The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)

The Lavender Hill Mob poster

Some films just take you back in a swoon of nostalgia for a time you couldn’t possibly have known but maybe you’d sniffed once upon a time. Bank clerk Holland (Alec Guinness) dreams of the good life and we meet him in Rio, regaling the assembled audience about his cunning plan (and watch for Audrey Hepburn in an early walk-on) to escape the dull life he used to lead. He and Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway) use the latter’s smelting gear to forge gold bullion into Eiffel Tower souvenir paperweights which they have to smuggle back to London and hire Lackery (Sid James) and Shorty (Alfie Bass) to help carry out the scheme. This is one of the best Ealing comedies and embodies the term droll. Those names read like the comfort blanket of the shipping forecast, the T.E.B. Clarke script parodies The Blue Lamp – watch that final chase! – and he won an Academy Award for his trouble. He had done research for bank robberies when writing Pool of London and the Bank of England set up a special committee as to how best it could be achieved! Edited by Seth Holt and directed by Charlie Crichton, this was shot by the late great Douglas Slocombe in a London that still looks bombed-out. (If you’re really sharp you’ll spot little James Fox in a shot and Robert Shaw in another, making his screen debut). For when you need a warm bath. Love it.

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That Man From Rio (1964)

That Man from Rio poster.jpg

Incredibly fast-moving and funny action adventure comedy that caused a sensation and started the trend for Bond send-ups, then and now, and was an acknowledged influence on Raiders of the Lost Ark.  It was nominated at the 37th Oscars for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay. The title sequence owes a little to Charade (as does the opening shot) while the score by the magnificent Georges Delerue is a perfect fit for the genre. It is clearly influenced by the Adventures of Tintin. Jean-Paul Belmondo is the airman home on leave to see girlfriend Francoise Dorleac immediately after her father’s colleague has been taken from the museum where he worked. She is then kidnapped by Indians who want to find the whereabouts of a valuable Amazon treasure as they believe she is the only person who has the information. Belmondo follows her to Brazil and things get crazier by the minute …  The second of 5 films writer/director Philippe de Broca and the charming Belmondo made together, this breathless (and saucy) action adventure (trains and boats and planes and automobiles AND parachutes!) was a spectacular international success. De Broca started in the industry making short films while serving in the French army in Algeria, an experience that made him want to just make other people laugh. He worked with Chabrol and Truffaut and Chabrol produced his first film, one of 4 with Jean-Pierre Cassel. Things happen so quickly that you don’t have time to care about logic. It’s as if they just made it up as they went along – a lesson in tone for all aspiring filmmakers. It’s brilliantly shot and performed and the locations – Paris, Rio, Brasilia, with all those futuristic buildings – are artfully used as character. Belmondo runs so much he must have been super fit. Dorleac is utterly beguiling as Agnes in another terrific performance which reminds us of the terrible loss to cinema her tragically early death was. Adolfo Celi is so good as the ostensible villain he was tapped for Thunderball the following year.When de Broca died in 2004, his gravestone was inscribed, J’ai assez ri (I have laughed enough). Fabulous.