Screengrab: All Aboard the Ealing Express

Richard Lutz previews this week’s  movies on the box and comes up with a smile…or two… in glorious black and white


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Amid the dross of DIY and property repeats, More4 has slyly offered up a box of treats with some great British classics, the ones your parents grinned over and you all vaguely hear about if you aren’t a cinephiliac.

Let’s start with Monday. And crammed between Location, Location, Location and a Place in the Sun, is that small but gleaming gem, Passport to Pimlico (Mon, More4, 11.45 am).

What a treat. Filmed, not in the eponymous Pimlico area of London but in nearby Lambeth, this black and white beauty has horse faced comic Stanley Holloway realising that his local neighbourhood is actually an independent rump of Burgundy after kids discover a medieval treasure  trove and documents in a post war bomb site.

Pimlico is not part of London, England nor the UK according to this 1949 comedy.  ‘Blimey,’ says a minor character, ‘I’m a foreigner.’

It’s time to throw on the berets and get out the Pernod. And it’s free trade in Pimlico too as goods are thrown over the wall to the rest of a London ground down by rationing

Well, there you go. Pimlico is European. What would all these little Britishers say today when they view this film, produced, by the way, during the Berlin blockade.

It’s an Ealing classic. You get great footage of real life London from six decades ago, it includes that bastion of English battiness Margaret Rutherford and it’s written by Ealing maestro TEB Clarke who knew how to draw out comedy in dialogue and absurd plotlines.

Let’s stick with the magnificently named TEB Clarke. Two years later his name was on the credits for  writing The Lavender Hill Mob (Wed, More4, 11.45 am) . Alec Guinness is a gormless clerk who oversees a gold bullion raid. Guinness is a great comic: sly, aware, cheeky and, lost in his ludicrous web of a million £ bank robbery.  There’s great support from Sid James, Alfie Bass and, whoa, Stanley Holloway again.

Ealing, by the way, wanted to give it a scintilla of credibility. So they asked The Bank of England to come up with a plan about how to get away with a big robbery in a London bank. Amazingly, the financial boys actually set up a special committee to figure out a successful raid.

Jeez, imagine that happening today. It could never take place, simply because the bankers are too busy stuffing their wallets with ill gotten bonuses,   stashing their cash in the Caymans and screwing up the financial world.

A snap of Lavender Hill trivia: it was the first screen performances for two actors soon to become stars:-Audrey Hepburn plays a Latin dancer, alluringly called Chiquita. And Robert Shaw, macho hero, is a chemist. The film is directed by Charles Crichton whose durability is legendary as he also oversaw John Cleese decades later in A Fish Called  Wanda

More4 continues the week with other stolid UK efforts. Check listings for Went The Day Well?,  and A Matter of Life and Death.