Wednesday, 20 May 2009

London on Screen No.2: The Ladykillers


Sedition was never very far from the surface in the great Ealing comedies: anarchy in Passport to Pimlico; flagrant disruption of the war effort in Whisky Galore. But surely they'd draw the line at attempting to murder a dear, sweet old lady? Think again. The Ladykillers (1955) remains a British – and a London – classic. Directed by Alexander MacKendrick and shot in seedy colour, five gangsters pose as a string quintet and rent a room from the unassuming Mrs Wilberforce – under whose innocent nose they will plan and execute their next caper, the robbing of the King's Cross mail train.
London, never content with a mere supporting role, elbows her way to the top of the bill with upstaging aplomb, particularly in the shape of George Gilbert Scott’s Midland Hotel at St Pancras casting ghastly gothic shadows on the proceedings. Of her co-stars, a young Peter Sellers is engaging and Alec Guinness doing his Alistair Sim turn is nothing short of a stroke of postmodern genius. But Herbert Lom as the sinister Louis has the best line. “Listen up grandma,” he growls to the sweet old Mrs Wilberforce, threateningly, “and listen with BOTH ears.”
It’s advice you would do well to adopt on Richard IV's London Walk this Sunday 24th May at 10.45a.m. when he leads us around the movie locations of the West End. The West End on Film walk meets at St James’s Park Tube Station.
(The Ladykillers is available on DVD – pictured – from Optimum Releasing priced £12.99.)


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