The Lavender Hill Mob and The Ladykillers can almost serve as companion pieces to each other. Both are hilarious British caper comedies of the 1950s, but both also feature astonishingly different central performances from Alec Guinness. While in The Ladykillers Guinness is a fiendish crook whose criminality is evident from his first appearance, in The Lavender Hill Mob he is a mousy milquetoast named Holland, the unlikeliest of thieves who uses the trust that others place in him to set his plan into motion. Guinness' delightful performance as Holland earned him his first Oscar nomination, and he is supported by a fun cast that includes Stanley Holloway, Sidney James, and Alfie Bass. T.E.B. Clarke's Oscar-winning script ingeniously sets up the story by having Holland recount his tale after-the-fact, and Clarke's characters and story line possess an unpredictability that makes the film easily maintain interest throughout. More than 35 years later, director Charles Crichton made another caper comedy, A Fish Called Wanda, that recaptured the carefree sensibility that makes The Lavender Hill Mob so enjoyable. It is also worth noting that a very young Audrey Hepburn has a brief appearance in the opening scene and veteran character actor Peter Bull can be quickly spotted in an unbilled cameo.
by Bob Mastrangelo review