Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Ladykillers

A proper British professor approaches an old lady's front door and rings the doorbell so insidiously that the pet cockatoo inside begins to shudder. The professor is inquiring for a room to rent for his friends to practice their classical music, but it turns out that the professor and his boys are up to a far more devious plan. Classic black comedy from 1955 is filmed with such grace and precision in a manner that is seldom seen today in comedies. It was filmed by Alexander Mackendrick who was known for British comedies, but would go on to direct the classic and searing American film noir "The Sweet Smell of Success". This film is also populated with great character actors including Herbert Lom and a young Peter Sellers as members of the gang, and leading the group as the professor is the wonderful Sir Alec Guinness. With his goofy overbite, Guinness gets every mannerism right of the slimy, devious, yet prim and proper English gentlemen. This was remade by the Coen brothers in 2004 with Tom Hanks in the lead in what many consider to be a flop and the Coen's worst outing, but I found it to be entertaining though still flawed. And, after watching this, I did notice the touch that this original has that the remake was missing. This is an example of comedy done right, a lesson many modern comedic filmmakers could learn from.