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Olsen Banden (English: The Olsen Gang) is a series of Danish crime comedy movies revolving around Egon Olsen and his gang and their (mostly unsuccessful) crimes. The series consists of 14 movies (the first is from 1968 and the last from 1998). Around the time of the forth movie, Egon started to commit his burglaries using highly unusual plans, involving creative use of everyday items, as well as social engineering by playing on broad stereotypes. These plans would become the most the defining and popular trait of the series. At the same time, a significant amount of social and political commentary was introduced. In a clear criticism of the capitalistic society, the number of Corrupt Corporate Executives, as well as impoverished and alcoholic characters, rose dramastically.

Norway and Sweden both made their own version of the series, though where the Norwegian version stuck very closely to the Danish one, using the same plots, mostly the same characters and largely the same names (with a couple of notable exceptions), the Swedish version renamed all characters and, by extension, the series to Jönssonligan and went off in its own direction after the third movie, using original plots and changing several of the characters.

The gang consists of:

  • Egon Olsen: Criminal mastermind. (Named "Charles-Ingvar 'Sickan' Jönsson" in Sweden.)
  • Benny Frandsen: Small-time thief and swindler. The more competent of Egon's accomplices and the driver of whatever vechile which may be at hand. (Named "Ragnar Vanheden" in Sweden.)
  • Kjeld Jensen: The stupid and nervous guy. By far the less competent of Egon's accomplices. Does have a Crowning Moment of Awesome however while disguised as a policeman, where he tells Egon to just shut up and quit horsing around and open the safe they were trying to break into. (In Norway the name is spelled "Kjell," and in Sweden he was a Finn named "Rocky" and was Put on a Bus after the second movie.)

Other major characters are:

  • Yvonne Jensen: Kjeld's wife. Often inadvertedly screws up their schemes. Fans often consider her Egon's true nemesis. Indeed, the death of her actress back in 1988 was the reason why the series was originally cancelled. (She was named "Valborg" in Norway and "Eivor" in Sweden.)
  • Børge Jensen: Kjeld and Yvonne's son. Sometimes assists the gang in their schemes. (Named "Basse" in Norway and "Bill" in Sweden)
  • "Dynamit"-Harry: Benny's brother (cousin in the Swedish version), an alcoholic and demolition expert who occasionally helps the gang out. In the original Danish series he only appears in two movies, but he got a much larger role in both the Norwegian and Swedish versions; in the Norwegian movies he plays a major role in six of the fourteen movies, and in the Swedish version he becomes a full-time member of the gang, replacing Rocky from the third movie on.
  • Detective constable Jensen: A policeman who is often tasked with tracking down the gang. He has grown unenthusiastic and disillusioned after realising that he can only deal with minor criminals, while the greater injustices taking place in the higher echelons of society are beyond any reach. In times of great agitation however, he will display zealous dedication to justice. Despite being an enforcer of the law, he has great respect for Egon due to his skills, and because Egon sticks to what Jensen call "illegal crimes". This in opposite to the "legal crimes" of people like Bang-Johansen who can not just be put behind jails without causing a lot of problems. (Named "Hermansen" in Norway and "Persson" in Sweden.)
  • Detective assistant Holm: Constable Jensens eager, but bumbling assistant, to whom Jensen often have to explain key plot points and why they can only arrest the small fish. He and Jensen usually have a bare minimum of influence on the plot, but they are highly important to the exposition of background details.
  • Bang-Johansen/Hallandsen/Holm Hansen: The recurring Big Bad in many of the movies. A corrupt authority figure with villainous schemes of his own. This character is subject to an unusual and confusing gag. In most of the movies where he appears he has one of those three names and is supposedly a new character who has nothing to do with any of the previous incarnations. To further add to the confusion, they are all played by the same actor and have the same personality. None of the other characters have ever made any comments on this - however, in Danish film series at the time it was normal for actors to return in different roles, and there is a number of other recurring actors in Olsen-Banden too. Most frequently, he takes on the role of a Corrupt Corporate Executive, but he has also been a corrupt civil servant and a criminal nobleman. Frequently hires the gang to help him, just to betray them later, with the help of:
  • Bøffen(literally: The Steak): Bang-Johansen's dragon whose complicated plans to eliminate Egon usually backfires onto himself. He is a very large and fat man, usually armed with a blunt weapon such as a monkey wrench. Interestingly, he is never referred to as "Bøffen" within the movies, where he's just called "Him" and notably "Det dumme svin/The bastard" by Benny. He is the only character to have been played by the same actor in both the Danish and Norwegian versions of the movies, namely Ove Verner Hansen.

Not to be related to the Olsen Twins. Or the Olsen Brothers.

Tropes used in Olsen-Banden include:
  • Almighty Janitor: Despite being a lowly police officer, Jensen always knows everything about the shady dealings of the Danish upper class.
  • Ascended Extra: Harry in the Norwegian and (particularly) the Swedish series.
  • Batman Gambit: How else would one use these implements?
  • Berserk Button: The incompetence of his two underlings is usually one for Egon, inevitably triggering an angry rant.
    • Occasionally, these rants crosses the line with Kjeld, usually when insulting Yvonne, triggering his own rant or a very threatening "The Reason You Suck" Speech directed towards Egon.
    • Crosses over to Beware the Nice Ones at times. Kjeld doesn't get angry often, but when he does, it usually shuts Egon right up.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Jokes that require uncommon language skills are often included, for example:
    • A corrupt oil sheik's crest carry the motto "Pecunia non olet" (Money has no smell)
    • A baron's family motto is "Honi soit qui pense" (Shame on those who think)
    • An Stasi-esque government surveillance and registration building has "Per fas et nefas" ((We do it) with or without rights) written over the door.
    • The World Bank's motto is "Sine Pecunia Dolet" (It hurts to be without money)
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: At the end of the last movie in the Norwegian series, Egon has finally got the money, and proclaim he has a plan, whereupon the camera zooms out to reveal the movie crew and the director yelling. "No Egon, not another plan."
    • The Danish version ends their thirteen and supposed last movie with Benny, Kjeld and Yvonne waving goodbye to the audience during the latters 25-years-anniversary.
  • Brother Chuck: Børge's siblings, who vanishes into thin air after the first movie.
  • Cameo: Many small roles were played by well known danish actors, some times even after having had other major roles earlier in the serie.
    • In one of the movies Benny and Kjeld break in to a kiosk when they are noticed by three drunk norwegian tourists - played by the actors who played the gang in the norwegian serie.
    • In Olsen-bandens sidste stik ("The Olsen Gang's last trick") Egon accidental open a door to a room where two old men are writing on typewrites: Erik Balling and Henning Bahs, the creators of the serie as well as director and special effect maker respective.
  • Catch Phrase: "Guys, I have a plan."
  • Clock Tower - One of the most memorable scenes in the serie happen in Olsen-banden går i krig ("The Olsen Gang goes to War") when Bøffen place Egon in front of the clock on the Copenhagen Town Hall Tower awaiting the big clock hand to come down and sending Egon the more than 70 meter down to street level. Kjeld and Benny discover him in nick of time but when they free him they all three end up hanging in the clock hands. Which in turn create chaos in the mechanism knocking Bøffen and fellow criminal The Black Baron out.
  • Conveyor Belt O' Doom: Bøffen places an unconscious Egon on one in Olsen-bandens flugt over plankeværket ("The Olsen Gang's Escape over the Fence")
  • Couch Gag: The movies always opens with a scene where Egon is released from prison and is met by Benny and Kjeld, but with slight variations in each movie (Benny and Kjeld are late or do not show up, Egon does not want to leave prison, because his plan is not finished etc.)
  • Crap Saccharine World: The happy, harmonic and always sunny Denmark seen in the films is frequently revealed to be a facade over a country at the mercy of ruthless businessmen and utterly corrupt officials whose nefarious schemes are only stopped by our bumbling heroes - usually by accident.
  • The Empire: The villain is frequently working together with large and powerful forces from the outside, such as the European Union.
  • Foreign Remake: The norwegian og partly the swedish serie. The norwegian movies were some times even made parallel with the danish so they could reuse some of the sets.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: On occasion. An example is in Olsen Banden Ser Rødt (The Olsen Gang Sees Red), when the gang is sneaking around in the basements of a wealthy baron's estate. Egon remarks that one of the halls was the secret entrance to an ancestors' lovers, but that said ancestor's great-grandmother had it walled up.
  • Henpecked Husband: Kjeld is close to being the most triumphant example of this in Danish film.
  • Heroic BSOD: Egon's reaction when his plans go wrong, and the police sirens are getting closer.
  • Impossible Insurance: In one movie, the gang are working for a Corrupt Corporate Executive who owns an insurance company, tasked to steal a MacGuffin containing sensitive information for him. Once they retrieve it, however, he decides that it would be cheaper to just kill them and take the MacGuffin, rather than pay them the two million he promised. Narrowly escaping an attempt on his life, Olsen - knowing that nobody ELSE would be willing to pay for the information - comes up with a plan: He takes out a life-insurance with the company, with a 5.000.000 payout. Thus, it would no longer be economical for the Corrupt CEO to kill him, since it would cost as much as negotiating, while involving more dangers. But when he shows it off to the CEO, the latter fast get over the surprise and points him to the 'small print', which shows the exceptions to the policy, many of which could be easily used for arranging an 'accident'. Cue Olsen tied up on a conveyor-belt over a vat of acid.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: A particularly strange and roundabout one in Norway with Dickie Dick Dickens. Since the Norwegian translations of the Dickie Dick Dickens audio drama was such a hit, the Norwegian director of the audio drama got the original authors' permission to write a few new adventures for Norwegian radio where the infamous Chicago gangster Dickie Dick Dickens visited Norway. The last and most obscure of these had Dickens team up with the Norwegian Egon Olsen for a minor coup.
  • The Kingdom: Denmark is depicted as a small, cosy country full of happy people.
    • During one of their break-ins the gang blocks a security camera with a picture of the queen and her two sons, and the old watchman just smile happily when he sees it, and nods off again.
  • Large Ham: Egon in particular, but everybody get their scenery chewing moments - which is part of the movies charm.
    • This is lampshaded at one point, where Egon hides from some policemen by pretending to be a mannequin holding a sign saying "Gamle krukker" ("Old jars"). "Krukke" (jar) is Danish slang for a Large Ham.
  • Last-Episode New Character: Bøffen, Bang-Johansen and Holm were all introduced in the sixth movies Olsen Bandens sidste bedrifter ("The Olsen Gang's Last Archievements) which as the name suggest should have been the last. The serie was however continued and they all became regular characters.
  • Lighter and Softer: As the series became more popular with children, the violence and sex was toned down heavily.
  • Limited Wardrobe: The gang nearly always wear the same clothes, even on summer hot Mallorca.
  • Mickey Mousing: One of the most famous scenes of the series is in "Olsen Banden Ser Rødt" (The Olsen Gang Sees Red) when the gang break into the royal theater of Copenhagen while the orchestra is playing the Overtoure to the danish national play "Elverhøj". It's even Mickey Mousing in-universe as well as the break-in requires many noisy tools and explosives, and Egon has brought a note sheet so that he can time the crime perfectly to the music so they won't be heard. It's quite brilliantly done.
    • The Overtoure was actually rearranged for the movie to match the scenes. Most people didn't noticed but it certainly confused the orchestra who played the roles of themselve and who probably would could have played the original even in sleep.
  • Multiple Choice Past: In a minor way, this is provided with the Norwegian Spinoff Babies movies, the Olsenbanden Jr. series, which takes its parent series' Status Quo Is God tendency and runs with it to create more of a Negative Continuity effect:
    • The junior version of the gang, though still often involved in coups, schemes and small ways of cheating, are both more heroic and vastly more successful than their adult selves -- but no matter how many times the junior version of the gang are hailed as heroes at the end of a movie, at the beginning of the next one they're back to being viewed as junior hooligans, distrusted by the police.
    • The orphanage Egon lives at has a different corrupt and greedy head every movie, even the ones where the previous movie didn't end with the old head being arrested for corruption.
    • The straightest example of the trope, to the point of becoming a Running Gag, is that each movie has a different version of the story of how Egon first got his trademark bowler hat: In one movie he swipes it of a random adult as part of a disguise, in another he inherits it from his long-lost grandfather... and in one movie, it's a gift from the King of Norway.
  • Nice Hat: Egon's bowler hat to the point where it have become a symbol of the serie itself.
  • Noodle Implements: Most of Egon's plans involve all sorts of baroque requisites. A typical example: "One umbrella, one small candle, one copy of the Communist newspaper and a piece of smelly old cheese".
    • This is generally subverted, however, by actually showing *what* they are to be used for.
  • The Other Darrin: Nearly the whole cast of the norwegian and swedish series obvious. But also internal in the danish serie where Bang-Johansen's interlocutor in the later movies, Hallandsen, were played by a new actor each time.
  • Put on a Bus: Børge after the eighth movie, Olsenbanden ser rødt, at the end of which he gets married. He's absent for most of the rest of the series, but does appear in the eleventh and fourteenth movies.
    • Actual an example of Real Life Writes the Plot. The actor had problems with drugs and real crimes and ended up hidding from the movie makers. Was however clean again at the making of the fourteenth movie.
    • Rocky (the Swedish Kjeld) vanished from the Swedish movies after the second one when the actor was killed by cancer. In the third movie, he was revealed to have moved "back home" to Finland, and his place in the gang was taken over by Dynamit-Harry.
  • Smoking Is Cool: In the first movies Egon is smoking cigars. It was however changed so he was usually seen with just a cigar stub without smoking (the actor, Ove Sprogøe didn't smoke in real life). As a running gag the cigar stub will always swup out of his mouth whenever he is untied from being gaged.
  • Spanner in the Works: Someone will inevitably bring down Egon's cabal. Yvonne often plays this role.
  • Spinoff Babies: All three versions have had spinoffs with the gang as children, set in The Fifties. A bit of Fridge Logic since several of the original actors where already in their thirties at that time.
  • Status Quo Is God: Things do develop in small ways, such as Børge getting older and eventually going off to get married, but on the whole, status quo usually ends up reasserting itself. Even on the very few occasions when the gang do succeed with their coup, they will either at the very end of the movie or the beginning of the next one wind up losing everything, and Egon will wind up in jail for crimes that may or may not have been connected to the coup.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: In Olsen Banden På Sporet ("The Olsen Gang on the Trail") Yvonne decides to report Bøffen to Jensen and Holm for the theft of the gang's (stolen) money. The only description she gives them is that Bøffen is "kind of tubby and ordinary". Much later in the film, when Holm hears that a "tubby and ordinary" man has been arrested, he immediately exclaims "That's him!!".
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Egon often claim to be this.
  • Tap on the Head: In many of the films, the only actual violence is a tap on the head that Bøffen use to knock out Egon.
  • Take That: In a teaser trailer for the 2010 animated movie, they take great care to seperate the 13 original movies from the 14th, calling it the "senior citizen movie".
  • Universal Driver's License: Benny drives whatever vechicle which may be at hand ranging from his old car over a forklift and a brewer's dray to a little train. The actor, Morten Grundwall, later noticed that the only thing he didn't get to drive was a plane but that was probably the economi which sat the limit.
  • We Need a Distraction: Kjeld will often do the task of distracting people. To example by telling a guard that he have an appointment at twelve o clock - just before midnight. And when the guard tell to come again tomorrow he do so - a few minutes after midnight!
  • Yes-Man: Benny frequently plays this role to Egon.
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