7 Jan 2013

THE LADYKILLERS (1955)

By David Lee Andrews   Posted at  07:30   PETER SELLERS

The Ladykillers Cover Did you know Kenneth Tynan was an English theatre critic and writer from back in the day, who had a very pronounced and slithery way about him? In fact, his characteristics were so pronounced, that Alex Guinness imitated him in this film directed by Alexander Mackendrick, and Starring Alex his good self, plus Peter Sellers, Cecil Parker, Danny Green and Herbert Lom. It was made in 1955 and lasted for whole 91 minutes.


The Ladykillers


THE STORY:
Poe-faced criminal mastermind, Professor Marcus (Alec Guinness), thought that he had devised the perfect plan. He would rent a room owned by the bird-loving octogenarian, Mrs Wilberforce (Katie Johnson), so that he and his criminal cronies can pose as musicians, whilst secretly planning to rob an armoured car from behind the scenes.

Oh! Wait a minute! Before I forget, I best mention Professor Marcus's allies, mustn't I? For a start, there's the balding Major Courtney (Cecil Parker) -- who seems like a nice chap on the surface. Crocked. But nice. Next there's that sinister looking fiend called Louis (Herbert Lom) -- who doesn't like the look of little old ladies. Then there's the cockney sparrow known as Harry (Peter Sellers) -- who's as bent as a nine-bob note. Plus finally there's the muscle bound brute 'One-Round' (Danny Green) -- just don't call him stupid, OK?

Admittedly, I have to confess, that this den of thieves do sound like a very eclectic bunch on the surface; appearing as if they couldn't catch a parrot who has escaped from its cage! Nonetheless, their scheme is a successful one don't you know. Heck, they even manage to dupe Mrs Wilberforce into couriering their loot for them not so long after they steal it!

However, how were they supposed to know that she'd also stumble on their scheme when they then try to get away as well?

Oh dear! I bet you anything that's most probably why what next transpires all kicks off when its five crooks verses a little old lady! As grannies must die - crooks must fly - turn about is fair play - and let not forget that all you'll only miss is a penny in the pound at the end of the day!




THE REVIEW:
Now if truth be told, I can not really remember when I first watched 'The Ladykillers'. Granted, I know that I must have been young at the time; and saw it with my parents or some other relatives whilst living at home. Also, if I'm correct, I thought I liked it too, even if I wasn't quite sure why Inspector Clouseau and Chief Inspector Dreyfus acted in a strange way with each other.

Still, that's age for you, isn't it? When you're young you are confused about things. But when you are older, you can appreciate that this film is a magical piece of movie making, and is as good as any of the cr*p that they churn out today. Honest to Godfrey! When I finished watching this flick recently, a tear ran down my face because deep down inside me I knew that many of the people in this piece are no longer with us. Moreover, I can say the same thing about story-telling and simplicity to boot.


The Cast of The Ladykillers


The Ladykillers Poster
Here, check out some of these filmic facts for a bit more background information on what I mean by this. (1) This picture was released by 'The Rank Corporation' on the 8th of December, 1955, in London's West End. (2) Peter Sellers was a great admirer of Alec Guinness, and he wanted to imitate a film career like his too [click here for another film they starred in together]. (3) As well as being voted one of the '50 Greatest Comedies of All Time' by 'Premier' magazine, this film has been adapted three times in the media since. In 1996 BBC Radio 4 broadcast a version of this film starring Edward Petherbridge and Margot Boyd. In 2004 the Coen Brothers remade this film 'southern style', starring Tom Hanks, Marlon Wayans, Tzi Ma, Ryan Hurst, J.K. Simmons and Irma P. Hall. Plus in 2011 Graham Linehan -- of 'Father Ted' fame -- adapted this film into a stage play that was performed at the 'Liverpool Playhouse' and London's 'Guilgud Theater'. (3) Director, Alexander Mackendrick, originally wanted actor, Richard Attenborough, to play the part of Harry. Moreover, comedian, Tommy Cooper, was considered for the role of One-Round, although he was prevented from auditioning due to pre-existing stage commitment he had at that time. (4) Katie Johnson was initially rejected for the role of Mrs Wilberforce, because the producers thought she was too 'frail' for the part. However, when the much younger actress they eventually hired died before filming, they changed their minds pretty quickly. (5) Mrs. Wilberforce's birds were allegedly voiced by Peter Sellers. (6) When Alec Guinness was offered the part of Professor Marcus, he presumed that it was meant for Alastair Sims instead of him. On a side note, it's a common mistake for people to confuse Alec with Alastair. (7) American screenwriter, William Rose, publicly stated the he dreamt of this picture prior to writing it. (8) By in large this production was recorded in and around Kings Cross and Saint Pancras Railway Stations. For example, Mrs. Wilberforce's house was a set built at the western end of Frederica Street. The views from her house are of Argyle Street, three quarters of a mile away. And the robbery at the beginning of the movie took place in Cheney Street, near its junction with Battle Bridge Road. (9) Herbert Lom once said that Peter Sellers asked him if he could help him find more film work after this movie was made. In response, Herbert replied back to him 'I'm sure you won't find any problem, Peter'. (10) Yes. That was Frankie Howerd who played the barrow-boy, and Kenneth Connor who played the taxi driver. Both of them 'Carry On' stalwarts.


The Heist in The Ladykillers


The Ladykillers Foriegn Film Poster
Do you see what I am driving at dear reader? Can you see why I got all menopausal after watching 'The Ladykillers' again? It's a great film. The story is incremental in nature. The characters are full of character. The tone of this piece is one-half jovial, one-half sinister. And all in all they just don't make movies like this anymore!

Just take how this adventure is structured for instance. Act One: Introduce the characters and the plot. Act Two: Execute the plot. Act Three: Throw a spanner in the works. And Act Four: Leave everyone scratching there heads with a conclusion that's as dark as it is light.

Well, how many times have you watched a flick where the actors gave depth to their seemingly one-dimensional roles, whilst leaving you feeling happy yet sad about the ending at the same time? Not many. I'm sure. Though don't just take my word for it, try watching this film back to back with its remake, and tell me that this version lacks anything compared to it predecessor! Go on. Have a watch. Because I will soon. Knowing in the pit of my stomach that you cannot improve on something that is so unique, it cannot be imitated so easily.


Classic Film Still from The Ladykillers


Overall 'The Ladykillers' is a masterful piece of filmmaking. And if you haven't guessed it by now, it's defiantly one of my top five favorite films of all time. Plus, on a side note, one of the stand-out things for me in this film -- apart from the film itself -- is how Herbert Lom acts in it. Here, check out what John Badham has to say on this matter...




Agreed.

THE RATING: A+

On A Side Note: This review Is dedicated to the cast of this gilm. In memory of Peter, Herbert, Cecil, Danny, and Alastair... err... I mean Alex. You will never be forgotten.

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