Okay, I made the huge mistake of watching the news. A few times within the last week, at that. Something-something about watching a train wreck in slow motion or a time-lapse nuclear explosion at one frame per second somehow caught me up and got me even more annoyed than usual. Needing something a lot more amusing and a lot more entertaining (as trust me, the news is surely not at all entertaining these days), I grabbed the first thing from a stack of movies in the half-backlog stash, and here you go.
Yes, I have a half-backlog. Those are films I’ve seen part of and want to complete or sets I’ve seen a few films from but mean to get to them once completed. Well, those plans usually fail royally what with the up and down health status, but I still use the half-backlog system because it sort of works. Hey, you’re reading this review, right? IT WORKS.
Anyway, I actually bought this DVD set a while back and have already reviewed two of these classics here and here (click and enjoy, please). It got lent out to a few people and made the rounds for a bit (hey, I’ll loan films to anyone I know within mailing distance who’ll return them at some point) before I got back to retrieving this from that aforementioned stack. So, how do the rest of these films hold up? Very well, indeed.
The Lavender Hill Mob is a pretty hilarious piece of work, just like the characters in it. Guinness’ formerly reliable bank clerk Henry Holland figures out a somewhat foolproof way to steal a large amount of gold from his London bank and melt it into Eiffel Tower souvenirs over in France. Let’s just say that things go all sorts of wrong after he meets Alfred Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway) an artist who just so happens to own that foundry.
Between smuggling the gold over the border, accidentally selling one of the real gold towers to a stubborn little schoolgirl on holiday with her class ho refuses to give it up and some other craziness (a big chase at a police convention, no less!), this is film that’s always great for a few big laughs. As with Kind Hearts and Coronets, the film telegraphs its ending right at the beginning, but here, it’s more of a tee-up to a surprise finale.
The Ladykillers is not only one of the absolute best Ealing Studios comedies, it’s probably one of the best black comedies ever made. Forget the flawed (but still somewhat watchable) Coen Brothers remake, folks. This gem is the one you want, hands down. Everyone in the cast (and I do mean everyone) is so spot on that there’s never a moment when you’re not chuckling or expecting a chuckle a few seconds away. Guinness (wearing a set of freaky teeth) plays ‘Professor’ Marcus, who rents out the room in a kindly old lady’s tiny house so he and his crew can carry out a robbery and temporarily stash themselves and the loot there.
Things do sour thanks to the old Mrs. Wilberforce (Katie Johnson) being a bit of a music lover and the crew posing as a string quartet (oops). The robbery goes off fine, but when Marcus has her retrieve the money and later, one of the crew exposes the results of the crime by accident, it’s decided to bump off the old biddy and take it on the lam. Needless to say, no one can bring themselves to harm the woman and when it’s decided to get it done, it’s a case of murder most foul as the crooks take themselves out of the equation one by one. This is one of those films that’s a “shut up and watch it!” experience, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do and let you see it for yourself how it all plays out, priceless ending and all. If this film doesn’t make you crack a smile at least once, you might want to have someone check your pulse.
The Captain’s Paradise is an odd bird in that it’s funny and yet a bit shocking in a few ways. Guinness plays Captain Henry St. James, a ferry jockey with a double life. He’s married to one woman in Gibraltar named Maud (Celia Johnson) and has a much younger lover in Morocco named Nita (Yvonne de Carlo). When he mixes up gifts for the two women, his life takes a heck of a few turns for the worse. While not quite as funny as his Ealing work, there are some very similar thematic elements such as the Captain about to be executed for a crime at the beginning and the film unfolding through flashback sequences as it spools out.
This one’s probably the least known of the set and as with the rest of the set, is worth a look just for Guinness’ work and spot-on chemistry with his co-stars. One of the best things about this set is it’s also a great way to get fans of the Star Wars films to see Guinness as a lot more than the Obi-Wan Kenobi character (a role he didn’t care much for, by the way). But you also have a nice long list of other Guinness classics to catch up on if you’re so inclined. Eh, start with this set if you just want to groove on some great comedies and laugh when you need it the most. Hey, it worked for me.