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Too Many Crooks (1959)

A gang of crooks drive their car – which has been customised with a battering ram – through the window of a jewellers shop in the wee hours of the morning. The passenger, Sid (Sid James), advises his boss, Fingers (George Cole), not to speed up too much, just tap the window and it should break. But true to bungling form, he is too enthusiastic and the shopfront collapses after the vehicle smashes through it. The crooks barely manage to get away and regroup back at their cottage hideout.

Next, the incompetent crooks (George Cole, Sid James and Bernard Bresslaw) unsuccessfully attempt to rob a tight-fisted millionaire Billy Gordon (Terry-Thomas) but after a number of failed attempts, they decide to kidnap his daughter Angela (Rosalie Ashley) instead – only to end up with his wife Lucy (Brenda de Banzie).

To add insult to injury, Gordon is delighted and refuses to pay any ransom, offering Terry-Thomas every opportunity he needs to play the cad to the hilt. There then follows a tug of war between Gordon and the gang over who gets his money as the criminals find an unlikely ally: Lucy tells them that she’ll assist them to get her own back, in fact, she’ll coordinate the whole scam to get those funds, which are half hers by rights, much to Fingers’ dismay. Not to mention Gordon’s dismay.

The cast is a Who’s Who of British comedy and the script by Michael Pertwee is based on a devilish premise. But the picture never really lives up to its billing, largely due to the less-than-inspired direction of Italian exile Mario Zampi.

The whole concept behind the film was lifted and reused for the far more lucrative Ruthless People three decades later, with Danny DeVito in the plum Terry-Thomas role.

Billy Gordon
George Cole
Lucy Gordon
Brenda De Banzie
Bernard Bresslaw
Sidney James
Joe Melia
Vera Day
Delphi Lawrence
John Le Mesurier
Rosalie Ashley
Tommy Weston
Nicholas Parsons
Police Constable James Smith
Terry Scott
Gordon’s mother
Edie Martin
Inspector Jensen
John Stuart

Mario Zampi