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The Ladykillers (1955)

The Lady Killers

Directed by:

Alexander Mackendrick

Ethan Coen

Joel Coen

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 97 minutes

UK Certificate: U

On DVD

Country: United Kingdom, United States

Is it any wonder the Coen brothers were so keen to get their mitts on the rights to remake ‘The Ladykillers’? Sure, it’s dated (it’s tough not to be at nigh-on 50 years old) and it often feels more like watching a stage production than an actual movie – but it sure is enjoyable.

Arguably the last proper “Ealing Comedy”, it throws us merrily back to a time before the genre was taken over by the Jim Carreys and Adam Sandlers of this world. It’s about a gang of gentleman crooks, led by a buck-toothed and pasty-faced Alec Guinness (the voice, of course, is a dead giveaway), who use a sweet old granny (Kaitie Johnson) as a pawn in their scheme to steal £60,000 from a couple of security vehicles.

All goes to plan when the doddery old bat unwittingly plays her part for the men she thinks are humble musicians – but, when she finally catches on to what’s happening, our thieves are left with a problem. And, as a clue to what the problem is, it’s pink and wrinkly.

This marvellous caper is directed by ‘Whisky Galore!’ helmsman Alexander Mackendrick and features among its cast Peter Sellers in his first major film role and, even better, Frankie “Oooooooooooh ooooooh ooh oooooh-oooooh ooh, shut yer face missus” Howerd punching a man over a horse and committing GBH on a parked car.

How the modern day version (with Tom Hanks taking Guinness’ place) will show up in comparison remains to be seen, but it certainly has the sort of plot-driven simplicity that should make it relatively easy to adapt to any era. Regardless of how Messrs Coen and Coen’s update turns out, the original remains a great slice of comedy to be enjoyed over and over again.

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It's Got: Large instruments.

It Needs: A new gramophone.

DVD Extras Just a trailer. DVD Extras Rating: 1/10

Alternatives:

Bad Santa, Palookaville, Quick Change, Small-Time Crooks, The Ladykillers (2004), The Lavender Hill Mob, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, Welcome to Collinwood

Summary

A film to give you a nice ‘Ealing all over.

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