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UK 1951
Directed by
Charles Crichton
78 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

The Lavender Hill Mob

Although a huge commercial and critical success in its day (it won Best British Film from the British Academy Awards and received an Oscar nomination for Alec Guinness as Best Actor) The Lavender Hill Mob looks rather strained today as with more expedition than finesse it runs through a fantasy of transgression well-suited to ration-era Britain.

Guinness plays Henry Holland, a seemingly meek little man in charge of the Bank of England's gold bullion shipments who for19 years has been biding his time in order to steal a fortune and live out his fantasy of playboy riches. He is helped in his crime by a souvenir manufacturer (Stanley Holloway) who happens to turn up at his Lavender Hill digs looking for a room to let and a couple of incompetent East End petty crooks (Alfie Bass and Sid James).

Crichton whips through the plot with all the subtlety of a Sennett comedy, the script, which won an Oscar for writer T.E.B. Clarke, relying more on slapstick than wit (although the slapstick isn’t funny either) whilst Guinness’s performance is borderline irritating in its unctuousness. Crichton does however come up with one inspired piece of business late in the film when he has a bobby on the beat heartily singing along to 'Old MacDonald Had A Farm' complete with "oinks" as unknowingly he hops a ride in the villains’ car.  Also, ace cinematographer Douglas Slocombe gives us some nice exteriors of contemporary London. And yes that is Audrey Hepburn who briefly appears in her first on screen speaking roles.

The Lavender Hill Mob was one of a clutch similarly-themed populist post-war British crime comedies such as The Ladykillers (1955), Too Many Crooks (1959), The League of Gentlemen and Make Mine Mink (both 1960). 




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