For Reel

The Ladykillers (1955)
February 28, 2015, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Alexander Mackendrick
5 Stars
The LadykillersOne of Ealing Studios’ most remembered comedies, The Ladykillers stars Alec Guinness as the leader of a group of criminals who take residence in an innocent old woman’s (Katie Johnson) boardinghouse. Guinness, with sullen pale cheeks, bulging eyes, and preposterously large fake teeth, plays his character as a sort of Nosferatu figure–in fact, his entrance in the film is in a series of shadows that loom over the house of the old woman. The creeping shade of death is a provocative image for post-war London, a time when audiences were all the more aware of how external horrors could potentially permeate the home front. Even before Johnson’s house is infected by the men, she exclaims that her paintings no longer hang straight because of subsidence from bombings (a perfectly satirical idealization of the stubbornly resilient “carry on” mantra). While the first half enjoyably indulges the game of keeping the crimes a secret from the invasive old woman, the second half becomes a masterpiece of repetition and stylized, dryly humorous violence.