"I understand... you have rooms to let?"
There it is. The first interaction between the story line's antagonist main character "Professor" Marcus and our delightful heroine Mrs Louisa Wilberforce. Visually stunning, Marcus's shadowy entrance is drawn-out and epic, the tension building to a peak worthy of Hitchcock...
Why has The Ladykillers captured my imagination so? What has attracted me to this off-beat black comedy from the mid '50s, so much so that I have dedicated a huge part of my life making it a huge part of my life! In truth, I don't have an answer. Generally speaking I am a reasonably behaved, normal 32 year old woman, married with a full time job. But when I'm exposed to "Professor" Marcus and his unruly, quirky gang I'm a quivering, Beatles-esque screaming fangirl (I even have a drawing of Alec Guinness as Marcus permanently inked on my lower back). But I know I am not alone; there is a growing Ladykillers fan base out there which, when searched for long enough, can be found.
My first encounter with The Ladykillers was about seven years ago - a delightfully random television program was informing the British public of the top 100 British films we must all have in our British lives. I believe this delightful Ealing romp was in the top 20. I didn't recognise Alec Guinness at first glance, with his eerie disguise as small-time crime lord and full-time lunatic (ref. "The Booby Hatch"), complete with lank hair and over-sized dentures... The tired, shadowed eyes showing a spark of devious intellect complete the look of deranged silent-movie-villain - check out the long dark coat and even longer grey scarf! Lon Chaney eat your heart out.
I won't continue with a description of each fabulous character at length. The main reason for me writing this is to explore my deep love and fascination for The Ladykillers, and I don't want to bore you all any longer than I have to. So to make it quick:
The Ladykillers is a 1955 British black comedy film made by Ealing Studios. Directed by Alexander Mackendrick, it stars Alec Guinness, Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom, Peter Sellers, Danny Green, Jack Warner and Katie Johnson. Ok, so now you know who is in the film. The plot is basically: Five diverse oddball criminal types planning a bank robbery rent a room on a cul-de-sac from an octogenarian widow under the pretext that they are classical musicians.
That's it! The film is simple, subtle, sly and sublime. The dry humour and drollery combined with characters beautifully underplayed by a first rate cast helps make this little gem memorable and forever lodged in our hearts. It was love at first sight for me; an Ealing comedy with 1950s criminals intent on destroying one another, old ladies, tea parties, parrots and sarcastic policemen! There - no spoilers.
I must have watched this film about 5,000 times (an estimated guess - it's probably more than that). I've bought copies of it for friends and relatives and have many copies of it in my collection; there are different dvd/vhs covers and of course I must have them all, including the fabulous Blu-ray where the film is all cleaned up and in "high def"!
I created a Twitter account dedicated to the film... @Ladykillers1955 Yes, I tweeted the whole thing word for word, although the entire script is available online so it was a simple matter of copy and paste. A little time consuming, but it was worth it! My actual Ladykillers website (really it's a blog) is yet to come, It's still in it's incubation period and not quite ready. Through the website I can pretty much display all the The Ladykillers memorabilia I have snapped up from eBay and various other places. So many gorgeous film posters, stills and lobby cards and I just can't resist. It's a great shame to me that there aren't many behind-the-scenes shots or outtakes.
If you've never heard of or seen this movie I highly recommend you go online and buy a copy immediately for future viewing. If you're not an Ealing fan now, you will be after seeing Guinness, Lom and Sellers completely and hilariously beaten down by a darling and feisty old lady.