Starring: Alec Guinness, Dennis Price, Stanley Holloway, Joan Greenwood, Valerie Hobson, Sid James, Alfie Bass, Cecil Parker, Michael Gough
Running Time: 272 Minutes
Ealing comedies are so wonderful aren’t they? Transporting us back to post-war Britain at a time when it seemed much easier to mix darkness and comedy. This collection of three films, each starring Alec Guinness (one of which stars him 8 times), is a reminder of the incredible talent and unique tone that British films once possessed. Not only does each film deliver the laughs and the more sinister plotlines, but they also make interesting observations on society.
KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS sees a man kill his way through his estranged family in order to inherit the family title and see his mother buried in the family graveyard. Dennis Price takes the lead as the sociopathic and righteous Louis whose chilling apathy towards his crimes could have easily hailed this as an early slasher film. The ingenuity with which Louis disposes of his kin is praise worthy and absolutely terrifying. It is Guinness though who truly makes the film as he takes on 8 different roles of many ages and both sexes. Although not completely unrecognisable, there’s a comedic charm to his doomed portrayals, and it is an incredible feet for any actor.
THE LAVENDER HILL MOB, my personal favourite of the three available in this boxset, sees Guinness as Holland, a man who has worked loyally at his job for many decades. He decides it’s time to add a bit of excitement to his life by stealing the gold he is usually in charge of protecting. Seeing Holland recruit a number of average Joes to help pull-off quite an ingenious plan keeps the film enticing even when compared to violent and artillery filled modern day heist flicks. Everything here is executed with silver tongues and subtlety with a gang you really want to see succeed.
THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT is the most relevant film of today, looking at the greed of corporations and the reliance on a strong economic backbone. Guinness this time plays Sidney Stratton, a scientist who discovers how to synthesize a fabric that never gets dirty and never tears. At first he is hailed as a genious, but fearing a world that doesn’t need replacement clothes, the corporations start putting the squeeze on Sidney, as do the unions, who believe they’ll soon be out of work. Despite being very funny, the film is a tragedy in many ways, as even Sidney’s close friends turn against him.
In every film Guinness is remarkable and reminds us of what a truly talented man he was. As we are fast approaching what would have been his 100th birthday (April 2nd), this is the perfect time to see three of his greatest films from one of the best studios to have ever existed. This was a time when comedies meant something, and the fact they still hold up today shows that humour is intergenerational. If you don’t already own these three, then buy the box set.
(5 / 5)The Ealing Studios Collection Vol. 1 is released on Blu-ray on 31st March.