The Ladykillers is a 1955 British black comedy film made by Ealing Studios. Directed by Alexander Mackendrick, it stars Alec Guinness, Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom, Peter Sellers, Danny Green, Jack Warner and Katie Johnson. American William Rose wrote the screenplay, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay and won the BAFTA Award for Best British Screenplay. He claimed to have dreamt the entire film and merely had to remember the details when he awoke.
Mrs. Louisa Wilberforce (Katie Johnson) is an eccentric old widow who lives alone with her parrots in a gradually subsiding "lopsided" house in King's Cross, built over the entrance to a railway tunnel. With nothing to occupy her time and an active imagination, she is a frequent visitor to the local police station, where she reports fanciful suspicions regarding various people she has come into contact with. Because of the wild-goose chases she has led them on in the past, the officers in the station humour her but give her absolutely no credence. She is approached by a comically sinister criminal, 'Professor' Marcus (Alec Guinness), who wants to rent rooms in her house. Unbeknownst to her, he has put together a gang for a sophisticated security van robbery at the railway station: the gentlemanly con-man 'Major' Courtney (Cecil Parker), the Cockney spiv Harry Robinson (Peter Sellers), the slow-witted ex-boxer 'One-Round' Lawson (Danny Green), and the vicious continental gangster Louis Harvey (Herbert Lom). However, the Professor convinces Mrs. Wilberforce that they are an amateur string quintet using the room for rehearsal space. To maintain the deception, the gang members carry musical instruments and play a recording of Boccherini's Minuet (3rd movement) from String Quintet in E, Op. 11 No. 5 during their planning sessions. After the successful theft, the real conflict begins. As the gang leaves her house, 'One-Round' accidentally gets his cello case full of banknotes trapped in the front door as it is closed by Mrs. Wilberforce. As he pulls the case free the banknotes spill out in front of Mrs. Wilberforce. She realises the truth and informs Marcus that she is going to report them to the police. The gangsters, unaware of her reputation, decide they have no choice but to do away with her. No one wants to do it, so they draw matchsticks. The Major loses, but tries to make a run for it with the cash in hand. In quick succession, the criminals double-cross and kill one another. The Major falls off the roof of the house after being chased by Louis; Harry is killed by One-Round when he thinks Harry has killed Mrs Wilberforce after having a change of heart; One-Round tries to shoot Louis and Marcus when they plan to double-cross him, but leaves the gun's safety catch on and is killed by Louis instead; and Marcus kills Louis by pushing him from a ladder under the tunnel near the house and into the passing railway wagons. Finally, with no-one else left, Marcus himself is hit on the back of the head by the train signal over the tunnel and is thrown into another wagon. All the other bodies also end up dumped into railway wagons passing behind the house. Throughout all this, the oblivious Mrs. Wilberforce remains asleep. When the gang members are dead Mrs. Wilberforce is left with the money. She goes to the police to return it, but they do not believe her and jokingly tell her to keep it. She is puzzled, but decides to follow their advice and goes home, leaving a banknote of a substantial denomination with a surprised beggar on the way.