Friday, July 9, 2010

The Lavender Hill Mob

I was going to blog about The Lavender Hill Mob a few months back when it was on the TCM schedule. Unfortunately, Lena Horne died, and when TCM scheduled the tribute for her, it preempted the night with The Lavender Hill Mob on the schedule. It's showing up again tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM ET on TCM, and is an eminently enjoyable British comedy.

Alec Guinness plays Henry Holland, a man who's retired after working for 20 years as a guard for gold bullion shipments for the Bank of England, and is now living the good life somewhere presumably in South America. At one of the resorts, he relates to another man how he came to acquire the wealth necessary to live such a lifestyle. Let's just say it wasn't done honestly.

Flash back to a year earlier. Henry isn't entirely satisfied with his life, and fantasizes about what he could do with the money that all that gold bullion represents. Of course, stealing it is impossible. After all, even if you could steal it, what would you do with a bunch of numbered gold bars afterwards? Why do you think kidnappers always ask for the money in small bills that aren't sequentially numbered? Life changes for Henry when he meets Alfred Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway). Pendlebury runs a foundry that melts down metal to make kitschy sculptures of monuments and the like to be sold to tourists. Henry realizes, though, that the foundry could be used to melt down gold bullion, which could then be cast into something or other, and then exported out of the country. So, the two man plan to get a gang, steal the bullion, melt it down and make gold Eiffel Towers out of the bullion, export those figurines to Paris, and then pick up the figurines in Paris.

Needless to say, the robbery doesn't work perfectly: only Henry and Alfred are able to get back to the hideaway. Worse, however, is when they export the figurines to Paris. They were in a lot that was supposed to be marked as not (yet) for sale -- but the people at the Eiffel Tower tourist traps actually sell six of the figurines to a group of English schoolgirls! The two robbers have to get them back, but doing so might just be their downfall....

The Lavender Hill Mob is enjoyable, although it's wackier than most of the British comedies that were being made in the early post-war years. (I don't think it was until Peter Sellers and Terry-Thomas came along that British comedy, at least the good stuff, became really outrageous.) As is the case with Odd Man Out mentioned the other day, the movie has quite a few eccentric characters, in this case those living in the rooming-house with Henry. Also, watch for a very young Audrey Hepburn, who shows up briefly in the opening sequence before the flashback. It's certainly suitable for the children, too. It's also available on DVD. While I personally prefer a few other British movies from the period, especially a later comedy like Make Mine Mink, there's really nothing wrong with The Lavender Hill Mob.

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