December 2, 2019  (Web Review)

The Lavender Hill Mob

Kino Lorber, 81 min., not rated, DVD: $19.99, Blu-ray: $29.99

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway are a team for the ages in this sly 1951 comedy from Britain’s renowned Ealing Studios. Guinness plays Holland, a meek bank clerk whose longtime job is to oversee the melting of mined gold into bullion bricks, which are then transported by armored car to a secure bank. Bored with his humdrum life and low pay, Holland engineers a heist with the aid of Pendlebury (Holloway), an affable, would-be artist whose day job is monitoring the manufacture of liquid metal into cheap Eiffel Tower souvenirs that are shipped from London to Paris tourist shops. Enlisting a pair of professional burglars in the scheme, Holland and Pendlebury steal a shipment of bullion and melt it down into Eiffel Tower mementos, which they then intend to retrieve in France. Of course, plans go awry from the start, from the near-drowning of Holland in the Thames to a botched shipment of the solid gold Towers, resulting in some being purchased by English schoolgirls. Frenzied, funny chases ensue, while the London police slowly close in on the thieves. Directed with comic snap and tonal rigor by the excellent Charles Crichton, the film also features Audrey Hepburn in an early small role, as well as a brief sight of Robert Shaw, the latter playing a police chemist. The Lavender Hill Mob earned an Academy Award (for screenplay), as well as an Oscar nomination for Guinness as Best Actor. Extras include an introduction by filmmaker Martin Scorsese, audio commentary by film historian Jeremy Arnold, an audio interview with Crichton, and an interview with screenwriter T.E.B. Clarke. Recommended. (T. Keogh)