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The Lavender Hill Mob(1951)
Holland, a shy retiring man, dreams of being rich and living the good life. Faithfully, for 20 years, he has worked as a bank transfer agent for the delivery of gold bullion. One day he befriends Pendlebury, a maker of souvenirs. Holland remarks that, with Pendlebury's smelting equipment, one could forge the gold into harmless-looking toy Eiffel Towers and smuggle the gold from England into France. Soon after, the two plant a story to gain the services of professional criminals Lackery and Shorty. Together, the four plot their crime, leading to unexpected twists and turns.
For more about The Lavender Hill Mob and the The Lavender Hill Mob Blu-ray release, see the The Lavender Hill Mob Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on July 28, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Alec Guinness, Stanley Holloway, Sidney James, Alfie Bass, Marjorie Fielding, Edie Martin
Director: Charles Crichton
» See full cast & crew
The Lavender Hill Mob Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, July 28, 2011
Charles Crichton's "The Lavender Hill Mob" (1951) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment. The supplemental features on the disc include a short introduction to the film by director Martin Scorsese; newly restored trailer; interview with writer T.E.B. Clarke; excerpts from the BECTU history project interview with director Charles Crichton; behind the scenes stills gallery; and restoration comparison. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-Free.
Henry Holland (Alec Guinness, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Doctor Zhivago) is a quiet bank clerk who works in a gold bullion office in downtown London. For over twenty years, he has been dreaming about being rich. He is in his early fifties and single.
Convinced that it is time for a change, Henry decides to rob his bank. He invites amateur sculptor and paperweights designer Alfred Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway, Brief Encounter, My Fair Lady) to assist him after he realizes that he is just as disillusioned with life as he is. Shortly after, the two are joined by a duo of professional gangsters - Lackery (Sidney James, The Glass Tomb, Too Many Crooks), a safe cracker, and Shorty (Alfie Bass, The Bespoke Overcoat, Come Play With Me), a man with an unlimited arsenal of special skills.
The plan is to hijack a truck full of gold bullion, with Henry in it, and have Alfred melt the gold into souvenir models of the Eiffel Tower which will be shipped to Paris. Once in France, the gold will be sold on the black market. The money from the sale will be evenly distributed between Henry, Alfred, Lackery, and Shorty.
A day after the gang is formed, however, Henry is told by his boss that he is getting promoted – which means that he will no longer have to work in the gold bullion office and sign off deliveries. This puts his plan in jeopardy because without him around it would be impossible to hijack the truck. Afraid that they might miss their chance to get rich, Henry, Alfred, Lackery, and Shorty agree to expedite things.
The heist goes according to Henry's plan. While Scotland Yard is looking for the robbers, the gold is quickly melted and shipped to Paris. Unfortunately, there a few British schoolgirls visiting the city end up buying a couple of the souvenirs. When Henry and Alfred go after them and try to recover the souvenirs, all hell breaks loose.
Based on an original script by T.E.B. Clarke, an Ealing Studios regular, Charles Crichton's The Lavender Hill Mob is a charming, highly energetic film, one of the very best in the capper genre. It is also a refreshingly politically incorrect film, which is why it is so irresistibly funny.
The film is loaded with terrific one-liners that effectively neutralize its minor plot inconsistencies. The tempo is steady and the camerawork surprisingly strong (the film had a very limited budget but it never shows).
Guinness and Holloway make a great pair of crooks. After their trip to Paris – the highlight of which is the wonderfully edited Eiffel Tower sequence – the film switches gears and also delivers a series of effective satirical blows.
The long chase on the streets of London during the final third of the film is done with a great sense of style. Additionally, where in so many similarly themed films a chase would be used to show off various techniques or locations, here it actually enhances the satire.
There is a surprising cameo in The Lavender Hill Mob. Very early into the film the beautiful Audrey Hepburn appears as Chiquita, a supposedly good friend of Guinness' character.
Note: In 1951, The Lavender Hill Mob was nominated for Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival. In 1953, it won Oscar for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay (T.E.B. Clarke).
The Lavender Hill Mob Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Charles Crichton's The Lavender Hill Mob arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment.
The following text appears in the press materials for the Blu-ray release of The Lavender Hill Mob:
"The Lavender Hill Mob was scanned in 2K definition on a Spirit 4K Film Scanner from the original 35mm fine-grain elements and restored in High Definition. The picture was restored using HD-DVNR and MTI restoration tools, removing dirt, scratches, warps, torn or replacing torn and/or missing frames and improving stability issues. The sound was transferred from a preservation 35mm print and was further improved, with instances of pops, clicks, hiss and distortion minimised or removed."
I don't have The Lavender Hill Mob on SDVD in my library to comment on how this new Blu-ray release compares to previous releases of the film, but I would be shocked if any of them come even remotely close in matching the strong quality on display here. Having been fully restored -- and at the moment also being screened at selected theaters across the United Kingdom -- The Lavender Hill Mob looks terrific. Fine object detail and clarity are very good and contrast levels pleasingly consistent. In fact, there is an interesting comparison featurette on the disc showing how the film looked prior to the restoration, and truly, the improvements in quality after the restoration was completed are beyond dramatic. Edge-enhancement is never a serious issue of concern. I also did not see any traces of overzealous sharpening -- the image has a pleasing organic look and depth (see screencapture #3). Some careful noise corrections have been performed, but they are on par with what we have seen on many of Criterion's very best Blu-ray release. Obviously, a layer of light grain is present throughout the entire film. Aside from a few inherited frame skips, there are no serious stability issues to report in this review. Finally, the film has also been thoroughly cleaned up. A few minor scratches, however, are visible here and there. All in all, this is a very strong Blu-ray release, which I have absolutely no doubt will please fans of classic British cinema. (Note: I was sent a screener, not a finished version of this release. My screener is Region-Free, and suspect that the final market version of The Lavender Hill Mob will be as well. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location. For the record, there is no problematic PAL or 1080/50i content preceding the disc's main menu).
The Lavender Hill Mob Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 2.0. For the record, Optimum Home Entertainment have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
Unsurprisingly, the English LPCM 2.0 has a rather limited dynamic amplitude. However, balance and clarity are very good. The dialog is pleasingly crisp and stable. I would not say that it is always easy to follow -- a lot of the one-liners often come rather quickly -- so I am glad to see that Optimum Home Entertainment have provided optional English SDH subtitles. Finally, while viewing the film, I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, or audio dropouts to report in this review.
The Lavender Hill Mob Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Note: Some of the supplemental features on this Blu-ray disc are in PAL. Therefore, if you reside in a territory where PAL is not supported, you must have a Region-Free Blu-ray player in order to access them.
The Lavender Hill Mob Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If you consider yourself a fan of classic British Cinema, you absolutely have to have Charles Crichton's magnificent The Lavender Hill Mob in your libraries. The film has been recently restored and looks simply terrific on Blu-ray. Indeed, this is yet another fantastic package from the folks at Optimum Home Entertainment, who are bringing a number of Classic British films to Blu-ray this year (amongst them Kind Hearts and Coronets, Whisky Galore, Went The Day Well?, The Cruel Sea, Ice Cold in Alex, and Brighton Rock). Also, if you are in the UK, or will be visiting, see the film theatrically. Optimum Home Entertainment have arranged to have The Lavender Hill Mob screened in selected theaters across the country. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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The Lavender Hill Mob Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Lavender Hill Mob Trailer - July 22, 2011
On August 1, British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment will release on Blu-ray Charles Crichton's recently restored classic The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) to celebrate the film's 60th anniversary. We have the restored trailer that will be included on this upcoming ...
• The Lavender Hill Mob 60th Anniversary Blu-ray - June 2, 2011
British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment have announced that they are preparing a Blu-ray release of Charles Crichton's recently restored classic The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) to celebrate the film's 60th anniversary. Street date is August 1.
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