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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > British > Alec Guinness Ealing Boxed Set (Anchor Bay DVDs)

Alec Guinness Collection   (Anchor Bay/Ealing Comedies)


Picture:  Sound: Extras:  Film:


Kind Hearts and Coronets         C           C         D          A-              

The Lavender Hill Mob             C           C         D          B+

The Man in the White Suit        C           C         D          A-

The Captain’s Paradise            C           C         C          B      

The Ladykillers                       C+         C         D          A-



When it comes to some of the greatest actors to ever hit the big screen it is nearly impossible to not mention Alec Guinness within the top five.  His accomplishments over a lengthy career are insurmountable.  From his role as Herbert Pocket in David Lean’s magnificent adaptation of Great Expectations (1946) to his hated role as the larger than life character of Obi-Won Kenobi.  His Academy Award nominations include The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) for actor, The Horse’s Mouth (1958) for screenplay, Star Wars (1977) for supporting, and Little Dorrit (1988) also for supporting.  Guinness would win an Oscar and Golden Globe for his memorable role in David Lean’s epic Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).  Guinness’s diversity as an actor was single handedly demonstrated as he took on eight roles alone in the classic Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), which is included in this box set along with The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), The Man in the White Suit (1951), The Captain’s Paradise (1953), and The Ladykillers (1955). 


Kind Hearts and Coronets is a film that is strictly a black comedy that people who laugh during The Ruling Class (1972), will certainly enjoy.  In this film Guinness plays Louis Mazzini, son of a would-be countess, whose aristocratic family disowned her for eloping with an opera singer. Louis' father dies shortly after his mother gives birth. As a result, he grows up watching her struggle sending him to school with the little money they have, and comes to learn of the Duke title that is rightfully his, but out of reach, which means he must kill all those in direct succession. 


The Lavender Hill Mob is a terrific comedy that uses the formula of ‘lessons through laughter’. Unlike some of the silly type of washed out comedies that we receive these days’ comedies like this actually had meaning and they had a point.  At times they were sheer fun, but through that came something more than just some laughs.  There was something memorable there.  Guinness stars as Henry Holland, a bank clerk who devises a plan in order to rob his own bank.  His plan is ingenious and will also include the help of his accomplice Stanley Holloway, who is most known for My Fair Lady.  This entire caper, that at one point seemed fault proof, ends up turning into a caper of the most bizarre with chaos laying the path.  This film would certainly be a setup for later films that involved serious situations, but placing them into a light hearted film, such as Guy Ritchie’s hit film Snatch (2001).  


All of the DVD’s within this set contain a trailer for the film.  There are no other supplements included.  The set contains five films all of which are available individually, with exception of The Captain’s Paradise, which is considered a bonus DVD in this box set.  Each film is presented in its original full-frame aspect ratio, aside from The Ladykillers, which is presented in its widescreen ratio of 1.66:1, and is anamorphically enhanced.  The quality is relatively similar on each film despite being a few years apart.  There is a considerable amount of grain here and there, as well as some damage in the print that certainly show the age of these films.  Detail tends to be a problem at time and each film has its moments of being a tad too soft.  This is never that distracting, but the quality here is not going to be able to compete with some of the other material out there that has been restored such as The Criterion Edition of Spellbound (1945). 


These films are all brilliantly shot in black in white with amazing results, with exception of The Ladykillers, which was Technicolor. The whites can be slightly blown-out, which can especially be seen in The Man in the White Suit, which almost works as a science fiction film.  It has those qualities, but is also a great comedy and is making several social statements, and one big existential one.


Although these image issues are minor setbacks, each film still looks much better than they have before for home viewing.  The Ladykillers has some slight problems with the colors shifting at times, which is typical of some of the Technicolor films from this era on DVD.  This similar problem was apparent on some of the Marilyn Monroe films.  However, some of the Powell/Pressburger films or some of Douglas Sirk’s films that have been restored such as Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows (1955) or Written on the Wind (1956), which have been restored by Criterion and demonstrate some of the amazing results that can occur to these films when handled carefully.


Each film is presented with 2.0 Dolby Digital Mono soundtracks, which have all the typical problems of mono.  Cluttered, distorted, and wanting these soundtracks are harsh at times.  Mono recordings, even though these are 2.0, still sound cluttered especially with these films, which managed to include a lot of offset, on-set, and various other arrangements with the soundtrack to captivate the viewers attention.  It is hard to say what the original source was for Anchor Bay to work with, so in their defense, they probably did the best that they could for this release.  British films are typically taken care of quite well as with some of Hitchcock’s British films such as Rebecca, Notorious, and Spellbound.  Anchor Bay put out editions of each of these films, which are also available through Criterion in restored versions with supplements. 


This is surely a way to catch up on some classic films and if you are not very familiar with Alec Guinness you will want to hit yourself after watching these for not finding out earlier.  Anchor Bay did an admirable job of putting these films together and even without some of the nice perks of supplements they are still enjoyable on their own.



-   Nate Goss


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