I've always kinda found this one to be floating around sort of under the radar, but well known enough, if only because of its remake, featuring Tom Hanks, which in and of itself isn't talked about much. It's one of those titles people are aware of, but don't really bring to the forefront of any conversation about film. It's been pretty well swept under the rug. We know it's there, but it's out of sight, out of mind.
'The Ladykillers' tells of an innocent old lady named Mrs. Wilberforce (Katie Johnson), who is trying to rent out a room. Along come a gang of five criminals, planning a heist at London's King's Cross Station, and needing a place to stay while they plan it all out, under fake identities.
An almost cartoonish band of crooks, they are lead by mastermind Professor Marcus (Alec Guinness). Others include straight-laced Claude Courtney (Cecil Parker), hot-headed Louis Harvey (Herbert Lom), funny man Harry Robinson (Peter Sellers) and slow-witted ex-boxer, "One-Round" Lawson (Danny Green).
The namesake of the film comes into play when the heist goes off without a hitch, but the gang is caught by Mrs. Wilberforce. While she intends on making them turn the money in, the gang agrees to do so, while in the meantime, plan on killing her, taking the money and run. Of course, as one might guess, the comedy comes into play when these characters start playing off each other, and the situation at hand just gets worse and worse.
If I'm perfectly honest, this one didn't do a hell of a lot for me. It certainly wasn't bad. It made me laugh here and there, it's a solid dark comedy for the late 50's, and it works just fine for what it's trying to do. I get the feeling that it's just one of those titles that isn't for me. But as I mentioned earlier, it does seem to have gotten swept under the rug and forgotten about - save the 2004 remake, which suffered pretty much the same fate.
This is a good title for those trying to dip their toes into the subgenre of dark comedy. This could easily be seen as a pioneer for that kind of film making. It was Oscar nominated for Best Original Screenplay in 1957 (losing to 'The Red Balloon'), and its writer, William Rose, went on to work on 'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World', and was nominated for 'Genevieve' (preceding 'Ladykillers'), 'The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!' and 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner' - odds are you're familiar with one of those old, famous titles. If so, check this out based on the writer's skill more than anything else. It's otherwise just kinda... "meh".