Crafty Crooks Copy Cops
"The Wrong Arm of the Law" is a movie for those who love or are just discovering the great British crime caper movies of the 50s and 60s. Here we have an amusing set up of criminals being upset because they are being robbed by a new gang of criminals and we get plenty of comedy be it through a few accidents or some wonderful characters. "The Wrong Arm of the Law" is full of the dry humour which filled British comedy during the 60s and with a cast which features Peter Sellers, Lionel Jeffries, Bernard Cribbins and John Le Mesurier it has some of Britain's best funny men.
Pearly Gates (Peter Sellers - The Millionairess) is the boss of one of London's criminal gangs and he is less than happy because in the space of a week 6 of his jobs have been spoilt by the police or at least by another gang of criminals masquerading as police. Having called a meeting of criminals and joined forces with Nervous O'Toole (Bernard Cribbins - Frenzy) they approach the real police and Inspector Fred 'Nosey' Parker (Lionel Jeffries) because robbing robbers is not on. And so with the help of the police they plan to stage a false robbery in order to catch the false cops in the act.
The whole premise is simply amusingly clever starting with the fact that we have Australian criminals masquerading as cops to steal from criminals shortly after they pull off their jobs. And it is even funnier that we have all these London criminals who feel it is wrong for criminals to rob criminals and so decide to ask the police for help. That alone is comical and when you bring in bungling Inspector Fred 'Nosey' Parker into the mix who messes up as they try to catch the fake police just adds to the humour. It is simply good fun but at the same time amusingly clever because you could imagine criminals masquerading as cops to rob gullible other criminals.
But whilst we have this funny set up which leads to plenty of caper comedy as robberies go wrong, much of the humour is character driven. Peter Sellers as Pearly Gates is such a wonderful character, spouting French as a fashion designer by day yet behind the curtains he is a cockney wide boy. Bernard Cribbins is just as much fun as Irish crime boss Nervous O'Toole who keeps on getting his watch lifted by a young thief. And the crowning joy is Lionel Jeffries as Nosey parker, a superbly comic creation, slightly accident prone and very gullible. This trio with enjoyable supporting performances from the likes of Nanette Newman and John Le Mesurier just make every scene a fun scene.
What this all boils down to is that "The Wrong Arm of the Law" is a typical 60s British crime caper featuring a fun idea and a brilliant cast who make every scene a fun scene. In fact it makes me wonder why this movie isn't mentioned in the same breath as "The Lavender Hill Mob" and "The Ladykillers".