Monday, March 14, 2011

290. The Ladykillers (1955)

Running Time: 97 minutes
Directed By: Alexander Mackendrick
Written By: William Rose
Main Cast: Alec Guinness, Katie Johnson, Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom, Peter Sellers


After watching "The Lavender Hill Mob" the other night and thoroughly enjoying it, I immediately moved the rest of the Ealing Studios' comedies to the top of my Netflix queue, and it just so happens that "The Ladykillers" was the first one I received.

The film is set in England and starts off by introducing us to Mrs. Louisa A. Wilberforce (Johnson), an old widowed woman, who is terribly proper and visits the police station routinely to have a chat with the superintendent. Mrs. Wilberforce has just placed an ad in the paper notifying the public that she has rooms to rent and when she returns home from the police station one day, she hears a knock at her door. The knock belongs to Professor Marcus (Guinness), a seemingly proper man who claims to be a Professor at the University and a man who needs a room. He also notes that he and a group of his friends are amateur musicians and that if she doesn't mind, they would use the room she rents him to practice in. Being the kind old lady that she is, she of course has no qualms about that and the Professor's "friends" are invited. Professor Marcus' friends consist of the equally proper Major Claude Courtney (Parker), the weaselly Harry Robinson (Sellers), the muscle man with the low I.Q. "One Round" (Danny Green) and the quiet hitman Louis Harvey (Lom). What Mrs. Wilberforce doesn't know is that the men cannot play a lick of music and that they are actually plotting a bank robbery, of which Mrs. Wilberforce will unknowingly be their sixth man...or woman. They plan to trick Mrs. Wilberforce into picking up the money for them and delivering it to them back at the house. Of course, things don't go as planned and hilarity and chaos ensue.


This will, more than likely, be kept just as short and sweet as "The Lavender Hill Mob" review. I'll start out by saying that I liked "The Lavender Hill Mob" better than "The Ladykillers", but not by much. The thing that I think I liked less about this one is that there was far less running around and confusion. In "The Lavender Hill Mob" the crooks are forced to run around the city of London to get their heist pulled off perfectly and then are forced to run around Paris to try and retrieve some of their lost loot. In "The Ladykillers" the heist is over with in the first thirty minutes of the film and then everyone is pretty much stationary for the remainder of the film, as the quintet of crooks and Mrs. Wilberforce quarrel about what will be done with the stolen "lolly". I know, it's a very small and unimportant thing to nitpick about, but I'll be the first to admit that. This movie was also just a bit too dark for me - from the sinister looking Professor Marcus to the desolate and haunted looking house that Mrs. Wilberforce occupied and even some of the camera angles and colors, it just wasn't as jovial as "The Lavender Hill Mob" and I think I may have taken it more seriously than I should have because of these aspects.

However, with all of that aside, the film was a lot of fun. Guinness, Sellers and really the entire main cast did an outstanding job and the script was actually quite genius, which is something you cannot say about any comedy made today in the States. Most comedies have a very cheap feel to them, while "The Ladykillers" felt very smart and thought out. I'll add that, before you ask, I have seen the remake of "The Ladykillers" and yes I did like it. I know a lot of loyalists to the original hated the Coen Brothers remake, but I saw the Coen Brothers version first, and liked what I saw. However, I did like the cast of the 1955 version a lot better and thought that both scripts were equally good, with the remake having enough changes to make it still feel fresh, even in retrospect.

RATING: 6.5/10 That's probably a bit harsh on the rating side of things, but I gave "The Lavender Hill Mob" a 7.5/10 and I liked it better than this one, so it's a just rating.


March 14, 2011 2:31pm

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