The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)

  • Directed by Charles Crichton.
  • Wow! Within the first five minutes, my purpose in watching this movie has been fulfilled. A blink-and-miss-her Audrey Hepburn appeared on screen just now to cuddle Alec Guinness’s face & say, “Oh, but how sweet of you!” – then scurry on her way, never to be seen again (in this film, anyway).

Bravo!

  • Guinness is in South America when this happens, and he soon begins to tell the tale of how exactly he got there. (Cue flashback.)
  • Guinness has worked for a bank (?), transporting clients’ gold bullion in a paranoidly upstanding fashion, for the last 20 years.
  • Holland (Guinness) lives in the Balmoral Lodge (Inn? I don’t know – but it’s a place where people stay, called Balmoral) – and one day a man named Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway) moves in, too. Pendlebury is in the souvenir business – statuettes, building replicas, etc. – and he takes Holland on a tour of his studio, where these are molded out of lead.
  • Ding Ding Ding! Suddenly Holland has a way – if he wanted – to smuggle his clients’ gold bullion out of the country, and make a huge profit.
  • In the scene that follows Pendlebury’s studio tour, Guinness suddenly has a new, mischievous glint in his eye – it’s a stellar piece of acting. To use something so subtle to indicate a shift in a character’s internal perspective – and make it perceptible, but not over-the-top – is pretty incredible.
  • “We turn gold into bars – you turn lead into Eiffel Towers,” Holland says as he begins to lay out his scheme to Pendlebury.
  • Baha! The short scene between Holland & his boss, when his boss tells him he’s earned a promotion & will no longer have to ride along in the dreary Bullion Transport Van, is fantastic. “Think of what you can do with an extra 15 shillings a week!” says the boss. “When a good opportunity comes along, grab it with both hands!”

Holland (as he leaves the office): “Very good, sir – I’ll follow your advice.”

  • On the day of the robbery, Mr. Pendlebury is passing his time, waiting for the Bullion Van (Truck?) to appear, by looking at a sidewalk antique shop. He accidentally walks off with the painting he was looking at & gets mobbed by police, almost ruining the entire operation.
  • Ha! This is full of great scenes:

First – where Pendlebury & Holland wait for their “recruits” to show up (even though one is already there) – and a rogue Eiffel Tower starts playing a song. And the recruit-in-hiding (Lackery, played by Sidney James) just sits there & eats a sandwich, & Holland makes shadow puppets on the wall to pass the time.

Second – where Lackery & Shorty (Alfie Bass) forget to “mess up” Holland before fleeing with the gold…so Holland does it himself, while blindfolded – and ultimately ends up spinning into the river (ocean?) at the backside of the warehouse where he’s been dropped.

  • Holland’s victim scheme works perfectly, & he is lauded as the “Hero of the Hold Up.”
  • Pendlebury & Holland drunkenly decide to call each other “Al” and “Dutch,” respectively. How exquisite.
  • Great choice by the filmmakers to have Dutch & Al gaze up at the real Eiffel Tower, as soon as they get off their boat in France.
  • So…Pendlebury’s cohort salesgirl at the Eiffel Tower accidentally opens some of the Golden Crates of souvenirs & sells 6 of them to traveling British schoolgirls.
  • Pendlebury & Holland cut their vacation short to hunt them (the Golden towers, not the girls) (although I guess they’re really sort of hunting both) down.

Personally, I don’t understand how the gold in these Eiffel Towers could ever be traced back to them, & I do not understand why they go on such a trying quest to get them back. It just seems silly.

  • What the fuck?

Okay, first of all – the one little girl who refuses to hand over her souvenir Eiffel Tower to Al & Dutch just happens to go to an exhibition at the Police Training Academy, and the inspector in charge of the Stolen Gold Case just happens to be there when she gifts the tower to her policeman friend.

The second dumb part is that when the Policeman Friend comments to the Inspector, who has recently looked around Pendlebury’s studio, that his little friend just got it for him in Paris – the Inspector is like, ‘Wait, WHAT? Paris?!?!?!’

(Where the fuck else would an Eiffel Tower souvenir have come from? Guam? This is unremarkable, and there’s no way the Inspector connects that to Al & Dutch just returning from Paris, too. Dumb!)

Thirdly – once the Inspector immediately begins to test to see if it’s made of real gold, dumbass Pendlebury decides to yank it out of the Gold Testing Tub & make a run for it. Hello! You just incriminated yourself for the whole shebang! Congratulations, you fool! One million police just watched you do that!

  • Baha! In the police car chase that follows, one of the pursuing cars crashes into a civilian-driven car, and their radio antennae get twisted…causing “Old McDonald Had a Farm” to be broadcast over the police radio – in every police car, & also at Police Headquarters. Fantastically funny (and bizarre) idea.
  • Dutch escapes to Rio de Janeiro, where he lives marvelously for a year – until the law finally catches up to him…in the form of the man to whom Dutch has been telling this story, all along.
  • THE END.
  • I really, really liked this one. It won the Oscar for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay that year, and it was very well-deserved (writing credit: T.E.B. Clarke). Perfectly acted by Guinness & Holloway – they really made the movie!
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