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The Ladykillers (1955)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Crime | 24 February 1956 (Belgium)
Five diverse oddball criminal types planning a bank robbery rent rooms on a cul-de-sac from an octogenarian widow under the pretext that they are classical musicians.

Writers:

William Rose (story), William Rose (screenplay)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Alec Guinness ... Professor Marcus
Cecil Parker ... Claude (a.k.a. 'Major Courtney')
Herbert Lom ... Louis (a.k.a. 'Mr. Harvey')
Peter Sellers ... Harry (a.k.a. 'Mr. Robinson')
Danny Green ... One-Round (a.k.a. 'Mr. Lawson')
Jack Warner ... The Superintendent
Katie Johnson ... The Old Lady - Mrs. Wilberforce
Philip Stainton Philip Stainton ... The Sergeant
Frankie Howerd ... The Barrow Boy
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Storyline

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 Rob Hartill

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Be kind to your friends - Don't disclose the ending See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Crime

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

24 February 1956 (Belgium) See more »

Also Known As:

The Lady Killers See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Color:

Color (Colour by) (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to director Alexander Mackendrick and Sir Alec Guinness, Mrs. Wilberforce's birds in this movie were voiced by Peter Sellers. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Professor Marcus: If I may say so, Mrs Wilberforce, you have a lovely, charming house. Such pretty windows. I always feel the windows are the eyes of a house and didn't someone say that the eyes are the windows of the soul?
Mrs. Louisa Wilberforce: What a lovely thought, I do hope someone expressed it.
See more »

Crazy Credits

During the opening credits, roses are shown, to highlight the fact that William Rose wrote the screenplay. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Münchhausen: Ein mythos in Agfacolor (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

Minuet in E major
(uncredited)
Written by Luigi Boccherini, arranged for string ensemble
[playing on the phonograph whenever the robbers are pretending to be practicing]
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Brilliant early dark comedy; much better than the remake
26 June 2004 | by MovieAddict2016See all my reviews

London, 1955. Professor Marcus (Alex Guinness) plans to rob two armored cars with the help of a gang of crooks, played by an ensemble group of actors. They include: Louis (Herbert Lom), The Mayor (Cecil Parker), One-Round (Danny Green) and Harry (Peter Sellers). None of the men have previously met each other, but join together for the single heist.

Their strategic planning takes place in the upstairs of a Victorian home owned by Mrs. Wilberforce (Katie Johnson), a somewhat eccentric older woman who is under the impression that Professor Marcus and his "friends" are part of a music orchestra and unite daily to rehearse. This leads to a film comprised of misconceptions, confusion, and bumbling antics, as the Professor has to spend more of his time keeping Mrs. Wilberforce off their backs than devoting it to planning the robbery.

The film shares resemblance to Danny DeVito's "Duplex" in the scenes where Mrs. Wilberforce continuously interrupts the criminals' scheming, asking them to run errands for her. They reluctantly put up with her constant irritating questions and demands, since she is unknowingly a vital ingredient of their plan. They must use Mrs. Wilberforce in their robbery, and after a while she realizes this, then demands that they return the money, which leads them to the conclusion that they must kill the old woman or else risk losing their entire fortune. However, their constant mistakes and arguments only postpone the inevitable, and it soon seems that the group of tough guys aren't so tough after all. "I can't! I can't!" screams one of the criminals when he pulls the shortest toothpick and is handed the task of "whacking" the poor sweet lady.

All actors are at their peeks here -- Guinness as the Professor is superb, but Sellers in his screen debut is especially noteworthy. The script by William Rose relies on macabre humor rather than constant slapstick. Admittedly, I expected the former when I sat down to see the film, although I came away rather surprised at its sophistication.

The Coen Brothers remade the film in 2004, although the remake failed to capture the essence of this dark comedy. Made before political correctness (in the Coens' version there is the token black character of course), this is a delightfully irreverent black comedy. To be fair, most of the jokes don't hold up as well nowadays. It does not deliver a constant barrage of jokes, but rather a steady mix of black humor and plot -- a very good plot, too. One that keeps our interest and quite often manages to make us smile. "The Ladykillers" is a rare treat, better than the remake, a classic of the genre, and something that will be remembered years from now. It's a real gem of a movie, hard to devote long paragraphs to, much easier to devote 100 minutes of your life to.


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