Arguably the finest and most popular Ealing film ever made, The Ladykillers is a black comedy that follows the hilarious capers of a group of small-time crooks, taking on more than they can handle in the form of sweet elderly landlady, Mrs Wilberforce (BAFTA Award winning actress Katie Johnson, How To Murder A Rich Uncle).
This group of seedy misfits are planning a security van robbery and rent a room from Mrs Wilberforce in her rickety Victorian house next to King’s Cross station from which to base their operation. To conceal their true purpose, they pose as a string quartet, though they cannot play a note and are in fact miming to a recording of Boccherini’s Minuet. The gang pull off the robbery but none of them could have predicted that their greatest obstacle to escaping with the loot would be their tiny hostess.
The Ladykillers features an all-star line-up of the finest comedy actors of the era: Alec Guinness (Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Lavender Hill Mob) plays the gang’s mastermind ‘Professor Marcus’; Cecil Parker (A French Mistress) is Claude otherwise known as ‘Major Courtney’; Peter Sellers (I’m Alright Jack) is Harry aka ‘Mr Robinson’; Herbert Lom (The Pink Panther) is Louis aka ‘Mr Harvey’ and Danny Green (A Kid For Two Farthings) plays One Round also known as ‘Mr Lawson’. Jack Warner, Frankie Howerd and Kenneth Connor also appear in supporting roles.
The Ladykillers was BAFTA nominated for Best British Film and won Best British Screenplay for William Rose and Best British Actress for Katie Johnson, in the film that made her a star at the grand old age of 77! Alexander Mackendrick, along with Robert Hamer, was one of Ealing Studios’ greatest directors and The Ladykillers and Hamer’s Kind Hearts & Coronets are two of the dark jewels in Ealing’s crown – films where the wonderful blackness of the plot is disguised by the farce that surrounds it. The Ladykillers has inspired a Coen brothers remake and a very successful stage play and is always a fixture of Best Ever Comedies and Best British Films lists including The Guardian, Empire and Time Out (with the likes of Michel Gondry and Ben Wheatley placing The Ladykillers in their all-time top 10).
The Collector’s Edition release includes ‘Those Glorious Ealing Films’ CD soundtrack (with music from The Ladykillers, Passport to Pimlico, Kind Hearts & Coronets and more), a 64-page booklet and 6 Pop Art artcards
As The Ladykillers was the last Technicolor three-strip film shot in the UK, it was crucially important that the original camera negative was used for a restoration that will serve as the best version of the film since its original release.
The restoration began with the 4K pin-registered scanning of the original 1950s Technicolor three-strip camera negative. The three strips have to have their colour separations combined to produce the final colour image. One of the biggest issues to overcome was aligning the colour separations together, initially an automated process, but also requiring a huge amount of manual tweaking. Manual and automated digital restoration was carried out over the aligned images. The film suffered from a few extreme issues such as blue marks in the middle to right hand side of frame throughout the film that had to be removed, there was significant density fluctuation (flicker) that has been corrected as best as possible on a shot by shot basis. Many shots suffered from instability and some sections also suffered from scratching, the worst being a four-minute section including scratches throughout the sequence with up to eight onscreen at a time. In total the film benefitted from over a 1000 hours’ worth of 4K digital restoration.
A 35mm Technicolor print was used as a reference for the colour grade to ensure the new HDR Dolby Vision master stayed true to the films original 1950s ‘Colour by Technicolor’ look.