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What hits you first about LHM is its smallness. It is a small film (78 min)
made with a small budget about some small people. But their smallness
doesn't stop them from dreaming the impossibly big - rob the Bank of
England! In fact it is this very smallness & unobtrusiveness that gives Alec
Guinness & Stanley Holloway - bank clerk & artist respectively - their
The film, told in an intelligent flashback, is divided into 3 segments. First is the plotting. A mild mannered bank clerk meets a minor artist. Both want to get out of their seedy Lavender Hill boarding house & nondescript existance. Both look past their glory days. Yet together they have the opportunity to pull off a brilliant crime.
Then comes the heist. A surprisingly simple operation perfectly (almost!) executed. Finally the escape - getting the gold outside the country into the 'continental blackmarket'. Alas, the movie being made in the good old days when crime didn't pay, our heroes must suffer. But by then they have given us enough joy & adventure for us to forgive their one tragic slip.
This is definitely one of the best comedies Ealing studios made in the '50s (my other favourite is the vastly underrated 'Hue & Cry' where Alistair Sim gives a typical quirky performance & the tipsy 'Whiskey Galore'). Holloway & Guinness acted in many of them. They usually played very stiff upper British lip polite, eccentric, but excitable characters. In this movie they decide they are familiar enough to ask each other their first names only after they have robbed a bank together! When Holloway realises they can pull it off, his face is hidden in the shadows as he slowly tells Guinness, 'Thank God Holland, we are both honest men' - a line which I think summarises the entire movie.
The reason this movie is so amusing even today is that it is very tightly scripted (Tibby Clark won an Oscar for his effort) & brilliantly realised by the ensemble cast. As far as caper films go this has half the gadgetry of 'Entrapment' but twice the fun.
This is the 3rd time I am seeing this movie & I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time. Please see this one!
Ealing studios are famous for making very dry and witty comedies; they're
probably most famous for the excellent 'Kind Hearts and Coronets' and darkly
comic 'The Ladykillers', but The Lavender Hill Mob, although not as good as
the other two, is definitely worth a mention.
The Lavender Hill Mob is about a bank clerk (Alec Guinness) that, with the aid of his friend Alfred Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway), a man that makes paperweights in the shape of the Eiffel tower, has an ingenious idea of how to rob his own bank. The two realise that the bank cannot be robbed by just them, so they set a trap to catch a couple of criminals, and once they've recruited them; The Lavender Hill Mob is born.
Alec Guinness, a regular of Ealing comedies and a man that I think is worthy of the title "the greatest actor of all time" shines, as usual, in this movie. Alec Guinness manages to hit the tone of his character just right; he is suitably creepy, as he is, a criminal, and yet at the same time he's also eccentric enough to be considered an upstanding citizen and bank clerk. Guinness is, however, not the only actor who's performance in this movie is worthy of acclaim, the entire cast shine in their respective roles; Stanley Holloway is more subdued in his role, but that's also suited to his character. There are also excellent support performances from Sid James, who is mostly remembered for his work on the 'Carry on' films; Alfie Bass, whom fans of British comedy TV will remember from the series "Are You Being Served" and there's also a very small role for Audrey Hepburn, who's movie legacy is legendary.
The Lavender Hill Mob also features many memorable moments that will stick in the viewers' mind long after the film has ended. Parts of the film such as the chase on the Eiffel tower and the way that the two central characters manage to loose the entire police force are legendary. The Lavender Hill Mob is a small movie, but it's a movie that aims big and it works a treat. This movie also features a brilliant twist ending that rivals the one in the superb 'Kind Hearts and Coronets'.
Overall, The Lavender Hill Mob is, despite its low budget and short running time, a spectacular comedy film that should not be missed by anyone.
A banker decides to rob his own bank.
A classic small British film that punches above it weight. Good cast get their teeth in to an Oscar winning script. The kind of film they should show at films schools to show how good films are constructed and delivered. One of the top 100 comedy films ever made - although delivers small chuckles rather than out-and-out laughs.
The DVD used Audrey Hepburn's first movie appearance as a promotion.
Together with the fact that Alec Guinness is the leading man, I
immediately jumped at the chance of watching the film.
The film began with Alec Guinness recalling his life last year, as a 20-year bank clerk and how he plotted to steal a vast amount of gold. Stanley Holloway (who also starred as Eliza's father in My Fair Lady) and Alec Guinness made a wonderful couple. And watch out for the elegant Audrey Hepburn in the first 10 minutes of the movie.
The story unfolded nicely as Alec narrated how he formulated his plan, how he recruited partners to execute his well-thought plan and how, when their plan did go wrong, they improvised. The scene of them chasing after Englsih school girls at the Eiffel Tower in Paris is particularly impressive. It is as if they were flying in the air and laughing their hearts out on a merry-go-round. I kept wondering how modern movies did not make such shots any more. It was funny to see how they persisted in order to succeed. They were like serious school kids who was intent on completing their project by any means. Never did they think of betraying their team members.
With an excellent script, funny characters and a marvellous twist in the end, this movie is not a bit out of date. Love to watch it again soon.
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.
This is a comedy the talented Alec Guinnes did for the Ealing studio in
the early part of his career. Of his Ealing days, he left us a legacy
that is hard to surpass: "Kind Hearts and Coronets", "The Ladykillers"
and this one, that comes to mind.
Directed by Charles Crichton and written by T.E. Clarke, this is a fun movie that in spite of the years since it was filmed, it still charms its audiences, young and old.
The background is a London, right after the war. The film is original in that it takes us all over the city to places that one can identify so clearly, even after more than 50 years! It speaks of how careful are the English not to destroy their monuments.
As the would be robbers, Henry "Dutch" Holland is a man with a plan. He recognizes in his neighbor of the Lavender Hill rooming house, Alfred Pendlebury, a kindred soul that will see his proposal of how to steal the precious gold bullion from the Bank of England. It's a big operation, yet, only four people are needed to carry on the job.
This is a comedy of errors, where the best laid plans go awry in the small details the gang hadn't planned. The sure thing becomes a dead giveaway to the authorities once Holland and Pendlebury decide to go after the souvenir one young student bought in Paris that is part of the loot. Prior to that, the scenes in Paris at the Eiffel Tower was an original sequence for a movie that relies on intelligence rather than in overblown special effects.
Alec Guinness is charming as the master mind behind the heist. Stanley Holloway, a great English actor is magnificent as the man with an artistic eye, who almost derails the operation. Sid James and Alfie Bass contribute to make the film the joy it is with their comic presence. In a small cameo that comes and goes so quickly, we watch a young and elegant Audrey Hepburn makes an graceful appearance.
This is a film for all Ealing fans of all ages.
This is a gentle understated English comedy, a classic example of
Ealing Studios' output of the 1950s. But paradoxically what makes it
most remarkable is its sheer exuberance, the unconcealed glee of
Holland and Pendlebury as they revel in the success of their audacious
plan. Their first meeting after seeing each other at the police
station, the drunken return to their rooms after their celebratory meal
and of course the famous descent of the Eiffel Tower, their laughter
echoing the giggles of the schoolgirls spiralling round and round
before falling dizzily out at the bottom.
Painting and sculpture were Pendlebury's wings, his escape from his "unspeakably hideous" business occupation. But when Holland delicately introduces him to his own dream of twenty years' to escape - and not just metaphorically - from life as a nonentity, Pendlebury is drawn in. The scenes in the Balmoral Private Hotel in Lavender Hill are outstanding, and the sparse dialogue allows Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway to shine as Holland suggests to Pendlebury how gold might be smuggled out of the country. "Hohohoho; By Jove, Holland, it is a good job we are both honest men." "It is indeed, Pendlebury."
Later in the film, the plot stands less well up to scrutiny but Guinness and Holloway are easily able to carry the viewers' attention. Chases that turn into farces often don't work in this style of British film, but here again Holland and Pendlebury carry such energy and excitement that they fit in well, and I am sure that even in nineteen fifties Britain, large numbers of the audience will have grasped the ironic humour of the policeman singing "Old MacDonald," in addition to those laughing at the straightforward ludicrousness of the scene.
Aficionados of British postwar comedy will enjoy this film, and because it lacks the dryness of say, "Kind Hearts and Coronets" or "The Ladykillers" it provides a more accessible introduction for those who are new to this most wonderful of genres.
In my opinion - this is the best comedy movie ever made. There are few
movies that can still generate belly laughs two or three years after their
release. This movie is still funny after more than fifty years! Plus it
has some of the greatest comedy scenes ever filmed: the "my safe is broken
and I have the whole payroll in it" scene; the two small-time thieves
comparing resumes; Alec Guiness blending into the crowd of City bankers;
and, of course, the famous last scene.
Alec Guinness (1914-2000) plays a bank clerk who gets an idea to rob his own bank.He does that with the help of his friend Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway) and two professional criminals Lackery (Sid James) and Shorty (Alfie Bass).Lavender Hill Mob is brilliant crime comedy from 1951.The late Alec Guinness does amazing role work and the other actors do also superb job.You can also see the young and beautiful Audrey Hepburn playing Chiquita there.The movie has lots of marvelous scenes.One hilarious scene is the scene where the gang is trying to get to ship but are having all kind of problems with passports and stuff.And the car chase is absolutely brilliant.Watch this British classic movie.It won't let you down I guarantee it.
Ealing studios in Great Britain had a reputation for producing some
very droll comedies in the post World War II years and this one was
done when Ealing was at its height.
Alec Guinness is once again playing a mild mannered schnook of a man who no one notices at all. In fact his own superiors at his job, tell him to his face that his only virtue is a dull, honest dependability with a lack of imagination.
Boy how they were wrong. Guinness's job is to supervise the transfer of gold bullion from where it is smelted into bars to the Bank of England. Every working day he accompanies the gold in an armored truck to the bank. And Sir Alec's imagination has been working overtime as to how a robbery could be accomplished.
As he's discovered a long time ago, the problem isn't the robbery, it's the fencing of the loot. Well, bigger and more professional criminals have failed to lick that one on occasion.
Into Guinness's life walks Stanley Holloway who's the owner of a small foundry that makes lead souvenirs for sale. Another man with a dull life, looking for adventure. Guinness recognizes both a kindred spirit and a solution to his problem.
What makes The Lavendar Hill Mob work is the chemistry between Guinness and Holloway. It's so understated, but at the same time, so droll, funny, and touching. These two middle-aged men are living out a fantasy we'd all like to live, even if it means a touch of robbery. Guinness's character name is Henry Holland and Holloway is Alfred Pendlebury. As the friendship grows, they stop referring to each other as Mr. Holland and Mr. Pendlebury. Holloway even gives Holland the gangster nickname of Dutch.
They pick up two other amiable allies in petty crooks Sidney James and Alfie Bass. The robbery comes off pretty much as planned, but afterward things don't quite work out.
They use Holloway's foundry to make solid gold statues of the Eiffel Tower and send them to Paris to get them out of the country. What follows after that is some pretty funny situations, a mad run down the real Eiffel Tower and also one of the wildest police chase scenes ever filmed.
The run down the Eiffel Tower has always been a favorite of mine. When I was a lad, my parents took the family to Washington, DC for a sight seeing tour and I got the brilliant idea of walking down the Washington Monument to see the various commemorative stones in the wall of the Monument. Even after walking down, my whole family felt just like Guinness and Holloway.
Sir Alec Guinness got his first Oscar nomination for The Lavendar Hill Mob, but lost the big sweepstakes to Gary Cooper for High Noon. the Lavendar Hill Mob won an Oscar for the screenplay.
I understand there will be a remake of it coming out next year. I can't conceive of any remake possibly duplicating the chemistry between Guinness and Holloway.
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