Director – Alexander Mackendrick
Writer – William Rose
If you thought that 1950s films were full of fluffy, stuffy, genteel sentiment, then you were very wrong indeed. Check out The Ladykillers to find an ice cold satire that takes a group of five sinister gangsters who rent rooms in the house of a sweet old lady under the illusion that they are rehearsing musicians.
The plot, both in the film and of the gangsters, neatly unravels, with each malevolent participant getting dispatched in a particularly gruesome and unexpected way. The laughter comes from far deep into the darkness, but is performed exquisitely by a pitch perfect cast that couldn’t ever be topped. These include Alec Guiness as the icy mastermind Professor Marcus, Peter Sellers as the stiff, sultry Teddy Boy Harry, a wickedly brooding Herbert Lom playing Louis, Danny Green as the threatening One-Round and Cecil Parker as the fusty Claude, otherwise known as Major Courtney to give himself an air of respect (star-spotters might want to look out for a young Frankie Howerd as a barrow boy in the background during the proceedings!). Our grim criminal visions are counterpointed by the eminently sweet, yet ultimately sassy Mrs Wilberforce, performed perfectly primly by Katie Johnson, who we wonder is going to be duped or done over by the dirty denizens, but we have a sneaking suspicion that she might just get wind of their little operation and outwit the mob. How this could happen is one of the most charming, chuckle-packed outings in British cinema.