|Peter O'Toole as the right-mad 14th Earl of Gurnsey(sp?) in Peter Medak's surreal 1972 film The Rulling Class.|
The Ruling Class (1972)
d. Peter Medak
Criterion Collection #132
The Ruling Class is so strange that it is hard to even describe properly. It's clearly "from the 70s," it's British... Peter O'Toole plays the main character, there are elements of both musicals and horror films but the objective of The Ruling Class is clearly satirizing the landed aristocracy of England circa the late 1960s early 1970s. So.... if you go in for 70s era class conscious satire with elements of music and horror The Ruling Class will almost certainly appeal to you.
On the other hand, if you are a normal American who doesn't give a f*** about the UK let alone the UK in the 1970s, The Ruling Class will leave you scratching your head. The strange mix of elements reminds me of little else besides the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The accompanying Criterion Collection write up is correct in calling Peter O'Toole's performance a :"tour de force."
I gather from Ian Christie's article on The Ruling Class found on the Criterion Collection website that there is a whole bunch of stuff going on inside of The Ruling Class that I just don't have the background to appreciate. My knowledge of 70s British culture is limited to the "rise of punk," "Monty Python," and sociologists of the Birmingham school and their pioneering studies of youth sub-cultures. (1)
The Christie article references the "theatricality" of The Ruling Class and I can see that. You could also call it "campy." Either way it is a particular stylistic chracteristic of The Ruling Class that is kind of make or break in terms of a subjective appreciation of the film. In other words, you either love it or hate it.
(1) I don't think I've ever referenced the Birmingham School but when I was in college I did a thesis on punk/straight edge culture and I think a lot of that stuff really seeped into my brain:
Birmingham School refers to the work of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS), which operated as a research center at the University of Birmingham (UK) between 1964 and 1988. The Birmingham School represents a decisive moment in the creation of the intellectual and institutional project of cultural studies, as well as a “cultural turn” in sociology. The substantive focus of the Birmingham School was popular culture as explored through the concepts of ideology and hegemony. Indeed, the work of CCCS contributed to the legitimization of popular culture as a field of academic inquiry. Among the substantive topics of research undertaken by CCCS were the mass media, youth subcultures, education, gender, race, and the authoritarian state. The media were of special significance insofar as the texts of popular culture in the contemporary world are forged within their framework. CCCS was founded in 1964 as a postgraduate center by Richard Hoggart and developed further under the leadership of Stuart Hall. It is during the period of Hall's directorship (1968–79) that one can first speak of the formation of an identifiable and distinct domain called cultural studies.