A gang planning a 'job' find themselves living with a little old lady, who thinks they are musicians. When the gang set out to kill Mrs Wilberforce, they run into one problem after another, and they get what they deserve. Written by
Who was that lady I saw you outwit last night? That was no lady...That was 'Mum' Wilberforce, a lovely old doll, well known to the police, and landlady to the shadiest bunch of characters in London! See more »
When Alec Guinness was offered the part of Professor Marcus, he wrote to the producers to say "but this is meant for Alastair Sim surely". It is not known whether Sim was considered for the part. See more »
From the street in front of Mrs. Wilberforce's house, the front of St. Pancras station is visible, placing the house south of the station. No tracks leave St. Pancras or the adjacent King's Cross station in that direction, so the house could not be adjacent to a tunnel as depicted (see trivia entry). See more »
One of the Ealing studio's finest achievements, this immensely entertaining crime caper looks at first glance to be pure, inconsequential entertainment. But it doubles as a sly, subtle rummage around the psychology of the respectable, old-fashioned middle classes, with Katie Johnson deserving top billing alongside Alec Guinness (she doesn't get it) for her remarkable turn as the lady in question, the redoubtable Mrs Wilberforce.
No less than the not-quite-ruthless-enough gang of criminals who scheme in her house, she lives in her own private universe with its own particular rules and values. Though she begins the film as the stereotype of a maddeningly officious pillar of local society, it gradually emerges that there is a freer as well as shrewder spirit locked in there than meets the eye. The umbrella she is always losing (she herself suggests that she unconsciously _wants_ to lose it), the escapologist parrot, and most poignantly the memory of a 21st birthday party interrupted by the end of the Victorian age, all hint at an inner life that the comic plot could easily have done without. The screenplay, deservedly Oscar-nominated, has the genius and economy to provide us with all these hints without ever slowing down a tightly-edited and superbly directed narrative.
The other characters are a good deal simpler, but Alec Guinness is in impressively seedy form as 'Professor' Marcus and Cecil Parker makes an appealing Major. Peter Sellers and Herbert Lom don't have a great deal to do and don't try to hog the limelight, but there's a nice cameo from Frankie Howerd. Ealing went out on a high.
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