Holland, a shy retiring man, dreams of being rich and living the good life. Faithfully, for 20 years, he has worked as a bank transfer agent for the delivery of gold bullion. One day he befriends Pendlebury, a maker of souvenirs. Holland remarks that, with Pendlebury's smelting equipment, one could forge the gold into harmless-looking toy Eiffel Towers and smuggle the gold from England into France. Soon after, the two plant a story to gain the services of professional criminals Lackery and Shorty. Together, the four plot their crime, leading to unexpected twists and turns. Written by
Rick Gregory <email@example.com>
Ealing Studios turned out a series of comic gems in the late 40s and early 50s and this is a good example. Only a curmudgeon would not laugh aloud during some of the scenes.
The plot, briefly, involves a clever bank clerk (Guiness) developing a plan with a die caster (Holloway) to steal several million pounds of gold bullion, recast it into tourist knicknacks in the shape of Eiffel Tower paperweights, and ship it to Paris to sell on the black market. They recruit two professional thieves to help them.
It may not be Ealing's best comedy (my vote would be for "The Lady Killers") but it's more than funny enough. I'll just give three scenes as examples.
(1) Holloway and Guiness, two honest men, need to recruit what they call a "mob" but have no idea how to go about it. What I mean is -- how would YOU go about recruiting criminal assistants? What they do is go to crowded places of low repute -- saloons, prize fights, the underground -- and shout at each other through the noise about the safe being broken at such-and-such an address and all that money having to be left in it. Then they hole up at the address and wait for the burglars to arrive.
(2) A scene at the Eiffel Tower in which they discover that half a dozen of the gold paperweights instead of the usual leaden ones have been sold to some English schoolgirls. They watch horrified as the door closes and the elevator carrying the girls begins its descent, and they decide to rush down the tightly spiraling staircase to ground level, trying to beat the elevator. By the time they reach the street they've been spun around so many times that they can't stop laughing and are unable to stop twirling around until they fall down.
(3) After the robbery, in an empty warehouse soon to be searched by the police, Guiness must be tied up, gagged, and blindfolded with tape. Then his clothes must be torn and dirtied so that it appears he put up a fight before the gold was taken. But the police arrive too soon, and the others beat it, leaving Guiness standing alone, tied up, and blindfolded, but not dirty. He stumbles about blindly, trying to blow the tape from his mouth, getting his feet caught in discarded bicycle wheels, until he falls into the Thames.
Probably the weakest part of the movie is near the end, when police cars wind up chasing one another because of confusing messages. The scene could have been lifted from Laurel and Hardy. It's a little silly. (Why didn't Guiness and Holloway park the stolen car, get out, and walk away?) But that's a minor consideration.
What surprises me about some of these comedies is that they're able to make us laugh despite the dreary atmosphere. The streets of London look awfully dismal in this grainy black and white film. Some of them were still charred wrecks left over from the Blitz. But it doesn't dampen the comedy at all. Following the successful robbery a drunken Guiness and Holloway return to their boarding house to be chided by their landlady for being "naughty". One pulls the other aside, chuckling conspiratorially, and the two agree to call each other "Al" and "Dutch" -- two REAL BIG gangsters for you.
If you need to use up some neuropeptides this is your movie.
23 of 25 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?