The Ladykillers - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Ladykillers Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ April 4, 2007
Not as entertaining as the remake I felt, but was good to be able to compare the two, especially with the location differences as well.
Super Reviewer
½ September 5, 2010
A hilarious story, I loved it.
Super Reviewer
½ June 9, 2007
I didn't enjoy this quite as much as the person who recommended it to me, but the little old lady is worth the price of admission.

UPDATE: Saw this again today, and was a little more impressed. Although I still think it starts off rather slow, it has a deliciously twisted ending. I remember that Kind Hearts and Coronets had a similar arc. I'm wondering if that's the style of older Brit comedies in general. Maybe I shouldn't be in such a hurry to turn them off.
Super Reviewer
June 13, 2010
Absolutely terrific. Funny and charming. I love this movie.
Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
½ April 2, 2010
Smartly written with a clever script, The Ladykillers features a young (and chubby) Peter Sellers in one of his early roles and Sir Alec Guinness channeling Boris Karloff with one of his creepiest characters ever. He's positively ghoulish as the ringleader of a gang of thieves looking to rob an armored car carrying a payroll. The only thing standing in their way is a fiesty little old lady who isn't quite as clueless as everyone thinks. They pose as a string quartet and rent out her back room for rehearsals, intent on using her naivete for their nefarious scheme until a series of misfortunes befalls them. The film is filled with great performances and a tight story, but as a farce, it's not very funny. Not that there aren't funny moments, there are several, but it's about as funny as you'd expect a british comedy from the 1950s to be (draw your own conclusions from that statement). The Ladykillers makes an entertaining diversion for those looking to be diverted.
Super Reviewer
½ August 12, 2007
Alec Guinness is a witty criminal brain with a creepy grin. He masterminds a caper with his not so bright colleagues using an old lady's house as front.
Classic British comedy with many pleasant twists and turns, and charismatic performances. Black humour with charm all over.
Too bad the mediocre Coen Brother's remake kind of ruined the original's fantastic ending for me.
Super Reviewer
February 1, 2009
Alec Guiness has to be one of the greatest actors of all time, and his role in The Lady Killers does not buck the trend. From the first moment I saw his dark shape looming through the doorway, I knew the character would be well creepy. And boy was it! With that horrible grin, those horrible teeth and that horrible laugh, it's little wonder that even the grim Herbert Lom starts to get a little freaked out.

Nevertheless, Katie Johnson as the infuriating Mrs Wilberforce almost succeeds in stealing the show. There cannot be a more annoying person in the world, from the point of view of policemen, criminals and baggage handlers alike.

The best scene of all, in my opinion, is the very last one, but I won't spoil it for you if you haven't seen it. I saw the re-make of the film, and I'm certainly a big Tom Hanks fan, It was as good as this one. Obviously, it's rather old-fashioned and might not appeal to everyone's sense of humour.
Super Reviewer
July 30, 2006
Mrs. Louisa Wilberforce: Simply try for one hour to behave like gentlemen.

A dark, English comedy about a group of criminals with a train heist plan that requires a strategically placed house owned by a good-hearted old lady, played by Katie Johnson.

This plan leads to the mastermind of the heist, played by Alec Guiness, to rent out a room from the old lady and use it as a meeting spot for his other partners in crime, which include Peter Sellers and Herbert Lom. While this room is being rented, the criminals pretend to be practicing classical music.

The heist goes off about midway through the movie, but then the story turns into what to do about the old lady who learns to much about the men upstairs.

The movie is very dark and the humor is very dry and British. That being said, the performances are excellent and up to the task of taking the whole thing seriously. There are a couple of well staged moments as well, including a scene involving a telephone booth and scenes involving the disposal of bodies.

The movie is well ploted, moves along quick enough, and has a good cast of characters.

Professor Marcus: One-Round, there is a wheelbarrow outside, could you fetch it? The Major has a train to catch.
Super Reviewer
December 29, 2007
This original movie is about a group of men who lodge in an old woman's house to plan a train heist. She gradually bumps them off one by one. Peter Sellers character is very creepy.
Super Reviewer
February 24, 2007
Alec Guiness or Tom Hanks. Hmmmm...let me think...
Super Reviewer
September 4, 2006
Seen bits of itm what I've seen it's hilarious. I'm going to try and watch the rest
Super Reviewer
August 19, 2006
My favourite of the Ealing comedies. Show's how brilliant this film is when the respectable remake lost most of the humour. The dark sinister tone is helped along by a truly memorable performance by Alec Guinness who puts a new spin on the word creepy. Perfect British comedy with British ideals.
Ryan M
Super Reviewer
½ November 19, 2010

I was never one for goofy comedies. Not even classic goofy comedies. Screwball humor just does not cut it for me at the best of times. So why did I enjoy "The Ladykillers" as I did? Was it really "goofy" enough? Was it a screwball comedy at all? It may as well be. But I could find entertainment in it nevertheless. More-so a dark comedy than an all-out goofy one, "The Ladykillers" is a smartly written crime-comedy. I do not think it is a masterpiece, but it could be called a minor cinematic classic. It does not, in fact, throw the word "art" out of the picture. To its credit, "The Ladykillers" has darkly humorous moments and features a strong cast, as well as a good soundtrack and a great premise. What it lacks is true perfection and the ability to truly compel me, although in ways I don't think it was meant to do achieve either. It throws a good deal of ideas into the mix and creates an entertaining, be it frustrating movie. I can indeed recommend it to a good selection of film buffs due to its lack of graphic-violence and lack of truly risqué humor. This is indeed a true comedy-thriller; suspenseful and appropriately funny. They just don't make them like this anymore, do they? No, I suppose they do not, and for good reason. People don't like these kinds of movies anymore, after all. I know that I personally would like it, but what the hell. I'm not everybody. And I'm certainly not the majority. There are those who will love it; and then there are those who will simply like it. But most will end up enjoying it either way. It's a good deal of fun for the most part, although it doesn't go without its moments of blandness. But do most films do that to begin with? Most films outside of cinematic achievement territory should by all means carry the clichés they were made with. "The Ladykillers" was born with plenty faults, but many gifts too. In that sense, I will not prevent you from watching it. I will not prevent you from watching it at all. It is a good movie, but not a great one. In the end, I did however feel satisfied, despite the extremely high praise which it didn't quite live up to (in my opinion). But then again, you can't always get what you want when it comes to minor classics, now can you?

A team of gangsters decide to plan a heist in the custody of an elderly woman. To get in, they tell her that they are musicians. The naïve old woman believes them and allows them to stay without much persuasion, although things don't go as planned. The old lady continues to annoy the visitors, causing them to want to dispose of her at once. Their desire is deepened further when the woman discovers their plans. Then they must hatch a plan to kill the mistress, although none of them truly want to do it. This causes the gangsters to go about killing each-other as each one begins to double-cross the other; all while the sweet old lady is catching some good-earned sleep. The final outcome is extremely predictable and sort of unsatisfying, given that it feels a bit like a cop-out. Nevertheless, the experience is flamboyantly goofy and pleasant to watch throughout. It's nothing much more than average, but the screenplay is better written than the story itself. The premise promises something really awesome will happen, although it just doesn't happen in the end. I would have liked to see the gangsters kill the old woman in some cruel, strange way. After all, it would have been a slightly better film if it had been for that. But who am I to say anything, "The Ladykillers" still remains some pretty funny stuff. By funny, I of course mean darkly funny; meaning that this movie is not for everyone. But...I would recommend it to any real film buff, because chances are they will like it more than I did. Joy!

Alec Guinness is wonderful as the first member of the gangster squad to appear. He is both quirky and joyously goofy, producing some of his finest work. Peter Sellers is as wonderful (and funny) as always, Cecil Parker is pretty good, Herbert Lom is wonderful, and Danny Green is endearing and likable as a clear stereotype. I mainly praise the performance of Katie Johnson, who plays the old woman who the gangsters are planning to murder. Johnson has the innocence of an old lady, but the unassuming, cunning ways of a warrior. In other words, she is very interesting and entertaining to watch. Overall, the cast is well balanced and very, very British. Well done.

There are moments in "The Ladykillers" that were funny, and then there were moments where the movie was not funny at all. When it's funny, it's quite funny; and when it's not funny, it's just not funny. There are of course classic, priceless moments of comedic relief; most of which stand as strong highlights for the film itself. The other highlights include the scenes of true darkness, and then the scenes of true artistry. The camera work is good for the most part, although it never reaches anything along the lines of "extraordinary". What it does achieve is solidity. The soundtrack was another highlight for me personally. The score was effective throughout, building a strong atmosphere. The film also featured solid suspense at some moments, although I find it difficult to take it as seriously as it wants me to take it. This is a silly, goofy movie, and it wants to be elsewhere sometimes, as it seems. However, it is still a minor classic. Through all its flaws, I still saw it as a good film. It is, in fact, funnier than a lot of comedies, even from its time. It's not the funniest of "classic" comedies or dark comedies, but it's up there on the "good" list. And it's high up too. So at least it achieves something.

I will not deny a film that is intelligent; I will not forget a film that is good. This particular film may not be as magnificent as some think it is, but you either love it or you don't. I certainly liked it, and with so much charm, who the hell could hate it? I mean look at it: it's so endearing! With good acting and certain artistic qualities to make it good enough to watch, this is a solid, minor classic in 50's cinema. I've seen better of course, but then again I have seen worse. Take it as you will, please. I will not prevent you from seeing it, and I will not necessarily recommend it. I guess it all depends on who you are as a movie-goer; somebody who is able to accept goofiness for what it is. If you can manage to do that, then a film like "The Ladykillers" is worth a spin. I myself was not a big fan, and am still not a big fan, of goofy slapstick. Yet here we are; gazing at a winning comedy. It may be flawed, but look on the bright side: at least it's still art.
Super Reviewer
November 10, 2007
Beautifully written, and so good that not even the Coens could remake it.
Super Reviewer
October 31, 2007
Ealing studio at its best. An ensemble cast to die for and an ode to that British love affair with campy whodunnits that has been sending flying kisses down from the silver screens to willing audiences for decaded. A tattery old lady, a gentleman thief and his gang of thugs ... a recipe for the perfect comedy ! Charming indeed.
Super Reviewer
August 25, 2011
Fantastic film. Not really sure why the Coens would want to remake this, it holds up absolutely beautifully. Alec Guinness is brilliant as the leader of the bank robbers. Also a great supporting cast, including Peter Selllers, Some wonderful color cinematography (Gunness's first close up looks incredible). Great comedy!
Super Reviewer
½ March 9, 2010
Hilarious, classic British comedy! Alec Guiness is at his best playing a creepy schemer who, along with his not-so-bright cohorts, gets tripped up by a seemingly harmless little old lady! Bungling criminals never seemed so amusing!
Super Reviewer
½ March 16, 2009
Black, droll British humor does not get any blacker, droller or humorous than this. An all star cast, sharp direction and a merciless screenplay make this a minor masterpiece of British cinema.

Alec Guinness is, of course, the standout. He doesn't act so much as embody, heart and soul, the role of The Professor. Some of the film's biggest laughs come from his struggle to remain in character while clearly overwhelmed by a group of curious, naive old women at an extremely inconvenient moment. The rest of the gang each have their moments but it is Guinness who owns the film from frame one.

The film's greatest strength, and perhaps what makes it so funny, is that it takes itself completely seriously. It is about a group of intelligent, professional criminals whose scheme goes perfectly well until it goes perfectly wrong because they failed to factor in one small detail: the overwhelmingly sweet naivette of their landlord, the quintessential little old lady who through by simply behaving as it is in her nature to foils the plan at key moments without ever having realized or meant to. Because the film takes place in such a real (cinematic) universe, their increasing desperation as the film draws to a close is not the stuff of comedy so much as tragedy, which makes it all the more hilarious.

I could go on and on about the photography, the wonderful music, the editing, how influential it has been (there would be no "A Fish Called Wanda", quite likely, were it not for this film) or even quote some of the film's double entendres, but I will limit myself to saying that I saw it on a whim, absolutely loved it and will be seeing it again and again.
Super Reviewer
½ March 7, 2006
This film made be cry when they... at the end. Comedies shouldn't do that, right?
Super Reviewer
October 20, 2008
My favourite of the Ealing comedies I have seen recently. This is a brilliant ensemble piece and the fact that I'd already seen the remake didn't take away my enjoyment of the original. This is Alec Guinness' best role for Ealing. He totally embodies the character and is always doing some little business when on-screen. To watch him is to see an actor totally in control and loving what he's doing. Marvellous.
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