The Lavender Hill Mob

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

I have the disquieting feeling that I've already seen this, back in the days when I didn't obsessively blog about every movie I watched. I seem to have a vague recollection of the beginning ("Hey! That's Audrey Hepburn, isn't it?") and the end (no spoilers). And absolutely nothing in between. Ah well.

Alec Guinness plays Henry Holland, a guy for whom the noun "milquetoast" was invented. A self-described nonentity disguising an avaricious and criminal streak, he's in the fortuitous position of accompanying British gold from the smelter to the bank. He's worked out most of the heist details, all he needs is a way to smuggle the purloined metal out of the country, where he can sell it on the black market.

Enter Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway, who really should be singing "With a Little Bit of Luck" in this movie too). He's got a factory that casts base metal into tourist "geegaws". (That's actually the name of the company.) But there's no reason he can't use gold…

Anyway, it's very understated comedy, but dreary 1951 England must have been in the mood to laugh at nearly anything. The best part is Henry reading a crime novel to the elderly Mrs. Chalk, titled You'd Look Good in a Shroud. Oh, heck, here it is:

Henry: Where did we get?

Mrs. Chalk: Duke Milligan was about to take a gander at Mickey the Greek's hideout.

Henry: Oh yes, here we are. "I handed my fedora to a hatcheck girl with all that Venus de Milo had got and then more, and I was admiring the more when I glimpsed something in the back of this frail that set my underwear creeping up on me like it had legs."

Mrs. Chalk: I know that feeling well.

Henry: "A guy had soft-shoed out of the door from the gaming room as quiet as a snake on tip-belly, and I didn't need my case history of Smiling Abe Montana to know that sonny boy was his number-one triggerman, Ricky the Filipino."

Mrs. Chalk: I thought it was Little Boy Shultz who carried the rod for Mr. Montana.

Henry: It was, Mrs. Chalk, but surely you remember? Montana found Shultz taking liberties with that lady.

Mrs. Chalk: Yes, yes, they took him for a ride. Only last night, wasn't it? Oh, I must be getting old. Read on, Mr. Holland.