29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
"The Ladykillers" has stood up well to the ravages of time and although I have not seen the recent Hollywood remake , I am sure this original is much better. The film is sinister, atmospheric yet humourous; the criminal gang never really appear menacing despite their malevolent intentions towards their elderly landlady ,Mrs Wilberforce, with Alec Guinness playing the leading role as a criminal mastermind who,as part of his cunning plan,deliberately makes the old lady an unwitting accessory to a large robbery. I liked the film primarily because of it's unusual plot, rich characterisation and excellent acting. However the atmospheric locations also help to make "The Ladykillers" a memorable film ,especially Mrs Wilberforce's wonderful subsiding house perched high above a busy railway line. The presence of steam trains in the film is not only central to the plot ,but also helps to create a sense of motion, danger and uncertainty and adds significantly to the charm and attractiveness of this entertaining black comedy.
69 of 75 people found the following review helpful
When I first saw "The Ladykillers" in its supposed 'restored' state a few years back on DVD, I was a little under whelmed. It still seemed very washed out to me. But I'm thrilled to report that this February 2010 Studio Canal Collection BLU RAY completely changes that.
Given what they had to work with (a very corroded print covered in stuck-on hairs, fingerprints, scratch lines, blemishes in the negative, double-imaging of colour) - the result is little short of miraculous. It isn't picture-perfect for sure and some scenes still have corrosion and blocking in them, but mostly it's a massive improvement. Finally the BLU RAY format has brought out all that detailed restoration work - and it's the very best I've ever seen this beloved British classic look. The extras are superlative too - generous and hugely informative.
Country choices in set-up are: Australia, Denmark, Germany, Spain, France, Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Sweden, UK, USA and Japan
Overdubbed Languages are: French, German and Castellano (no subtitles available)
The Extras are:
1. Introduction by Terry Gilliam (a short & affectionate appraisal)
2. Commentary by Philip Kemp (a feature-length commentary by this noted expert that is full of superb detail and anecdotes - by far the best extra on here)
3. "Forever Ealing" Documentary (2002, voiced by Daniel Day-Lewis, features contributions from Colin Firth, John Mills, Richard Attenborough, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and many others)
4. Interview With Allan Scott (Screenwriter/Producer, superb comments on MacKendrick's directing techniques, plot structures, uses of colour etc)
5. Cleaning Up "The Ladykillers" (original versus restored split screen shots - no dialogue)
6. Interview with Ronald Harwood (Screenwriter & friend of Alexander "Sandy" Mackendrick the Director)
7. Interview with Terence Davies (Director, Writer - talks of MacKendrick's classes on Filmmaking)
9. BD Live
The first time you 'really' see the improvement is when Mrs. Wilberforce hands in a basket at the local cop shop run by Jack Warner who placates her with wonderful gentility. And more too when the shadow of Alec Guinness addles up to her front door with 'danger' strings sounding - she opens it - and there he is - all sinister grin and grubby scarf. The colour is superb and hugely improved.
And then of course there's cast you couldn't buy now for love or money - each one a gem - the Classical String Quartet of thieves - Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom, Cecil Parker and the big lug Danny Green - each one absolutely necessary to the overall state of anarchy. There's even Frankie Howerd as the barrow boy.
But it's the perpetually making-tea old biddy played so brilliantly by Katie Johnson who steels the show. Like some perverse and malicious force of nature, Mrs. Wilberforce sweetly wanders through the entire film causing all sorts of mayhem and death and is blissfully unaware of it all. You find yourself chuckling uncontrollably all through the film and for days afterwards. Half the enjoyment of course is watching all of the boys thinking they're smarter than her and then after-a-while falling for her genuine British goodness - only to find that she kills them all (unintentionally of course)! The film also belongs just as much to Alec Guinness (who stepped in for Alistair Sims) the mastermind of the heist. He is just delicious - creepily brilliant as he slinks around Mrs. 'Lopsided' and her King's Cross St. Pancreas home. With a genuinely evil relish, he's all the time probing the unwitting old lady for holes he can use (dialogue above). Unbelievably good and it hasn't dated a jot either.
Did you know that Peter Sellers also does the voices of all the Parrots, or that Alec Guinness only found his Professor Marcus character through a set of protruding teeth and that because Katie Johnson was 79 when she took the part, Ealing were afraid that the role might actually kill the poor woman, so she had to be insured or she couldn't do the part (she stumped up the money herself). Well you do now - and you'll learn a whole lot more besides about this 1955 gem through this wonderful release.
When Mrs. Wilberforce asks in the local shop at the beginning of the movie "Has there been anything about the advertisement?" - I urge you to answer the call.
Treat yourself to "The Ladykillers" on BLU RAY - and then sit there with a big mug of tea and a digestive - tittering uncontrollably every few minutes at its sheer genius.
PS: for other superb restorations on BLU RAY, see also my reviews for "The Italian Job", "Saturday Night, Sunday Morning", "The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner", "Zulu", "The Dambusters", "Quo Vadis", "North By Northwest", "Cool Hand Luke", "The Prisoner - The Complete (TV) Series In High Definition", "Goldfinger", "Braveheart", "Snatch", "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and "The African Queen"
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 16 September 2010
"Kind Hearts and Coronets," "The Ladykillers," "Monsieur Verdoux," and "Unfaithfully Yours" form the dark crown of black comedy on film. Only the last is American. Grim hilarity seems to be a particularly British specialty.
Reading through a lengthy series (49 as I write this) of Amazon US reviews is often rewarding. In this case the great majority of those who write of this film lavish praise on the cast and plot. A substantial sub-class of reviewers felt it necessary to denounce the recent remake with Tom Hanks. (And quite right they were, too!) One reviewer praised the film and then gave a miserly single star in what must have been sheer error.
A single reviewer despised the film for its slow pace. In a brisk 91 minutes "The Ladykillers" offers the planning of a heist, its execution and the crumbling of all criminal expectations, along with the increasingly ironic deaths of five crooks. As Basil Fawlty might ask, what more does the reviewer want--herds of wildebeest rushing across the plains while Krakatoa explodes in the background?
A few reviewers noted that Alec Guinness was doing a masterly imitation of the great Alistair Sim. On that point, I have always wondered why Ealing didn't just cast Sim in the role in the first place. Sim starred in a deliciously black little comedy called "The Green Man" in which he played a master assassin foiled by a witless door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. "The Green Man" misses the exalted status of the films listed at the beginning of this piece by the narrowest of margins. Sim was also in "The School for Scoundrels," of course, but that small gem is just a little too cheery for true black comedy.
There are excellent summaries of the plot and insightful commentaries on the actors. I feel no need to repeat either here. I shall, then, take up three points that no-one has mentioned.
Billing in this film is odd. Guinness is clearly intended to be the star. The four other members of the gang are prominently listed. But 75 year-old Katie Johnson, who actually turned out to be the star of the picture and earned the British equivalent of an Oscar to prove it--not to mention the plain fact that she ate Guinness alive in every scene they shared--is listed as one of the supporting players in seventh or eighth spot.
The set design is stupendous. Mrs. Wilberforce's tiny, lopsided house on top of the railway bridge, idiosyncratic plumbing and all, is one of the greatest locations ever put on film. That house becomes as much a character in the movie as Mrs. W, herself, or any of the gang.
The musical score is quite perfect for the film--as good in its small way as the score of "Alexander Nevsky." It begins in unexpected formality with an Elgar-like symphonic introduction. Soon Mrs. Wilberforce appears and she comes with her own theme, almost a leitmotiv: "The Last Rose of Summer" played on a barrel organ. The heist has its theme, too, the Boccherini String Quintet (deedle-deedle-dee-dum-ti-dee-dee). Once heard, it is never to be forgotten. When all is well with the heist, so it is with the Quintet (deedle-deedle-dee-dum-ti-dee-dee). When difficulties arise, the Quintet suffers. At one point, a recording of the Boccherini is removed from a phonograph and intentionally smashed. As the movie swirls toward ultimate darkness, Boccherini disappears and the score generates a new theme: bodies plunging over the railroad bridge (harummm-THUD). Again, once heard, never forgotten. At the end of the film, a new and better day for Mrs. W is hailed by the reappearance of the barrel organ and "The Last Rose of Summer."
"The Ladykillers," admittedly makes demands on its viewers that are seldom to be found in contemporary pictures. It requires, for example, an attention span greater than that of a gnat. And it neglects to provide even a single flatulence joke for the relief of the more anxious members of the audience. Nevertheless it's a great film.
Five (deedle-deedle-dee-dum-ti-dee-dee) stars.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 8 February 2012
Very disappointed with DVD as it comes with German subtitles which cannot be removed and so spoils enjoyment of the film unless you are German and can't understand English! I thought it might be a one-off but the replacement DVD had the same problem.Pity because it's a great film in every other respect.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This is probably the best Ealing comedy ever made. A great black comedy, its the story about a gang of crooks whose elderly landlady accidently discovers their responsibility for a robbery. One by one the crooks attempt - and fail to bump her off. All the cast are superb, especially Alec Guinness and Herbert Lom, as two of the crooks who bicker between themselves throughout the movie. Forget the inferior Tom Hanks remake, this is the original and best.
P.S. I cannot comment on the picture quality on this copy of the movie, as I bought the other Studio Canal copy of this on the "Ealing Comedy DVD Collection" which also features "Kind Hearts And Coronets" "The Lavender Hill Mob" and "The Man In The White Suit". An animated picture of Alec Guinness features on the cover of the box, picture quality on all four films is very good.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 23 September 2011
this film will be on my dvd player forever, i watch it every month or so, best ever british movie, sellers, guinness, lom, parker and mr. danny green, little miss lop sidey, katie johnson, are the best laugh you will ever have, plus old london scenes, buy this and keep a spare copy in the cupboard, best of british here....ever,
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 December 2012
I have known this since I was an immature, early-teenage boy, we were less worldly then, few had television, but the rest of school liked it too; have seen it a number of occasions, and still find it very funny. Yet have seen the remake a decade ago and it made little impression despite their Star actor, good actors too; but brash, typical US overblown robbery, and unlikely scenario, where the relationship between the players didn't work for me, was harsh, more brutal than necessary; think it also introduce a racial conflict element. The whole point of the British story is the protagonists are losers, in an out of step unmodernised British society, still hanging on after WW2, compared to the stories of 1950's America, tales of Flying Saucers at the Police station. This is the disenfranchised unemployed petty, but loner criminals. There is not only the robbery of a security vehicle, not seen, because the story is about the two groups; dotty old ladies; and dotty ageing gentile, old lags. The old lady is the heroine; moral, reasonable, kind. What is called entertainment for the whole family, but inappropriate below 12yrs, because they would not comprehend subtlety innuendo. What was called 'U' certificate in those days.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 2 December 2012
'The Lady Killers' is up amongst the greatest movies for it's sheer quality in every department of movie making acting, editing, sound and direction. . Every player in it is top star quality. There really seems to be no end to the talent of Alec Guinness: in this he is creepy, repulsive and gives the impression that he might not be too clean. His accompanying gang of thugs are just perfect, especially the reluctant thug with his sad traces of faded gentility.
Katie Johnson gives a beautiful and very touching performance as the old lady, keeping our feet grounded in the realms of goodness and what we like to pretend is social 'normality', and in her contact with them, even the police come out well. I find it rather sad that her name is not on the disc or case of my copy.
The sculdugerry is highly sinister and believable and in the end when wrong is turned to right and all the baddies have received their just desserts one is left with and overpowering sense of awfullness and, thanks to the pivotal role of the old lady, a very much hightnened awareness of the difference between good and evil.
This movie is a MUST for the library of any serious student or enthusiast of movies or acting.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 25 February 2011
One of the last films to come out of Ealing studios, and definitely one of the best. Despite the presence of great actors such as Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers and Cecil Parker this film is dominated by the perfect performance of Katie Johnson as Mrs Wilberforce, the little old lady who lets one of the rooms in her lopsided house to criminal mastermind Professor Marcus, played admirably by Sir Alec. The faded colour of the print captures a Britain that has long since disappeared, of trains billowing steam, of cheery policemen on the beat and of gangs of criminals who respect the older generation.
A superb script, dark and with twists, guides us through the back streets near Kings Cross railway station. The film is amongst the very best of Ealing, and should be enjoyed alongside Kind Hearts and Coronets, Passport to Pimlico and The Lavendar Hill Mob.
The Coen brothers made a version of this film, and although I quite enjoyed it, it doesn't come near the perfection of this quite delicate film. Much of the dark humour in this film comes from the fact that the murderous intent of the villains is offset by the deftness and delicacy of Mrs Wilberforce's very being.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 5 September 2012
I remember as a kid turning my nose up at this film and when given the choice of seeing this or some stupid 'X' rated film, being young, stupid and without taste, I chose the 'X'. Since then, I have enjoyed this film again and again. It is hilarious with wonderful acting. The old girl that plays Kathie is wonderful - this was her film debout! I remember a few years back going to Kings Cross and looking for the house - obvious removed in the name of progress! The storyline is wonderful with 'The Professor' being suitably creepy. Everyone is perfectly cast and they come together to produce a classic. If you do not know this film, I urge you to see it and join the fun. Forget the Tom Hanks watered down version.