Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)

Henry Holland has dreamed of becoming very, very rich for many years.

No wonder. The low-ranking bank employee has escorted bullion worth tens of thousands of pounds for nearly two decades. Meanwhile, he lives in a rooming house in Lavender Hill.

Holland (Alec Guinness) knows he's ridiculed by his co-workers, ribbed as "the man of millions." But that's all part of his plan.


His mental wheels have turned for some time. Holland wants to stage a heist, one that would leave him with enough cash to spend the rest of his years enjoying his ill-gotten gain in sunny South America and far away from the daily toils of work and rush hour crowds.

But the job is too big for just him. Enter The Lavender Hill Mob


Holland needs to get the gold out of England. That's where exporter Alfred Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway) comes in. He does a steady job crafting souvenir Eiffel Tower paperweights to be sold at the landmark French tourist attraction. The pair cook up a scheme to round out the gang with two experienced petty thieves, Sid James (Lackery Wood) and Shorty (Alfie Bass).

That's about where things stop going right for these middle-aged schemers wanting a big score.

Holland gets tapped for a new job. The four have just days to put their plan in action. Pendlebury is mistaken for a petty thief as the robbery gets underway. The gang's sneaky plan to ship the gold off to France hits a major snag that could give away the whole plot.

Holland and Pendlebury's efforts to get back to England when they discover that serious breach is a major hoot. With a ferry preparing to leave for England nearby, they're forced to complete a series of time-wasting requirements before they can board. It, and an earlier mad dash down the Eiffel Tower, are two of the best in director Charles Crichton's film.

A third furious set piece soon follows when the pair of thieves have to crash an exhibit at a police college to snag a key piece of evidence. Everyone seems to be doing a good job of following advice to keep calm from a public address system, except police.

The Lavender Hill Mob was released the same year as The Man in the White Suit, another Ealing Studio comedy starring Guinness. That film, heavier on the social commentary about business titans and union leaders, was reviewed earlier by Reel Popcorn Junkie.

Rating: 8/10

FUN FACTS: The Lavender Hill Mob features one of the first screen appearances of the late Audrey Hepburn. Director Charles Crichton also directed 14 episodes of the television sci-fi series, Space: 1999.

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