This short (67 minutes) black and white British movie from 1962, showcases the music and the comedy of Mr Acker Bilk and his Paramount Jazz Band. Traditional and dixieland jazz occupied a somewhat improbable corner of the music market in the UK in the early 60s, dominated as it was back then by the rock n roll of Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard and emerging supergroups such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Acker with his trademark bowler hat, West country burr, and ever so sweet clarinet playing had a monster hit with Stranger on the Shore. Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen had similar success with Midnight in Moscow.
Band of Thieves capitalized on the chart success of Acker Bilk. The film is an entertaining romp in which Acker and his band mates (all of whom get to speak and act) play old lags incarcerated at 'Her Majesty's Pleasure' for separating people from their cash.Playing jazz to pass the time in prison and to win over the jazz-loving governor (Geoffrey Sumner),they come to the notice of a well-connected prison visitor (Maudie Edwards).When the band is released, she encourages Acker and the boys to go 'straight'on a nationwide tour of jazz clubs using an old motorcoach. Cue great jazz tunes in great jazz venues and a cameo from songbird Carol Deene. The band is befriended by Dandy (Jimmy Thompson), a smooth operator who artfully cajoles the band back to its old habits of safe cracking in high society homes. The jazz concerts provide a cover for the heists.However Dandy's girlfiend (Jennifer Jayne - she of William Tell fame)is an undercover cop. As a heist goes wrong,she gets wise to Dandy's game and pretty soon Acker and the boys are 'shopped' and back behind bars.To the delight of the governor and the jazz loving prison population,the cells are once again alive to the sound of (jazz) music.Good fun. Easy watching and listening.