Green for Danger (1946)

“Joseph Higgins was quite dead.”

Green for Danger

Synopsis:
When a postman (Moore Marriott) dies mysteriously on the operating table of a rural hospital during WWII — and a nurse (Judy Campbell) with incriminating evidence is killed shortly thereafter — an inspector (Alastair Sim) is sent to investigate which of a close-knit team of doctors (Leo Genn and Trevor Howard) and nurses (Rosamund John, Sally Gray, and Megs Jenkins) is the murderer.

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Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that this “famous whodunit” by the creative team of Sidney Gilliat and Frank Laudner — who worked together on more than 40 films between 1930 and 1966, including The Green Man (1956) and Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes — “is much overrated”. He states that while “the mystery is satisfactory… the proceedings are surprisingly somber” — yet as Tom Huddleston writes in his review for Not Coming to a Theater Near You, the film can actually be viewed as a sort of “Ealing noir,” one which effectively incorporates atmospheric cinematography (by Wilkie Cooper) and noir-ish tropes (i.e., a contentious love triangle) into its Agatha Christie-style ensemble murder plot. As DVD Savant notes, the film “has a dark undertone, an uneasy quality that works against the surface order of the standard wartime English movie” — and it’s exactly this “dark undertone” that makes the film so memorable.

Peary argues that Alastair Sim’s “supposedly witty” detective is “a poorly conceived character”, seemingly “in the wrong film” — a point I’ll agree with to a certain extent. As enjoyable as this quirky actor always is to watch, his Inspector Cockrill adds incongruous levity to the proceedings; when he first enters the screen with a slapsticky stumble and roll, we feel as though we’ve suddenly switched to watching a Jacques Tati film. Peary also somewhat cynically states that the “picture’s major advantage is that you forget who the murderer is from one viewing to the next”. Interestingly, I was convinced I remembered the killer’s identity from when I first saw this film ~15 years ago, but was absolutely wrong — so his point is well-taken! However, the mystery itself is more enjoyable than Peary’s snarky statement would have you believe: it’s full of conflicted love interests and guilty secrets, with each of the would-be murderers (particularly Jenkins) turning in a solid, believable performance. Definitely worth a look.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fine performances by the ensemble cast
    Green for Danger Screenplay
  • An effectively tense screenplay
    Green for Danger Sim
  • Wilkie Cooper’s atmospheric cinematography
    Green for Danger Cinematography

Must See?
Yes, as a smart little thriller.

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One Response to “Green for Danger (1946)”

  1. First viewing. A once-must – oddly, for its plot construction and direction.

    I’m in agreement with the assessment – and appreciate the points brought out by Huddleston and DVD Savant as well.

    Everything here is in service to the mystery, which is as it should be. Though the cast is fine, no one really needs to be outstanding – each one just needs to be convincing as part of the mechanism. (I was unfamiliar with some of the women so occasionally I wasn’t sure who was who, but it wasn’t a major difficulty.) And I feel Sim’s contribution is often a nice balance to what would otherwise be a very grim story.

    It’s a plus that the film is relatively short (91 min.) – or it would feel labored. It’s very smart and refreshingly intricate, making for a satisfying brain-tease.

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