The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)

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Released 4-Aug-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer-2:18
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1951
Running Time 77:55
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Charles Crichton
Studio
Distributor
Ealing Studios
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Alec Guinness
Stanley Holloway
Sidney James
Alfie Bass
Case ?
RPI Box Music Georges Auric


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, appropriate to period
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I cannot remember when I first saw this film — it was a considerable time ago, but not on original release (this film is older than I am). I was certainly a child, and I remember being quite entertained by it. I saw it again as a teenager, and again a couple of times as an adult. I found it even more amusing as an adult, because I could appreciate some of the subtleties that escaped the child. As you might imagine, I've been awaiting its arrival on DVD.

    This is a excellent comedy, and I chose to review it first out of a set that's variously called The Alec Guinness Collection (Region 1), The Ealing Comedy Collection (Region 2), or Sir Alec Guinness Ealing Comedy Collection (Region 4 — covering all the bases!). This is a selection of fine comedies made by Ealing Studios and starring Alec Guinness.

    This film is a wonderful mixture of slapstick and broad comedy. Alec Guinness plays the apparently meek bank clerk, Mr Holland, whose job it is to accompany substantial shipments of gold bullion from the refinery to the Bank. He has long fantasised about stealing a shipment (an ordinary shipment is worth over 60 000 times his weekly wage), but he is faced by the problem of getting the gold out of England to Europe where it can be sold for several times its face value. Then comes the fateful day when a new tenant moves into the Balmoral Private Hotel (where he lives). The new tenant is Mr Pendlebury (the inimitable Stanley Holloway), the owner of Gewgaws Limited, maker of various tacky souvenirs, including cast lead paperweights in the shape of the Eiffel Tower that he ships to Paris. This is exactly what Holland's plan needs.

    The two of them can't pull off the job by themselves — they need the help of professional criminals. Their recruitment method is quite cute, but effective — they acquire the assistance of two hardened criminals in the form of Sidney James and Alfie Bass. The four of them form The Lavender Hill Mob, a pack of not-quite-desperadoes who will pull off this one job...

    Watch the opening scene closely, and you'll see a beautiful young woman addressed by Alec Guinness as Chiquita. It's Audrey Hepburn, in her first credited appearance in a movie.

    It's not at all surprising that the screenplay won an Oscar, nor that this earned Alec Guinness his first Oscar nomination.

    There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in this film, and it starts with a declaration from the British Board of Censors that it is suitable for General Exhibition, so you can share it with the whole family. Don't let the fact that it is black-and-white put you off — the comedy transcends the (lack of) colour.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This disc has a transfer in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and so is not 16x9 enhanced. The original theatrical aspect ratio was 1.37:1, so this is as close as we can expect.

    The image is surprisingly sharp, with only a little bit of edge enhancement. Shadow detail is quite reasonable. Film grain is no problem. There's no low-level noise.

    This is a black and white film, with deep inky blacks, whites that are white without being overblown, and a good range of shades of grey in between. There's no false colouration, and no colour-type artefacts.

    There are plenty of film artefacts, but they don't interfere with enjoying the film: small spots and flecks, and some fine scratches.

    There is a little bit of aliasing (not on car grilles, surprisingly). There is a touch of moiré here and there, but no MPEG artefacts. There's some telecine judder at times, but it's small.

    All up, this film is in rather good condition for an apparently unrestored film that is over 50 years old.

    There are no subtitles, unfortunately, so hearing-impaired viewers can't enjoy it as much they might. Well, they can enjoy the slapstick stuff, and the chase, but they'll miss some of the better jokes. Actually, there are two subtitle tracks, but they aren't selectable, so they don't really count.

    The disc is single-sided and single layered. That means no layer change, and the film is short enough that it's not crowded on the one layer.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The soundtrack is provided in English, but that's all. It is a Dolby Digital 2.0 (192kbps) track, but the content is pure mono, just like the original.

    The dialogue is clear and comprehensible almost all the time, with a couple of words less than perfectly audible due to the music. There are no audio sync errors.

    The music is a bit strident for my taste, and it hasn't benefited from the restricted frequency range of the original recording. It's credited to Georges Auric, and performed by "The Philharmonic Orchestra" (no, I don't know which one, it doesn't say).

    This mono soundtrack provides nothing for the surrounds or subwoofer to chew on.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu is static with music. It's easy to use, because there's not a lot to choose.

Theatrical Trailer (2:18)

    I strongly suspect that this is the American theatrical trailer for the film. It's rather entertaining, but not brilliant quality.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this disc is quite similar in features. The Region 1 disc has the same trailer, but it adds a lengthy bio of Alec Guinness (over 30 pages). The big difference between the two is in the transfer. The Region 1 transfer is a bit darker, with less shadow detail. At a few points, it really does look black and white, with no shades of grey. The Region 4 transfer is definitely better.

Summary

    A wonderful comedy finally comes to DVD, and quite a decent DVD, too.

    The video quality is fine.

    The audio quality is adequate.

    The only extra is the trailer, which is amusing, but not exactly substantial.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Saturday, August 23, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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