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Henry “Dutch” Holland (Alec Guinness) is a mild-mannered bank clerk responsible for supervising the transportation of gold bullion from London’s bullion smelter to the bank. Dreaming of his own life with a bit of money, Holland, along with his new trusted acquaintance Alfred Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway), devise a cunning plan to steal a million pounds worth of gold and ship it to Europe to sell it on the black market and make their fortune. With the help of local thieves Lackery (Sid James) and Shorty (Alfie Bass), the gang discovers pitfall after pitfall, realising that the course of committing the perfect crime does not always run smoothly.

Review by Craig Miller:
The Ealing studios in Britain are synonymous for having produced some of the most intelligent, comedic and witty films in the history of British cinema, with their purple patch during the 1950s the most decorated. The Lavender Hill Mob is possibly one of its more overlooked features, but with its Academy Award win for Best Screenplay and nomination for Guinness as Best Actor, it certainly didn’t go unnoticed. A quarter of the newly released ‘The Ealing comedy Sir Alec Guinness Collection’ (Along with other Ealing stalwarts Kind Hearts and Coronets-1949, The Man In The White Suit-1951 and The Ladykillers-1955), The Lavender Hill Mob is as fresh and exciting as it no doubt was more than 50 years ago.

By today’s standards, The Lavender Hill Mob is, on the surface, a fairly typical heist film complete with a gang of mismatched characters looking for a get rich quick solution. But underneath it’s so much more. Alec Guinness as Mr Holland, the story’s protagonist, plays a man whose life is not what he imagined and who is willing to put everything on the line to break out of the boring existence in which he finds himself. Clarke’s dazzling screenplay deserved the high praise, as the structure allows a fantastic flow throughout the film, with very few superfluous scenes and a virtual cornucopia of sizzling dialogue and cleverly sculptured plot twists.

Also of note is the direction of Charles Crichton (most likely better known these days for his work on A Fish Called Wanda), who uses a collection of 1950s state-of-the-art visual techniques and his keen eye for detail to successfully bring this script to life and, on a lighter note, deliver one of the most enjoyable car chases ever, let alone for the 1950s. All the major performances are good, but what always astounds me about these vintage features is the overall craftsmanship. The ability to tell a detailed, highly complex story in less than 80 minutes, compared with studios and directors today who find it impossible to edit something down to less than two hours, is an art form almost certainly lost.

In getting the 21st century treatment, this transfer to DVD will introduce a whole new generation to a time when Sir Alec had yet to find a Light-saber, and comedy was much more than toilet humour and offensive behaviour. And for film enthusiasts and fans of the genre, it will keep a great film alive. Ahh… DVD, the format where classics never die!

Published September 4, 2003

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(UK) - 1951

CAST: Alec Guinness, Stanley Holloway, Sidney James, Alfie Bass

DIRECTOR: Charles Crichton

SCRIPT: T.E.B. Clarke

RUNNING TIME: 78 minutes

PRESENTATION: Fullscreen, Dolby Digital Mono



DVD RELEASE: August 6, 2003

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