“I am shocked by this revelation. Shocked and appalled!”
A group of bumbling thieves unsuccessfully try to kill an elderly woman (Katie Johnson) who has learned about their latest heist.
This classic heist-gone-wrong flick showcases the inimitable Alec Guinness — nearly disguised by a shock wig, false teeth, and sunken-eye makeup — at the height of his comedic powers; it’s also notable for the presence of a chubby, uncharacteristically subdued Peter Sellers in one of his earliest movie roles. Most of the film’s humor is derived from the interactions between the befuddled thieves (who find themselves increasingly unable to follow through with their plans) and Mrs. Wilberforce, a true force of nature. As played by Katie Johnson, Mrs. Wilberforce is the epitome of proper British standing: she trusts until she has good reason not to, and maintains firm resolve even in the face of potential danger to her life.
Interestingly, The Ladykillers can be read on another level entirely: as a post-war political commentary about diverse interests (represented by the sundry thugs) struggling to co-exist with older British mores (as epitomized by Mrs. Wilberforce). But I prefer to watch it simply as an engagingly humorous slapstick farce, one in which incompetent thieves get what’s coming to them, and good can’t help but triumph in the end.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- The always delightful Alec Guinness, nearly unrecognizable here as the sly, shaggy-haired, toothy gang leader
- Katie Johnson as the unflappable landlady who insists on doing the “right thing”
- Many moments of outright hilarity, as the thieves and Mrs. Wilberforce interact at cross-purposes with each other
Yes. This classic British comedy (recently remade by the Coen Brothers) is must-see viewing for all film fanatics.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)