Ladykillers, The (1955)

The Ladykillers (1955), directed by Alexander Mackendrick.

Five crooks planning a clever heist pick the wrong house as their base. The little old lady renting their room utterly confounds and destroys them, mostly inadvertently and unconsciously, just by the nature of her steadfast Victorian personality. This is actress Katie Johnson, age 77. Even scarier, she can summon a perfect storm of little old lady associates to further fluster evildoers (and anyone else who might be passing by).

This is pretty delicious: that the forces of modernity cannot overcome one old lady in a bombed out house next to the train-yards. Much as we want her to triumph, we hate to see the gang go, one by one until there are none.

Alec Guinness is the Professor, a cracked criminal mastermind. The role was intended for Alistair Sims and Guiness does some impressions of him. First prominent role for Peter Sellers.

The Ealing Studio comedies combine British coziness, eccentric characters and plot absurdities. They're endearing, but maybe an acquired taste. I can't take too many at once.

Available on Blu-ray, with a good commentary track about the film, the people involved, and the studio. He offers, only semi-seriously, some theories about the plot, for example that it is a satire on British post-war political factions. The gang is a Labor coalition with each member representing a core constituency. After they tear themselves apart, the Conservatives, natural ruling class of the country as represented by the old lady, swoop in and recover their goods and power. Order is restored.