A classic 1955 comedy starring Alec Guiness, "The Ladykillers" stars the late actor as Professor Marcus, who opens the film in search of an apartment. Coming across a local notice, he arrives at the residence of Mrs. Wilberforce (Katie Johnson), a kind old lady who doesn't mind that he's a musician who'll need to have the rest of the band over for the occasional practice.
The only thing is, they're no musicians: Marcus plans to pull off a robbery, using Wilberforce's apartment has a base of operations. Unfortunately for the crooks, the old lady consistently finds ways to get in the way of their plans. When she gets an idea about what they're up to, they decide they have to eliminate her - but she consistently outwits Marcus and his associates (Danny Green, Cecil Parker, Peter Sellers and Herbert Lom) at every turn.
The film's simplicity works to its advantage. Gags are well-timed and smart, with a dark tone and slapstick nature that often results in hilarity. At 87 minutes, the picture moves along crisply, getting into the meat of the plot right away and building to a darkly funny conclusion. The performances are also excellent, with Guiness acting his way out from under a bad wig and a set of terrible teeth. Johnson is also terrific as Wilberforce, as she proves that good manners and kindness do succeed in the end. Johnson plays the performance as if she's simply going about her business in the way she knows best, and it's a really fun effort to watch. Supporting performances are good all-around, as well.
Note: The remake, which stars Tom Hanks, is set to be released on 3/26/04.
VIDEO: "Ladykillers" is presented by Anchor Bay in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is largely an excellent presentation, although a few patches do present some occasional concerns. Sharpness and detail are unexpectedly good, considering the film's age. A couple of scenes do seem a bit softer than the rest, such as the opening moments, but aside from that, the picture seemed crisp and well-defined.
Occasional light-to-mild grain was visible at times, but the film was surprisingly free of specks, marks and other debris. A couple of scenes had some minor edge enhancement, but it was minor enough not to distract much. Colors appeared rich and vibrant for the most part, but suddenly appeared to waiver a bit in a couple of scenes. These issues aside, I was mostly pleased with how good now nearly 50-year-old film looked.
SOUND: The sound quality is a little less pleasing then the picture. Presented in mono, the sound effects can come across as noticably rough and muddled at times. Dialogue fared a bit better, mostly sounding clean and clear, with no distortion or other considerable issues.
EXTRAS: The film's trailer and an Alec Guiness bio are all that's included, unfortunately.
Final Thoughts: A delightful black comedy, it'll be interesting to see how the Coen Brothers approach their remake. As for the original, Anchor Bay has done a mostly very good job at presenting the film with satisfying audio/video quality. Some more extras - a featurette, maybe - would have been nice, but what's here will have to do. Recommended.
The Film ***