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
Premiere voted this movie as one of "The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time" in 2006. See more »
The famous minuet heard frequently in the film (supposedly being rehearsed by the crooks) is from Luigi Boccherini's Quintet in E Major, Op.11, No. 5. Most string quintets (Mozart, Brahms, Mendelssohn, etc.) add a second viola to the conventional string quartet (two violins, viola, cello), and are referred to as "viola quintets." Boccherini, himself a cellist, wrote most of his 100+ string quintets for a combination of two violins, viola, and two cellos, or "cello quintet." The crooks in The Ladykillers -- posing as a viola quintet -- display the wrong combination of instruments for performing the Boccherini minuet, but this may have been intended as a mistake on the part of the crooks rather than the filmmakers. 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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