Make Mine Mink (1960)

“Oh I’m so thrilled to be in the shock troops again.”

An affectionate tale of bungling amateur thieves, Make Mine Mink is one of the great must-see British comedy classics. Set in Kensington, the action centers around a boarding house owned, with fading gentility, by Dame Beatrice (Athene Seyler). Her tenants are a motley lot: there’s the mannish Nanette Parry (Hattie Jacques), who makes her living coaching would-be debutantes on issues of etiquette, the frazzled, nervous Pinkie (Elspeth Duxbury), a spinster who mends chipped china, and Major Rayne (Terry-Thomas), a man whose glory days remain in WWII.

When the film begins, the tenants’ lives are fraught with petty arguments with one another. Forced to share amenities, their relationships are mired in dislike and irritation, but there’s an exception to this–all of the tenants worship their kindly landlady, the eccentric Dame Beatrice. Even the maid, Lily (Billie Whitelaw), a reformed thief adores her employer, and the household agrees that Dame Beatrice is a wonderful woman who devotes her life to charitable pursuits.

But Dame Beatrice’s charitable pursuits aren’t yielding much in the way of results, and she notes that whatever profit they make goes “down the throat of the organizing committee.” A chain of events leads the tenants, and Dame Beatrice to pursue a life of crime in order to fund Dame Beatrice’s favourite charities. And as in usual in the case of thieves who operate out of boredom and the need for excitement, this ad-hoc gang develops an alarming taste for a life of crime.

Operating with the campaign strategy of the Major, the newly formed gang conducts a rash of daring fur robberies. For the first time in years, the Major is in his element, feeling useful and productive, as he marshals the women into various robberies. With experience, they become more practiced, and they also become more creative, but a couple of close calls cause them to reconsider. Unfortunately, they are now addicted to the excitement and the thrill of their criminal lives. The Major used to bemoan the fact that he ended “holed up here with a lot of dotty women,” but now the women rely on him to direct operations with a military flare.

Directed by Robert Asher and based on a play by Peter Coke, this gentle comedy pokes fun at the foibles of human nature and the dangers of boredom. Keep your eyes open for Kenneth Williams as sneaky fence Freddie Warrington.

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Filed under British, Comedy

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