In some movies, the setting can be as much of a protagonist as any human character. The Ladykillers, produced by Ealing Studios in 1955, provides an excellent example of such a film. The action unfolds almost entirely within the cramped interiors of a cozy cottage nestled at the end of a row of tenement houses overlooking a rail yard. Every inch of every room positively radiates personality: portraits hang crookedly on slanted walls, stubbornly refusing to be straightened; the elderly landlady has to hammer on the pipes with a wrench in order to get the water flowing; and tropical birds chatter incessantly in the parlor. Even Alec Guinness’ quirky criminal mastermind—with his snaggle-toothed grin, bug-eyed glare, and slicked-back hair—struggles to upstage such an idiosyncratic and colorful backdrop.
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