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The Lavender Hill Mob

December 7th 2006 10:22
The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)


Another of the oft-celebrated Ealing comedies that starred Alec Guinness. This film, along with three others - 'The Man in the White Suit', 'The Ladykillers' and 'Kind Hearts and Coronets' - are often bunched together as the Ealing classics, and are all worthy entries in the Alec Guinness canon of classic peformances. 'The Lavender Hill Mob' is probably my favourite of these four films.

Guiness plays Henry 'Dutch' Holland, a quiet and unassuming bank clerk who has been toiling away at the same job for most of his adult life. He is a likeable but fairly bland chap, and he has been underestimated all his life. Holland has used his personality and time well... he has spent his career working out the perfect bank heist. When he discovers that he is finally being moved to another department he realises his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is about to slip away from him - so he does the unthinkable, he decides to put his plan into action.

Along with his lodger, Mr Pendlebury, Holland enlists the help of two petty thieves (one of whom - Sid James - should be familiar to fans of the Carry On films) to round out his heist team. The rest of the film plays through the mechanics of Holland's plan, how he achieves his ends, the usual foul-ups that interrupt such plans in the eleventh hour, and the edge-of-the-seat daring that tails these kind of films off. Also of note is a rather well-executed car chase sequence near the film's end.

To my initial surprise, I found this film's deft mix of ingeniousness, comic characterisation and fine plotting to be really fun. I guess it's no mistake that the film won the Academy Award for Best Writing. Alec Guinness really was quite the star too, his performance as the shy but cunning Henry Holland is amongst my favourites and it's easy to see why he's considered such an acting legend. My only gripe with the film would have to be the too-mainstream friendly ending, but I guess that's 50s filmmaking for you - what can you do?

I've also just found out that they're re-making this film, to be directed by Dean Parisot ('Fun with Dick and Jane', 'Galaxy Quest'). I dunno... why? Why do they have to remake it? The recent remake of 'The Ladykillers' was bad enough. Who is going to disgrace Alec Guinness's wonderful performance? In what ways will Hollywood destroy a fine script and the memory of a fine film? Arghhhh! Stop it now, Hollywood movie-machine!

TRIVIA: Audrey Hepburns makes a short appearance near the film's beginning. She was originally meant to have a larger part, but scheduling prevented this.

The bank heist-plan used in the film was devised by the Bank of England, by request of Ealing Studios. I find it rather amazing that a bank would agree to come up with a way to steal it's money for use in a movie, but there you go!
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