Sidney Gilliat’s Green For Danger is an overlooked gem that transplants the trappings of a droll British murder mystery in an unexpected WWII context, with Nazi air raids and an emergency wartime hospital set up in a rural manor home outside London.
Alistair Sim, forever remembered as the definitive Ebenezer Scrooge, gives a witty, acerbic performance as the unnervingly mischievous Scotland Yard investigator Inspector Cockrill, called to the hospital after a seemingly accidental death is followed by a clearly unnatural one.
Not until Cockrill’s appearance is it entirely clear that the film is at once a whodunit and also a sendup of the genre. Blithely self-satisfied, wryly cold-blooded, Cockrill — the character himself, not just the actor Sim — clearly relishes playing the part of the blasé, take-charge investigator putting everyone on edge with his blunt observations about potential suspects, motives and opportunities.
Plot twists can be contrived or far-fetched, but the point isn’t the plot, or even the solution to the mystery. Rather, the film’s pleasures are in the specificity of its period detail and style, in its subtle subversion of the detective story conventions, and in Sim’s performance and understated voiceover narration.
Making its Region 1 DVD debut courtesy of the Criterion Collection, Green For Danger comes with an in-depth commentary by film historian Bruce Eder and an interview with cultural historian Geoffrey O’Brien, who also contributes an essay on the film to the liner notes. Writer–director Gilliat also contributes some thoughts on the film to the liner notes.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.