A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie is about a gang of criminals exploiting an elderly person for their own financial means, as they plot a robbery nearby. As such there are few positive messages, although the generosity and kindness of the elderly character seemingly has a positive impact on the criminals, with good ultimately triumphing over bad.
Positive Role Models
The gangsters, led by Professor Marcus, are thieves and prey on a vulnerable, lonely woman, Mrs. Wilberforce, using her as part of their dastardly plans. She represents what is good about people, showing generosity in letting them stay. When she has money, she willingly gives it to others in need. She also believes in the justice system and bravely wishes to inform the police of wrongdoing, even if it puts herself in danger.
The cast is all White and nearly all male with the exception being an elderly lady who is referred to and portrayed as old and naive in a derogatory manner.
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Violence & Scariness
Though violence runs throughout, it is all presented in a slapstick fashion and there's nothing graphic on show. Characters display guns and brandish knives. During a heist, gangsters break into a van using a crowbar, and drag helpless drivers out of the vehicle. Someone is punched in the face. Many deaths happen, which involve characters falling off a roof, being shot, and hit by a plank of wood. Dead bodies are discarded and thrown off a railway bridge. Two characters engage in a fight to the death, shooting at each other, and eventually one unlocks a ladder that sees the other fall to their demise. Moments later the perpetrator is hit on the head accidentally and also falls onto a moving train. A character is followed home. Reference to making a murder look like a suicide by hanging.
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Occasional mild hostile language such as "buzz off."
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Products & Purchases
The entire movie is built on money and the lengths criminals will go to get their hands on it.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters are frequently seen smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Ladykillers is a classic '50s crime comedy that will appeal to all the family, despite consisting of dark themes, and characters being killed, largely in slapstick fashion. The plot centers around five criminals, led by Professor Marcus (Alec Guinness), who take advantage of an elderly widow, Mrs. Wilberforce (Katie Johnson), in order to perform a heist. The gang are all reprehensible and are seemingly prepared to kill in order to get away with their crimes. Mrs. Wilberforce, in contrast, shows kindness and generosity. There is violence and characters are seen with weapons such as guns and knives. A man is punched in the face, and other incidents include someone falling off a roof and another being hit by a plank of wood. Characters discard of dead bodies by throwing them off a bridge. They also have a shoot-out by train tracks, with one falling off a ladder onto the tracks, while another is hit on the head and lands on a moving train. The gang also discuss killing Mrs. Wilberforce by staging a suicide and hanging her. There are elements of ageism as the criminals underestimate Mrs. Wilberforce and refer to her age as though it's a weakness. People are seen smoking throughout the movie, though this is in the context of the 1950s setting. The movie was remade in 2004. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
A shining light of the "Ealing comedies" -- a series of films made across the 1940s and '50s from Ealing Studios -- this 1955 crime caper remains as entertaining today as it did then. The Ladykillers follows a gloriously simple, almost stage production-like approach to storytelling, that focuses on a small group of characters, across very few settings. Due to this approach, much emphasis is placed on the screenplay and the performances, both of which are fantastic. It's easy to see why the Coen brothers deemed this a tale worth retelling with their 2004 version.
Guinness' Professor Marcus has a wicked, dastardly demeanor about him that encapsulates the tonality of the film, while conversely, Johnson is so brilliantly likable as Mrs. Wilberforce. Peter Sellers also stars in what is a stellar cast of British screen legends. Despite the comedic elements, the movie takes its plot seriously, much like the gangsters take their craft. Yet the subtle eccentricity, an inclination for nothing to go as planned, gives an almost cartoon-like feel. It's a film that is self-aware, knowingly sticking to the tropes of classic film noir, while also poking fun at them thanks to this merry band of useless criminals.
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