If you haven’t seen it:
The Lavender Hill Mob is a fine 1951 tongue-in-cheek British crime comedy, from the Ealing Studios.
It stars Alec “Obi Wan” Guinness as one of the most unlikely criminals in cinema history. He recruits a “mob” from his flat in Lavender Hills, and they concoct a plan to steal one million pounds’ worth of gold from the bank.
The crime caper takes them through London, Paris, and South America. Will they pull it off?
This is a sweet and witty comedy, with a gentle sense of humour, and some great comic characters.
If you have seen it:
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SPOILER ALERT: The plot summary and comments below contain details that might spoil your enjoyment of the movie if you have not already seen it.
The movie opens with our hero, Mr Holland (Alec Guinness) drinking cocktails in a bar in South America. He is flashing his cash, and bragging to his well-dressed companion about his success. We see his story in flashback.
A mild-mannered employee of the bank, Mr Holland had been plotting for years as to how he could steal the bank’s gold. By chance, his new neighbour Mr Pendelbury (Stanley Holloway) is in the business of making (and exporting) metal models and statues. Holland realizes that if he could steal the gold, he could then melt it down and make it into statues that could be sent abroad without arousing suspicion. Holland and Pendelbury then recruit two petty criminals for their mob and come up with a plan to steal the van containing the gold bullion.
Despite a great deal of incompetence the plan works; the gold is stolen, melted down, reshaped into statues of the Eiffel Tower, and sent to Paris. However, when Holland and Pendelbury go to Paris to collect them, they discover that some of the statues have been accidentally sold to a group of English schoolgirls.
The duo follow the girls back to England, but in their frantic attempt to recover the evidence, they draw attention to themselves, and are chased by the police. Pendelbury is arrested, but Holland escapes.
The movie then switches back to present day South America, and it is revealed that Mr Holland is in handcuffs, and that his companion is in fact a policeman who has come to arrest him.
Steve Sunday Says:
Alec Guinness was a great actor, but while watching this film I did keep expecting him to try to fool the police using a Jedi mind-trick, or to fight his way out with a lightsabre! Guinness himself did express irritation later in life that he would be remembered only for Star Wars, and when you realize that he had been making great films like this one, decades before he set foot on the Millenium Falcon, you can see his point.
Apart from Guinness (and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance by Audrey Hepburn) what I liked about The Lavender Hill Mob was its glorious old-fashionedness. People wore bowler hats, smoked pipes, and drove those amazing old cars. There were some great shots of old London, and Paris. Film makers today spend millions on CGI to capture the look that films like this did without trying.
Trivia Trish Says:
When Ealing first decided to make a movie about a bank robbery, they asked the Bank of England for suggestions of a possible way to successfully rob a bank. Surprisingly, the Bank of England agreed, and the plot of The Lavender Hill Mob is based on their suggestion.
Chris the Critic says:
Perfectly paced and neatly plotted, this film shows that the director, Charles Chrichton, was a master of his craft. He extracts superbly understated performances from his cast, and adds some exhilarating action sequences such as the dizzying flight down the Eiffel Tower, and the riotous chase climax.
Top Ten English genre films
With the Lavender Hill Mob, Ealing Studios took a classic American movie genre (the heist movie) and did it in a self-parodying English manner. Simon Pegg did the same thing half a century later with “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”. We here at black-and-white-movies.com love all of these movies, and we think that the film industry should pull its finger out and make more like this. Here are our ten suggested titles:
- There will be Tea
- 5 Days of Summer
- The Devil Wears Primark
- John Tucker Must Receive a Strongly Worded Letter
- The Fast and the Slightly Miffed
- V for Victoria sponge
- 3:10 to Yuma. delayed
- Lidl Shop of Horrors
Main Cast and Crew:
Alec Guinness as Holland
Stanley Holloway as Pendlebury
Sid James as Lackery
Alfie Bass as Shorty
Director – Charles Chrichton