Director: Alexander Mackendrick
Running time: 91 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): U
UK Release date: 8th December 1955 (London)
Watched on Sky+ Friday 4th November 2011.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
This is one of those films that was always on TV on a rainy Sunday afternoon when I was a kid. The trouble is, as a kid, I wasn’t all that interested in Ealing Comedies. Boy was I wrong! This is the first time I can honestly say I sat down and watched this one from beginning to end and it’s excellent! A very gentle comedy with a bit of a dark edge to it. Very much of its day, but still very watchable nonetheless. More of my thoughts after this very brief summary.
Sweet little old lady, Mrs Wilberforce, has some rooms to let in her little house in London, near to King’s Cross railway station. They are taken on by a gentleman known as Professor Marcus. He, and a group of friends, form an amateur string quintet and, with Mrs Wilberforce’s permission, practice in his rooms. The members of this little gathering are; Claude (a.k.a. 'Major Courtney'), Louis (a.k.a. 'Mr. Harvey') , Harry (a.k.a. 'Mr. Robinson'), One-Round (a.k.a. 'Mr. Lawson') and of course the Professor himself. Little does Mrs Wilberforce know that it’s a front for a gang of thieves who are planning a robbery. What she also doesn’t know is that she is about to be, unwittingly, an accomplice to their dastardly plot. Furthermore, her life may be in danger! I could tell you more but the Spoiler Police are already after me for the ‘X-Files’ caper.
I really enjoyed this film, as I’ve already said, a gentle comedy that gets a shade darker towards the end. I think I enjoyed the performances as much as anything else; all of the cast were excellent. Alec Guinness was almost unrecognisable, and also brilliant, as Professor Marcus. Cecil Parker was great as Claude, as was Herbert Lom as Louis. Peter Sellers didn’t have an awful lot to do, but was very good as Harry and Danny Green did a decent job of playing One-Round. I must give the highest praise to Katie Johnson as Mrs Wilberforce, I thought she nearly stole the show! Honourable mentions also go to; Jack Warner as The Superintendant, Frankie Howerd as The Barrow Boy and Kenneth Connor as The Cab Driver (uncredited).
I was pleasantly surprised to find the film was made in colour. Very few British made films were, at the time, and so it must have had some serious backing to warrant such treatment. All the characters appear to be larger than life, apart from the old lady and this, I think, is what makes it work so well. I have heard horror stories about the Coen Brothers’ remake and I’m kind of loathed to see that version, but I know our paths will cross (eventually). But enough of that one, this was, for me, one of the very best of the Ealing Comedies and I deem it highly recommended.
My Score: 8.1/10.
IMDb Score: 7.9/10 (based on 12,185 votes at the time of going to press).
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One-Round: [looking blankly at his cello] Are we supposed to make noises with these things? What kind o' noises?
Louis: Who is she?
Professor Marcus: Not "noises," One-Round, *music*!
Louis: I said what does she mean, you...
[Professor Marcus shushes him and turns on the record, dancing a bit to the music]
[At the police station]
Junk Man: And it's a brown horse, eleven years old, and answers to the name of Dennis.
[Harry and Marcus are distracting Mrs. Wilberforce while Louis deals with the Major on the roof]
Mrs. Louisa Wilberforce: It won't do any harm to tell you now that Major Courtney has gone to the police. They'll be here shortly.
[there is a loud crash from outside]
Mrs. Louisa Wilberforce: Oh! Whatever is that?
Harry: I expect something fell off the roof, mum.
Mrs. Louisa Wilberforce: The roof?
Harry: Probably a... chimney-pot.
Mrs. Louisa Wilberforce: A chimney-pot?
Professor Marcus: See who it is, Harry
[pushes Harry out the door]