Peter O'Toole, Carolyn Seymour, ...
Credit: The Ruling Class: Everett Collection

The Ruling Class


In The Ruling Class, the 14th Earl of Gurney is a paranoid-schizophrenic who, believing he is Christ, spends teatime lounging on a cross and odd hours delivering unwelcome lectures about social justice. He is also the inheritor of his father’s estate, which prompts his family (harrumphing uncle, rigid aunt, twittish cousin) to conspire against him. Ultimately, the Earl is rid of his delusion — by succumbing to the idea that he’s Jack the Ripper.

Hostile to hippiedom, the aristocracy, and basic good taste, Peter Medak’s adaptation of Peter Barnes’ play bears its rudeness on silver wings. Peter O’Toole flops and wriggles as the Earl, charismatic with lunacy. The extras are few — little more than a jolly commentary by the three Peters and a handful of Medak’s ”home movies” from the shoot — but the high silliness of the film is manna from heaven.

The Ruling Class
  • Movie
  • 154 minutes