Cast your mind forward 60 years and try to imagine a triumphant re-release of Bridesmaids. Not going to happen, is it? Spare a thought – and an affectionate hug – then for The Lavender Hill Mob, a film that HAS survived 60 years through charm, wit and great performances. It may have dated - obviously – in terms of the world it portrays, but there’s an energy and style here that will never go out of fashion. Well, not unless your surname is Farrelly or you think the pinnacle of comedy is someone in a wedding dress suffering from diarrhoea.
Alec Guinness plays Henry Holland, a man who would have to become furious to make his way up to mild mannered. He’s the sort of grey character who’ll stay in the same position for years, a fact that, in fact, gives him the perfect cover. A bank clerk, Henry has the responsibility to accompany truckloads of gold bullion – and also has a masterplan to steal the bullion with the help of his friend Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway), smuggle it out of the country and melt it down into Eiffel Tower-shaped paperweights.
While it’s not quite to the standard of Ealing Studios other crime caper of the same era – The Ladykillers – The Lavender Hill Mob is still a wonderful piece of unassuming entertainment with two fantastic, legendary leads, brilliant support from the likes of Sid James, and even a very early appearance from Audrey Hepburn. You could argue that it was these cheeky crime films that inspired modern British cinema’s most overused genre (and it’s probably a convincing case) but don’t hold that against this lovely little film. It’s a good-natured, still hilarious classic.
EXTRAS ★★★ A pretty decent selection, including an intro by Martin Scorsese – who knew? – an interview with director Charles Crichton, trailer, stills gallery, and an interview with writer T E B Clarke from a 1974 edition of Good Afternoon with Mavis Nicholson.