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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 is the dreamer, 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. He is helped in his crime by souvenir manufacturer (Stanley Holloway) who turns up at his Lavender Hill digs and a couple of petty East End 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 one of her first speaking roles.

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

 

 

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