This is a flawed gem of British cinema. Bitter, funny and deranged. At times it loses its way, or lays it on a bit too thick, but any faults are made up for by a wonderful set of performances. Particularly strong are O'Toole in his Oscar nominated turn as the maniacal Earl, Arthur Lowe as his insubordinate butler, the great Alistair Simm in one of his last performances, doing what he does best, and a small scene-stealing turn from the wonderful Nigel Green. Many of the supporting actors here made their careers out of gentle English comedies of the 40s and 50s. This film feels half-way between those earlier Ealing-style comedies and more counter-culture offerings of the 70s. While not exactly a musical, the choice to have the characters periodically break out into song and dance numbers may well have influenced Dennis Potter's use of the same devise in Pennies from Heaven a few years later. While I'm not sure that The Ruling Class has has much profound to say as a satire, it does work as a wonderfully deranged comedy on manners with a few chilling moments. Think Kind Hearts and Coronets for post 60s Britain.