Thursday, September 25, 2014

Extraordinary League of Gentlemen

As you know, I like cozy little English comedies. The League of Gentlemen (1960) was so much more.

The setup is brilliant: A retired Colonel, Jack Hawkins, reads a crime novel and decides that he could pull off the caper. He gathers together a band of seven other veterans, all in disgrace and/or need of money. Then, with military precision, they carry it out.

Since this is a comedy - sort of - you can't expect it to go off without a hitch. But this isn't so much a comedy of errors as a comedy of manners. There isn't a lot of time spent on each of the veterans, but they all have their little foibles. One is a free and easy gambler, also broke. One is a vicar with a line of religious tracts and smutty books. More than one was cashiered for sexual improprieties - there's a bit more gayness in this movie than you might expect. One calls everyone "old darling", a habit he picked up in prison. And Oliver Reed shows up in a cameo as a swishy chorus boy.

Now, this isn't a laugh riot, but it moves right along, even at 2 hours running time. The cast includes a lot of classic British actors of the day, including the recently deceased Richard Attenborough. I didn't really recognize anyone myself (except perhaps Richard Coote, who I misidentified as Naunton Wayne), but quality will tell.

We enjoyed this so much, we're going to look for more by director Basil Dearden.

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