Screengrab: Raising a glass to Guinness

Alec Guinness

Richard Lutz checks out what’s hot on the box this week…

Friday night is movie night on the crystal bin in the corner of your room – so let’s pour a pint of Alec Guinness and enjoy the evening and forget all those downloads and binge boxsets.

In The Ladykillers (Friday, 17.15, Film4) he is the oddball Professor Marcus, out to mastermind a robbery at King’s Cross Rail station in 1950’s London. Boy, did Old Blighty ever need a bit of a lift in those harsh days. And Guinness, Ealing Studios and a bunch of great British names delivered one of the best black comedies since the war. So good, in fact, that when the estimable Coen Brothers tried a Tom Hanks re-make fifty years later…they got it all wrong and made one of their rare turkeys.

Anyway, Guinness (aka Obi wan Kenobi) with his whacky false buck teeth and bad hair gathers a seedy criminal gang, who really can’t shoot straight no less think straight, to carry out the robbery. Peter Sellers gets his first real screen break as an East End spiv, Herbert Lom is a louche psycho Euro-crim and comic genius Frankie Howerd even gets a look-in with a bit part.

The gang rents rooms from a dotty old lady (Katy Johnson) and disguise themselves as a string quartet as they plan their rail robbery. But let’s just say that things go from worse to even worser in this 1955 story as batty old Mrs Wilberforce gets it right by getting it all wrong. It’s a sweet and funny movie.

Some film savants have even called this the best of British. Ye-e-e-s. In a way. Director Alexander MacKenrick (Whisky Galore) was born in Massachusetts. Screenwriter William Rose (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner) is a Yank who copped an Oscar nomination for scribbling the script which, he says, he re-worked from a dream he had. Go figger, eh….it’s Hollywood and all stories are true.

As a footnote, this 63 year old hoot was given an unheard of 100% rating from review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Age, I guess, doesn’t matter if it leaves you smiling.

Stick around in Friday-night Film4 Land if you’re staying in. Men in Black with Will Smith follows Guinness. And, as the clock turns to Saturday, there’s An American Werewolf in London (1.25 am) which summons up a still tacky London of the late seventies – director John Landis goes for blood red horror comedy with Jenny Agutter as a nurse who falls for a lupine lover.



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