Reviewer's Rating 5 out of 5   User Rating 5 out of 5
The Ladykillers (1955)

The last of the great Ealing Comedies, "The Ladykillers" is a wonderfully macabre black comedy that really does improve with age.

Ealing stalwart Alec Guinness delivers a typically mesmerising performance as Professor Marcus, a criminal mastermind whose brain should have been displaying an Out of Order sign for some time.

His latest plan is to dupe a sweet old lady, Mrs Wilberforce (Johnson), into picking up the loot for him and his mismatched gang after they rob a security van.

The gang consists of a genial bruiser (Green); Jack-the-lad rogue (Sellers); doddery old army type (Parker); and cold-hearted assassin (Lom). Under the guise of playing string quintets, all five meet at her house to plan the robbery.

The actual heist is probably one of the easiest in cinematic history ("Rififi" this ain't), but the fun and games all follow afterwards.

It's easy to see "The Ladykillers" as a series of metaphors for the state of post-war Britain (it's set in a dilapidated house which lists precariously due to heavy war damage, for example).

Luckily, it's also easy to see it as a deliciously black comedy - a sister picture to "Kind Hearts and Coronets" - in which five supposedly hardened criminals go weak at the knees at the thought of doing in a little old lady.

While Guinness' teeth could have won a best supporting actor award in their own right, every performance shines through in smog-filled London.

If you've seen "The Ladykillers" before, make sure you see it on the big screen to appreciate Alexander Mackendrick's gothic approach. And if you've never seen it before, you owe it to yourself to see how great the British film industry used to be.

It's little wonder Hollywood has spent the best part of a decade trying to remake "The Ladykillers" - pray to God they never succeed.

End Credits

Director: Alexander Mackendrick

Writer: William Rose

Stars: Alec Guinness, Cecil Parker, Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom, Danny Green, KC Martel, Katie Johnson, Jack Warner, Frankie Howerd

Genre: Comedy

Length: 97 minutes

Original: 1955

Cinema: 9 August 2002

Country: UK

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