Michael Balcon

Michael Balcon

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The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog Review


Essential
Hitchcock's third feature established his name. Indeed, he regarded it as his first true accomplishment, setting the tone for the career that followed. It also stands up as an inventive mystery-thriller that's both scary and darkly moving.

As a killer who calls himself the Avenger preys on fair-haired women in London, Mr and Mrs Bunting (Chesney and Ault) begin to fear for their blonde daughter Daisy (June). Thankfully, she's being courted by cocky detective Joe (Keen), who's sure he can protect her and catch the Avenger. Then a shy, strikingly good-looking young man (Novello) rents a room in their home. As Daisy's affections quietly shift from Joe to this new lodger, her parents begin to worry about who he is. And Joe's jealousy makes him suspicious as well.

Continue reading: The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog Review

Kind Hearts and Coronets Review


Good
This is often considered a classic black comedy and one of Alec Guinness' best films, but Kind Hearts and Coronets is far from perfect. The protagonist, a young Londoner named Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price), bears a grudge against his mother's family, the blueblood D'Ascoynes, because they ostracized mom. So he rubs out the eight living members of the family (all played by the versatile Guinness) who stand between him and inheriting the dukedom and family estate.

This very British film features a successful surprise ending and a strong supporting cast, especially Joan Greenwood as the bad girl who threatens to be Mazzini's undoing. But Dennis Price is not Guinness' match as a screen presence, and his character is too amoral to be believable, even for a farce, so the film doesn't quite work. It could also have used more Alec Guinness -- in spite of playing eight roles, Guinness doesn't actually get enough screen time. And when Sir Alec is not on screen, the whole thing is a little too slow and contrived.

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The Man in the White Suit Review


OK
Cute and a little too pat, The Man in the White Suit offers Alec Guinness trapped in an undercooked story with so much wasted potential. Guinness plays Sidney Stratton, a textile researcher who -- after years of effort -- develops a miracle fabric that doesn't wear out or get dirty. Rather than find himself the company hero, he's immediately the subject of various lynch mobs: The company doesn't want such a fabric because they won't be able to sell new clothes every year, and neither do the workers, who know they'll soon be out of a job. Even the cleaning ladies are pissed. Funny stuff, but that's about the end of it. Ultimately you feel it could have gone miles further.

The Lavender Hill Mob Review


Excellent
This Ealing Studios crime caper/comedy is one of the studio's best, with Alec Guinness the nebbish, unlikely leader of a plan to steal a truckload of gold from the Bank of England, then smuggle it out of the country by melting it into Eiffel Tower statuettes. Naturally, something goes wrong (namely, a clerk at the Tower obliviously begins selling the statues to tourists), which sends the film into one of the funniest chase sequences in film history. Watch for two cameos: One by an Ealing production truck (at the end) and one by Audrey Hepburn (at the beginning).

The Ladykillers (1955) Review


OK
As black comedies go, The Ladykillers (remade in 2004) is neither terribly black nor terribly comedic. The centerpiece performance by a sunken-eyed Alec Guinness doesn't ever raise the film above its simple beginnings, involving a band of crooks (led by Guinness) who use an old woman's home as home base for a heist. The crooks scheme to kill the old lady when she stumbles upon their plan. Slow and unbalanced, the movie doesn't make much of an impression, though some moments (like the crooks posing as a string quartet) are priceless.

Continue reading: The Ladykillers (1955) Review

Michael Balcon

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