EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
(director: Alexander MacKendrick;
story by William Rose/William Rose;
cinematographer: Otto Heller;
music: Tristram Cary;
cast: Alec Guinness (Professor
Marcus), Cecil Parker (Maj. Courteney/Claude),
Herbert Lom (Louis/Mr. Harvey), Peter Sellers (Harry/Mr. Robinson),
Johnson (Mrs. Louisa Alexandra Wilberforce), Danny Green (One-Round/Mr. Lawson),
Frankie Howard (The Barrow Boy), Philip Stainton (Sergeant MacDonald), Jack Warner
(Police Superintendent), Kenneth Connor (The Taxi Driver), Fred Griffiths
(The Junkman), Edie
MPAA Rating: NR;
producer: Michael Balcon;
Anchor Bay Entertainment;
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
last of the comedies produced by the Ealing Studios, who before the year was over sold out to
the BBC. It's a brisk heist pic shot in lush Technicolor, with a
droll black humor. Director Alexander MacKendrick ("Sweet
Smell of Success"/"Whisky Galore!"/"The Man in the White Suit"), raised in Glasgow but born in Boston, is at the top of his game directing, and
adeptly uses the clever story by William Rose, an American who relocated in
Canada, to keep things delightfully foolish. Rose's plot line and
characters are deliciously off-beat, and the ensemble cast are all
finely in tune for their hilarious roles in this bizarre bungled
Alec Guinness wears false
teeth as he disappears into his role of the crazed Professor Marcus
(looking much like Alastair Sim), the sinister over-polite mastermind who
schemes an elaborate robbery of a London armored bank van. Posing as a
music professor, the Professor rents two upstairs rooms in the
Victorian house near St Pancras
Station of the lonely,
doddering elderly widow Mrs.
Johnson). Mrs. W. is a frequent visitor to the local police station,
who kindly treat the well-meaning pest as someone they believe lives in
a fantasy world and is harmless--someone who could have been their
The Professor invites over
his four other crime partners, the
teddy boy punk Harry Robinson (Peter Sellers), the homicidal Louis Harvey (Herbert Lom), the oily confidence man Maj. Courteney (Cecil Parker) and the simple-minded oafish One-Round (Danny Green), telling the trusting landlady they are
an amateur string group who are rehearsing. The boys fake playing the
classics, as a phonograph subs for them.
They successfully pull off
the daring daylight heist of £60,000 and
the loot in a huge trunk at a locker at St Pancras Station, where they get the unsuspecting Mrs. W.
to go through police security to bring the trunk back to their flat in
a taxi. But they bungle things before they can make a clean escape as
through their own stupidity, greed and inability to kill the busybody
old lady (who catches on at last that she's hosting robbers), they end
up squabbling amongst themselves until their problems are literally
eliminated one by one.
Always witty but never fully
believable (it takes a lot of crafty writing and smart acting to make
the flawed plot line so workable), The Ladykillers take serious matters
like robbery and murder and makes them funny (which is no easy trick,
but when done right makes for great comedy!).
REVIEWED ON 9/9/2010 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ