Lavender Hill Mob [1951]

Britain's Ealing Studios was at the top of its game when this classic comedy was released in 1951--one of the all-time best crime-caper comedies and a quintessential example of the witty and subtly subversive Ealing style. Alec Guinness stars as a mild-mannered transporter of gold bullion who has spent 20 years moving gold bars to banks in an armored truck. Then one day he simply decides to help himself to a million British pounds' worth of the gold, but to pull off the heist he enlists and old friend (Stanley Holloway), who sculpts and manufactures paperweights. Once the gold is hijacked, it's molded into souvenir miniatures of the Eiffel Tower and shipped off to Paris, right under the noses of British customs officials on alert for the missing gold. Panic ensues when six of the gold miniatures are mistakenly sold to a group of English schoolgirls, and just when the amateur thieves think they've finally pulled off their heist without a hitch ... well, let's just say this classic comedy has a few climactic tricks up its sleeve. Guinness is in peak form here, and director Charles Crichton (who scored a late-career hit with A Fish Called Wanda over a quarter-century later) keeps the action moving with impeccable British efficiency. Along with The Ladykillers and The Man in the White Suit (both starring Guinness), The Lavender Hill Mob represents the golden age of British comedy, and it's still delightfully entertaining. --Jeff Shannon

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