For the first time, Studio Canal will be releasing a 4K restoration of the British classic, The Ladykillers to celebrate its 65th anniversary. First released back in 1955, this Ealing Comedy was and is known for its black as night humour, sharp wit, an all-star cast, and hilarious antics. Having inspired the Coen Brothers remake and a successful stage play in the west end, The Ladykillers is finally getting the restoration treatment it deserves, special edition makeover, and limited release back in cinemas. At last, we get to see those false teeth Alex Guinness’ character wears in high definition.
The story follows a group of small-time misfit crooks in London as they plan, execute, and deal with the fallout from a robbery. Renting a room from the sweet, docile, and slightly scatty Mrs. Wilberforce under the pretence they are a string quartet and need rehearsal space while using the house as a base, none of them could have envisioned that this sweet old lady would be their biggest hindrance to their plans.
As one of the ‘dark jewels’ in the Ealing Studios’ comedy crown, the other being Kind Hearts and Coronets, the reputation that proceeds The Ladykillers is that of a legend. The dark twisted nature of each of the criminals in the gang, each with their own distinct personality, charm, and evil streak, juxtaposed with the very sweet, gentile old lady, Mrs Wilberforce creates comedic gold. Both a farce and crime story, there is of course the ominous feeling that something will go wrong but you are never quite sure how until it’s too late. Katie Johnson played the delightful Mrs. Lopsided, as she’s called by the criminals behind her back, a literally brilliant performance that earned her a BAFTA for Best British Actress. She really is the heart, soul, voice of reason, and very humorous in her own right. Playing up against such powerhouse actors like Alec Guinness, Cecil Parker, and Herbert Lom, Johnson held her own.
From the moment the film begins and the ominous music plays, you’re set up for a film noir-esque hard-hitting crime story, but then we are playfully introduced to the little house build over the railway tunnel and Mrs Wilberforce herself telling one of her stories, you know you’re in for something more than a formulaic film. The British do enjoy a dark comedy, possibly to lighten the dark times they had just come out of, but nothing quite grabs the imagination like evil crooks trying to bump off an innocent old lady, this sort of film will stand the test of time.
Dir: Alexander Mackendrick
Prd: Michael Balcon
Scr: William Rose
Cast: Alec Guinness, Cecil Parker, Danny Green, Herbert Lom, Peter Sellers, Katie Johnson
DoP: Otto Heller
Music: Tristram Cary
Running time: 97 minutes
The Ladykillers will be released on 4K UDH 9 November 2020