complete with a crucifix that he rests on, and then afterwards he’s Jack the Ripper. There’s musical scenes in the style of a student musical, comic support from Alastair Sim and Arthur Lowe, and a general feeling of anything goes that makes for an unheralded classic of anti-establishment comedy as only the British can make. The sight of O’Toole arriving in the bedroom for his wedding night on a tricycle is worth savouring for connoisseurs of cinematic wildness.

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