Film of the week 13 November 2020

This week I am celebrating the 65th anniversary of the 1955 Ealing Studio’s, The Ladykillers, recently restored in 4K from the original three strip Technicolor negative. The film was the last to use this expensive system in Britain and it was the last film made by Ealing Films at the studio before being sold to the BBC.

This is a black comedy gem that endures as a classic of British eccentricity written by William Rose and based on a dream of the entire film that he had. Directed by Alexander Mackendrick, who made Whisky Galore, it tells of a band of incompetent Bank robbers who rent a room from a sweet, dotty old lady-Mrs. Wilberforce, in the disguise of an amateur string quartet. The plan is to use her to unknowingly assist them in securing the loot. But Mrs. Wilberforce, played superbly by Katie Johnson, is not as harmless as she seems. She won the Best Actress BAFTA for her performance.

With Alec Guinness as the cadaverous leader of the gang, Professor Marcus, with Danny Green, Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom and a young Peter Sellers as the gang the unstoppable Mrs. W, proves to be an irrevocable force of innocence winning over evil. Familiar faces from the past such as Jack Warner and Frankie Howard add to the nostalgic appeal.

The setting of the old Victorian house at the end of a cull de sac overlooking St Pancras Railway Station, is magical plus the most remarkable plumbing ever! The dark humour is never over played with the comedy developing naturally from the situation, the characters and the script. It is an enduring joy.

The Ladykillers is showing at RBC on Wednesday 18th November with two shows at 10.45 and 5.45pm. It is also available on Amazon Prime.

Bill Cunningham