League of Gentlemen/B, B

Criterion/1960/113m/WS 1.66/BW

    The League of Gentlemen represents the ultimate of British reserve. Though a full expression of the droll British sense of humor, it still fails to capture the imagination. A methodical bank heist film, almost every aspect of the film is sprinkled with a sly chuckle. Consistently enjoyable and even-handed, the film’s chief failure is it’s civility.
     "Gentlemen" is structured as a classic heist film. The first part of the film is dedicated to introducing the heist team one by one as they are recruited by their former Army Colonel Hyde. Played with perfect decorum by Jack Hawkins, Hyde’s heist plans are a reaction to having been forcibly retired from the Army. Hyde’s recruits all have served under him and have fared less than well in peace time England.
     There are actually two capers in League of Gentlemen, the first to obtain the weapons needed to perform the second. Raiding an Army base, the troop hones their questionable abilities under the watchful eye of Hyde and despite some unexpected interference, manages to come away with the needed equipment. Methodical plans for the heist ensue, with small excursions outside the tight circle of conspirators.
     The bank heist is executed in swift strokes is rather simple in its planning and execution. The most exotic element of gear are gas masks for the perpetrators. It’s surprising that it comes off as well as it does. But crime doesn’t necessarily pay too well in jolly old England. The celebration for the successful heist meets with a surprise ending.
     This is a very nice transfer from Criterion. Again, source materials are very good as reflected in the resultant clean laser disc. The black and white images lack punch, but overall detail is sharp. The soundtrack is delivered in simple terms worthy of the heist.

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