Peter O'Toole is instantly recognizable by his stage-trained voice and immaculate diction, regal bearing, and piercing blue eyes. Known mostly, if not primarily, for his role in David Lean's (Passage to India, Doctor Zhivago, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Brief Encounter, Oliver Twist) 1962 adaptation of T.E. Lawrence's memoirs, Lawrence of Arabia, O'Toole delivered a string of mesmerizing performances, beginning with Lawrence of Arabia, and continuing through Beckett (1964), Lord Jim (1965), A Lion in Winter (1968), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), and, the subject of this week's feature, The Ruling Class (1972), an adaptation of Peter Barnes' 1968 much-lauded play for the English stage.

In The Ruling Class, Ralph Gurney, the 13th Earl of Gurney (Harry Andrews), dies via auto-erotic asphyxiation, leaving Jack Arnold Alexander Tancred Gurney (Peter O'Toole) to inherit his title, land, property, and the family seat in the House of Lords. Jack, however, inherited something else from his predecessor: mental illness. Jack is a paranoid schizophrenic. He believes he's the literal Second coming of Jesus Christ, he's eager to spread the message of "unity in universal love" beyond the confines of his family's estate. To match the popular depiction of Jesus, Jack's grown out his hair and beard, wears a monk's robe and sandals. That's nothing compared to his penchant for breaking out in song and dance and sleeping upright on a cross.
categories Cinematical