The Lavender Hill Mob Blu-ray

Monday, 01 August 2011 00:00

Recently, both my wife and I have found ourselves in huge despair with the lack of cultural media knowledge of those people just a couple of decades younger than us.  They seem to know absolutely nothing about the TV series and movies of the 1960s and 1970s – genuine, unadulterated classics that still function as entertaining diversions from the world around us.  A random thought then crossed my mind – their ignorance about that era was exactly the same as mine about the output from the 1940s and 1950s. Aside from the names of some productions, most of the classics I’ve never actually seen.

Before I could continue being ‘holier than thou’ on such issues, I have therefore begun to make a concerted effort to jaunt back a couple of decades beyond my comfort zone. If it wasn’t SF, you can almost guarantee my ignorance. Within that file you can certainly pick out “The Lavender Hill Mob”. Surely everyone knows of Ealing Studios, a British film production giant that has been around since the early stages of the 20th Century. This film, made by them in 1951, has a quality which, 60 years on, means it is rightfully described as iconic.

The Lavender Hill Mob - 60 years on out on Blu-raySir Alec Guiness, whose big regret was that the majority of the world born after 1960 knew him only as Obi-Wan Kenobi from the “Star Wars” franchise, gets to prove his credentials as the character of this film.  He plays a guy called Henry Holland, who has worked faithfully for twenty years as a bank transfer agent in the realms of delivery of gold bullion.

This is a shy, retiring man, whose lack of ego and any narcissistic traits is pigeon-holed as inconsequential by his employers.  This rankles with him, wanting not only a way to get back at his dismissive bosses, but also to make a nest-bed for his retirement.  Could he really dream up a plan for the perfect gold robbery? Whilst the initial stages he has cast in stone, it’s how move the gold away from the scene of the crime, once stolen, which is the stumbling block.

When he becomes friends with Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway, already a star of the screen with “Passport to Pimlico”), who makes cheap and cheerful souvenirs for a living, the solution becomes apparent.  Pendlebury's smelting equipment is the key, and Pendlebury’s line in souvenir Eiffel Towers the mechanism to squirrel their bounty away to France.  The duo realise that they need some genuine rogues to assist with their plan, and by planting a story they soon become acquainted with professional criminals Lackery (a pre-“Carry On” Sid James) and Shorty (a pre-The Army Game Alfie Bass). Together, the quartet fine-tune their plan, but all is not plain sailing.

Watch out too for Audrey Hepburn, she of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “My Fair Lady” fame, who has a brief role as Chiquita – this was one of five roles she portrayed in films released in 1951, right at the start of her career.

The script was the work of TEB Clarke, who had already brought to the cinema “Passport to Pimlico”, “The Blue Lamp” and “Hue and Cry”.  He would go on to also pen the likes of “The Titfield Thunderbolt” (1953), “All at Sea” (1957), “A Tale of Two Cities” (1958), and “Sons and Lovers” (1960).

Of course, we must make mention that the director was Charles Crichton, who has an editor had salvaged “Whisky Galore” to the distributors’ satisfaction in 1949 – a film shortly to be released on Blu-ray too. Crichton, of course, was a superb and prolific director, working into late in his life – “A Fish Called Wanda” being a masterly piece work at the age of 78! We can’t of course forget his contributions to the small screen, which include episodes of the likes of The Avengers, Strange Report, Man in a Suitcase, The Adventures of Black Beauty, The Protectors, Space: 1999 and Dick Turpin.

The extras that can be found on this release include the following:

  • Introduction by Martin Scorsese
  • Restored Trailer
  • Behind the Scenes - stills gallery
  • Excerpt from BECTU history project interview with Charles Crichton
  • Good Afternoon – Mavis interviews TEB Clarke
  • Hard of Hearing subtitles

Technically, “The Lavender Hill Mob” is rendered in its original aspect ratio of 1:37:1 with Mono 2.0 sound.

“The Lavender Hill Mob” is out now on Blu-ray and DVD, with a running time of 80 minutes approx, a ‘U’ certificate, and RRPs of £19.99 (Blu-ray) and £15.99 (DVD), or get it for less at www.culttvstore.com

It’s also worth noting, that various cinemas around the country are screening this beautifully restored version, so worth checking your local venue to see if they’re paying homage to this classic in its 60th anniversary year.

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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