Monday, July 06, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Green for Danger (1946)

Today was the last day of my five-day long weekend "staycation," and before getting back to my business tomorrow I was able to enjoy two more great movies today.

First up: GREEN FOR DANGER, an absolutely delightful British murder mystery. This movie was recommended to me by a couple different people, and it didn't disappoint.

GREEN FOR DANGER is set in a ramshackle hospital on a requisitioned estate in the British countryside during World War II. A postman injured in a bombing dies unexpectedly on the operating table, and the five doctors and nurses present are suspects. Enter Alastair Sim as Inspector Cockrill, who is by turns droll, bumbling, pointed, and clever.

Whodunit? Was it Barney (Trevor Howard), the anesthetist? Mr. Eden (Leo Genn), the surgeon? Or one of the nurses? The three ladies playing the nurses are Sally Gray, Megs Jenkins, and Rosamund John.

The movie is a little gem with great atmosphere and insights into unique aspects of British life. As a longtime reader of Betty Neels' widely beloved books, of which a majority were set in British hospitals, the setting was so familiar -- the surgeons being called Mister (not Doctor!), the caped nurses (called Sisters) living communally adjacent to the hospital, the "operating theatre" run by a Theatre Sister, the porter handing out keys and receiving mail, the shilling for the gas to work, the staff having a cup of tea...

It's interesting to note, from an historical perspective, that in this setting in 1940s Britain there was no instant hot water in the nurses' apartment; they still had to "put on the kettle" to wash dishes or fill a hot water bottle.

As with so many British productions, the plot is almost beside the point, although it's interesting. What really captures the interest are the fascinating, carefully etched characters, the great dialogue, and the dry wit and sense of humor amidst a series of ongoing murders. The spooky atmosphere on the converted old estate helps too.

A couple years ago a short appreciation of the film was posted at TCM's Movie Morlocks blog.

The film was directed by Sidney Gilliat. It was shot in black and white and runs 91 minutes.

GREEN FOR DANGER is based on a novel by Christianna Brand, which is still in print.

GREEN FOR DANGER is available on DVD from the Criterion Collection. The print is gorgeous. Glenn Erickson (aka the DVD Savant) reviewed the DVD for TCM's site.

The movie has been shown in the past on Turner Classic Movies, which has clips from the film available here.

If you enjoy British mysteries rich with mood, humor, and well-drawn characters, this is the movie for you.

10 Comments:

Blogger J.C. Loophole said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this movie! I love it. Allistair Sim's Detective character is a true gem, and I wish there would've been more films featuring his character. His voice over narrative, given as a report was pretty enjoyable as well, which allowed for his peculiar characterizations and wry observations. I know we say this all the time, but they don't make 'em like this anymore.

6:50 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Wasn't it fun?! I'm looking forward to taking another look at it soon via the commentary. The voiceover was marvelous, especially his last line. A really wonderful film.

Best wishes,
Laura

11:10 AM  
Blogger Barb the Evil Genius said...

You might find it interesting to know that there was not instant hot water in a friend's apartment/condo in Munich as late as the late 80's. There was a boiler next to the bathtub that needed to be heated up to take a bath or shower. The building dated to directly post WWII.

1:04 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

That's very interesting, Barb! I was wondering about hot water for the baths in the British movie; your friend's German apartment gives insight into a possible answer.

Thanks for sharing that -- amazing that was just 20 years ago.

Best wishes,
Laura

1:14 PM  
Blogger Irene said...

Sad that this movie is not available at either the County Library system or the Long Beach City Library.

I believe I've mentioned before that I was also a huge fan of Betty Neels. I so miss the stories she used to crank out at an amazing rate.

3:22 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

That's a shame the movie's not readily available to you, Irene. I think another Neels fan would especially enjoy it. Her books are so "cozy." Thanks to Neels, I have an ambition to one day own an Aga stove. (Grin) Fortunately we have a big backlog of her titles to reread, but it was sad when there were no more new titles to be released!

Best wishes,
Laura

3:25 PM  
Blogger Missy said...

I discovered this movie a while back on TCM, but missed the beginning. It was one of the first movies I got from Netflix. I enjoy it so much I ordered my own DVD. I also recommend the book. Alastair Sim is just great in the movie. I plan to blog about the movie one day, but there's so much to say. ;-) I did blog about Sally Gray's "interesting" obit.

Missy

P.S. A friend of mine lived in China in the '90s and had to turn on the gas heater for about an hour before she had warm water for a quick shower.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Would you believe that the first time I saw this film was on the USA Network? (That'll give you an idea of not only how little we've advanced in the passing years but how I got my classic film kicks before TCM.)

Still holds up as marvelous entertainment -- though I'm a tad prejudiced in that I'll watch Sim in anything.

1:10 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Wow, Ivan, I had no idea USA used to show such good movies!

I remember the pre-TCM days when AMC was commercial-free and MGM movies played on TNT...the decline of AMC was very sad but TCM more than makes up for it. :)

Best wishes,
Laura

11:41 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Love that anecdote about China, Missy. This thread has been educational! :)

I noticed in CLUNY BROWN there was something on the kitchen wall in the opening scenes that looked like maybe it was a water heater and was immediately interested...kind of funny that along with GREEN FOR DANGER I watched a post about a plumber this week!

Best wishes,
Laura

11:45 PM  

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