“I only accepted assignments against the so-called ‘great’: those overblown balloons who just cry out to be popped; I was glad to offer myself as a humble pin.”
A hitman (Alastair Sim) and his assistant (John Chandos) find their plans to assassinate a pompous government minister (Raymond Huntley) foiled by a meddling vacuum cleaner salesman (George Cole).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Alastair Sim Films
- Amateur Sleuths
- Black Comedy
- Mistaken or Hidden Identities
- Play Adaptation
This fast-paced British farce — adapted from Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder’s play Meet the Body — features clever dialogue, humorous performances, and countless quirky characters. Sim is especially notable as the hired assassin — watch the way his facial expressions reveal his mental machinations as he figures things out on the spot. [As noted in Time Out’s review, one can’t help comparing Sim’s appearance here with that of Alec Guinness in The Ladykillers, a brilliant black comedy released the previous year; indeed, Guinness was apparently directly inspired by Sim’s performance as Mr. Squales in the (non-Peary-listed) London Belongs to Me (1948).] George Cole is suitably manic as the vacuum cleaner salesman who is determined to solve whatever “mess” is put in front of him — whether it’s soot on a carpet or a body stuffed into a piano; and beautiful Jill Adams (who reminds me of Shirley Henderson) makes an appealing female protagonist.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Alastair Sim as the ingenious hitman
- George Cole as the vacuum cleaner salesman-cum-amateur sleuth
- Jill Adams as Cole’s unwitting sidekick
- Sim encouraging a trio of giddy female musicians to have drinks with him at the bar
- Cedric Thorne Davie’s amusingly lilting orchestral score
No, but it’s highly recommended.