Having enjoyed Sweet Smell of Success so much I decided to continue with the works of Alexander Mackendrick and the comedies he made for Ealing Studios in England starring Alec Guinness.

220px-Man_in_the_white_suitThe first film, Man in the White suit had Guinness plays Sidney Stratton a brilliant chemist obsessed with trying to create a dirt resistant and nearly indestructible polymer that will revolutionize textiles.

Once he successfully creates this miracle cloth both management and labor realizes the economic ramifications of an indestructible cloth that doesn’t have to be cleaned, repaired or, most importantly, replaced. They do everything they can to squash the discovery with Guinness on the run wearing the prototype the titular White suit.

This makes for a brutal satire of the industry at the time and how it reacts to an innocent visionary like Sidney Stratton.

I enjoyed most of the first half of this film with Guinness’s efforts to create his formula ending up with him bouncing from one textile mill to another and embezzling equipment,  with the strange sound effect his equipment makes serving as a leitmotif for the progress in his research.

I can’t say I cared for the second half of the film quite as much. It felt like they crammed in too much from the industry deciding they could not afford progress to the final chase scene. A lot is made of the Sidney’s incorruptibility but I thought it was more of a case of his innocence. Most of the time it seemed as if he didn’t truly understand why he was being chased.
I actually saw an interview with MacCendrick on Criterion’s Sweet Smell of Success DVD where he said he believed Sidney wasn’t nearly as incorruptible as people thought with it just being a matter of the executives not knowing how to bribe him. Had they offered him with unlimited research possibilities he would probably signed everything.

ladykillers1955posterThe next film on the list the Ladykillers is a delightfully dark comedy about a team of crooks whose master plan revolves around a sweet little old lady Mrs. Louisa Alexandra Wilberforce, played wonderfully by Katie Johnson, who owns a “lopsided” boarding house next to the railroad.

While their caper is successful, once they get the money back to the house the human factor led by Mrs. Wilberforce makes everything fall apart, with their attempts to silence her permanently end with hilarious fatality.

This was a fun movie with a great ensemble cast led once again by Alec Guinness playing master criminal “Professor” Marcus, a wonderful antithesis to Sidney he is made up like a reject from a horror film with greasy hair, bad teeth and a sinister smile. (I kept imagining him being played by Peter Lorre if this had been made in the states at the same time) With him is a wonderful cast of character actors including a very young Peter Sellers,

I couldn’t help thinking of League of Gentleman as I watched this except where that was a caper of clockwork precision run by a group of professionals this was a hilarious shambles botched by a bunch of idiots… And I loved it because of it.