"This will be a short review, since I concur with the other positive comments on this classic Ealing comedy, as well as the extensive plot summary ( actually a little too extensive for people who have not seen the film ). I gave it four stars only because I consider "The Ladykillers" to be superior.As always, Sir Alec shines in the lead role, with fine support from Stanley Holloway and Sidney James, years before his "Carry On" fame. The humour here is dark and subtle, and of course there is a delightful "twist" at the end, an Ealing trade mark.I found the quality of this DVD to be more than acceptable for a 50 plus year-old film. Some of the location scenes in London are interesting, with areas damaged by the "blitz" in World War II still very evident.So--if you like comedy with genuine wit and style ( very rare today, in the era of teen-oriented gross-out movies ), you will enjoy this one. Recommended."
Black and white heist flick bathed in purple and gold
Mike Stone | 08/09/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm usually not a fan of movies featuring bumbling innocents trying to do right, brought down by an endless series of accidents and mistakes. The futility of the whole exercise frustrates me, and I can't find any room for humour in the whole endeavor. "The Lavender Hill Mob" nearly falls into this trap, but thankfully doesn't. The reason it doesn't -- and it's a reason I can't go into without ruining the wonderful surprise ending -- preserves the comedy of this delightful little heist movie.It's a very subdued comedy. The word on the street led me to believe that wacky hijinks and silly shenanigans would be the order of the day. Not true. Actually, there's a lot of quiet dignity here. Which makes the moments of action that much funnier. Alec Guinness as the mob's "boss" Henry Holland, a 20-year vet of the straight and narrow, is a desperate man, but he always does his best to maintain control in stressful situations. He screws up his face, peers (with glorious wide eyes) knowingly from behind his glasses, and does his best to understand and analyze the predicaments he finds himself in. When he's successful in that endeavor, the proceedings are funny. But when he isn't... well... they're that much funnier. Stanley Holloway plays his cohort, Pendlebury, a disgruntled manufacturer of cheap souvenirs. He's a less menacing, almost innocent Sydney Greenstreet-type, who gets roped into a situation that appears foolproof. Too bad these men aren't fools; they'd have gotten away scott free. It's their intellect that does them in. They're joined by a couple of charismatic career criminals, who may dress the part but seem more at home sipping tea than casing joints. The scene where the four men meet, while simultaneously trying to rob a payroll safe, is a wonderful moment of manners in the face of criminal activity. A joy to watch.The giggly English schoolgirl scene (a classic) is creepy and disturbing. It's hilarious how a group made up of innocents can be turned menacing in a certain context. Combine the danger of the heights (they're at the top of the Eiffel Tower) with their high pitched giggling, and their tragic effect on the plot, and the girls turn into a dangerous phenomenon. It's quite ludicrous, and very funny. This is followed by a wonderfully surreal chase scene, in which Holland and Pendlebury chase them down via a spiraling staircase. Even though the special effects are cheap and obviously fake, it felt like a ridiculous version of Hitchcock's "Vertigo". It's combination of the stuffy Englishman, the Tower spinning around them, and a wind-whipped trenchcoat tossed overboard makes for some great fun. And the finale, a romp through a police exhibition, has a cool Keystone Cops quality to it that had me giggling with glee. Unfortunately, at times, deteriorated audio tracks and murky, fuzzy video marred some of the action. Wading through the thick accents would have been tough enough, but when you can't hear their voices (or at worst see their lips move), understanding these men was a trial. Too bad, because what I did manage to hear was charming, witty, and terribly funny."
"Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these...
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 05/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"...it might have been." In the early to mid 50's, many studios were churning out comedies, perhaps more so in an effort to get people past those old post war blues, but few did it as well or consistently as the British Ealing Studios (in my humble opinion), helped immensely by the talents of Alec Guinness...what?! Alec Guinness a comedic actor? The same Alec Guinness who starred in such serious films as The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), and A Passage to India (1984)? Yes, it seemed by the end of the 1950's, Guinness had pretty much dedicated himself to more serious parts, but not altogether as he later appeared in the fantastic comedy Murder by Death (1976), which I recommend to anybody in search of a truly good laugh. While many consider The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) to be one of the best of the Guinness/Ealing comedies, I'm partial to one of their later films, The Ladykillers (1955), which was recently remade by the Coen brothers and featured Tom Hanks (I've haven't seen it yet, but I heard not so good things about it). Directed by Charles Crichton (The Titfield Thunderbolt, A Fish Called Wanda), the film stars, along with Guinness, Stanley Holloway (Nicholas Nickleby, Passport to Pimlico). Also appearing is Sid James (The 39 Steps, Upstairs and Downstairs) and Alfie Bass (The Fearless Vampire Killers, Revenge of the Pink Panther).
This comedic caper begins in a tropical setting, where we meet a man named Henry Holland (Guinness), who seems quite popular probably because of the fact he's pretty free with his money. He thus begins to relate a tale to another man, taking us into a flashback that makes up the rest of the film and we learn Holland, prior to being a somewhat well to do philanthropist sort in South America, actually came from humble beginnings as in a previous life he was a mild mannered bank worker, responsible for regularly escorting gold shipments from the smelting facility (that's where they take the raw gold and turn it into bars), to the bank. His coworkers and superiors look upon him as a quiet, by the book sort with no ambition, imagination, or initiative, as `his one and only virtue is honesty'. And that's exactly the way Holland likes it...especially since he aspires to one day steal one of shipments of gold and live out his days well beyond his current means. The only problem is, once stolen, gold bars are extremely difficult to transfer into cash...but a solution soon presents itself in the form of a new tenant to the boarding house Holland resides, one named Alfred Pendlebury (Holloway)...the name of the tenant, not the boarding house...Mr. Pendlebury just happens to operate a modest die casting business, one whose specialty is producing paperweights, one perfectly suited for Holland's needs. Soon the die is cast (so to speak), and the pieces are in place, but, as everyone knows, even the best-laid plans are subject to disaster once in the implementation stage as the human element is always the most unpredictable.
As I said before, of all the Guinness/Ealing comedies, I prefer The Ladykillers most of all, probably due to the darker tone of the material and more outlandish nature of the characters, but that's not to say this film isn't of superior quality, as it won an Academy Award for best writing, story and screenplay, and earned Guinness his first nomination (Gary Cooper won for his role in High Noon). One of things I like most about these older comedies is they don't pander to the lowest common denominator in terms of comedic content, but rather speak to the audience with respect, maintaining a consistent level of intelligence not so often seen nowadays...but that's not to say this couldn't be enjoyed by anyone. I had originally seen this film quite a number of years ago, and appreciated it for the more visual elements as opposed to last night when I enjoyed the more subtle aspects due to a general understanding one usually gains with maturity. Regardless, this is one of those films where everything works well together to bring about a wonderful story. The direction is exceptionally strong and wastes none of the films lean 81 minutes running time. Guinness is about as good as you'll ever see him, fostering a belief that he is, now and forever, the meticulous, level-headed, slightly devious character of Henry Holland (at least until his next film), but is certainly assisted (nearly upstaged) by his costar Holloway, the romantic character, yearning to express his artistic nature, stifled by the drudgery of actually having to earn a living through the mass production of tourist souvenirs. There are any number of wonderful scenes and sequences presented throughout the film, but two come to my mind as being my favorites. One features Mr. Pendlebury moving into the boarding house where Holland lives, and Holland learning of Pendlebury's profession which sets in motion him gingerly broaching the possibility of utilizing Pendlebury's die casting business as a means to process the stolen booty. Holland and Pendlebury, both eventually on the same page, begin almost convincing each other and themselves of the very real possibility that it can be done...the other is the scene where Holland and Pendlebury go about enlisting a couple of extra, but necessary, members for the gang, as the gold shipment is too much for the two of them to handle themselves. It's not like you can put an ad out in the paper for such a thing, so they utilize a very unique method to contact prospective applicants. And there's a bonus! If you love classic movies, you'll be in for a treat...watch for the appearance of a minor character, played by a soon to be legendary actress, about three or four minutes into the film...yes, that's who you think it is...but don't blink, or you'll miss it...
Anchor Bay Entertainment provides a very clean and clear full screen (original aspect ratio) picture on this DVD, with a decent Dolby Digital mono audio. Special features include an original theatrical trailer, and an extensive Alec Guinness biography and liner notes. By the way, I heard there is a remake of this film in the works, scheduled to be released in 2006...I guess time will tell if it's any good or not, but the way I see it, what's the point? I hardly see how they could improve upon the original...
By the way, there is, as I write this, an Alec Guinness DVD set offered by Anchor Bay Entertainment featuring five of his early comedies, including this one, offered at a price that is cheaper than purchasing these DVDs separately, so if you're interested, it might be worth looking into... "
Hilarious, sophisticated Ealing comedy
Bomojaz | South Central PA, USA | 11/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
This is a typically wonderful Ealing comedy starring Alec Guinness as a lowly bank official in charge of transporting gold bullion for the Bank of England. For years he schemes how to steal some of it and finally figures a way: he enlists souvenir trinket caster Stanley Holloway and together they decide to cast their stolen gold into replicas of the Eiffel Tower and ship them to France where they will collect them.
A madcap chase follows involving innocent English schoolgirls on holiday who buy some of the Towers and a stolen police car; the final scene with Guinness in handcuffs is a real beauty. The humor is marvelously droll and sophisticated. This movie represents the famous Ealing Studios at their creative best. The DVD transfer is excellent and an interesting bio of Guinness is included. Definitely worth a watch."
A Wonderful Film
Rocco Dormarunno | Brooklyn, NY | 10/11/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Charles Crichton, who 35 years after directing "The Lavender Hill Mob", would go on to direct "A Fish Called Wanda", paces this wonderful film with the skill of a master. There are a lot of elements that this film and "Wanda" have in common, besides the obvious crime comedy genre. Probably the most notable comparison is the frantic chase scenes at the conclusions of both. Probably the only difference between the two is that the latter is loaded with sexual situations and obscenities...but that was what the times permitted.
Alec Guinness, Stanley Holloway, Sid James, and Alfie Bass turn in bravura performances. (I especially liked the scene in which masterminds Guinness and Holloway "meet" their two gangmembers, James and Bass.) To me, though, the minor characters are equally enjoyable: the landlady, the old woman who loves pulp fiction, the cop who loves "Old MacDonald Had a Farm", and several others. This is an all-around wonderful film, with some significance for history buffs: the scenes of post-war, rubble-strewn London undergoing renewal is both sad and inspiring."