Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Green for Danger

1946, UK, directed by Sidney Gilliat

A sly,witty murder mystery set in wartime Britain, Green for Danger is a thorough send-up of the genre, as well as an affectionate portrait of its home country that doesn't take national mythology, even in difficult times, too seriously. The war is present almost from the opening frames - the film is set in 1944 - and the intrusions of flying bombs - nicknamed 'doodlebugs', as if to minimise their importance - and injured patients to the film's hospital setting lends an edge to what is otherwise a classically claustrophobic Golden Age set-up.

Given director Sidney Gilliat's background as a scriptwriter, including of Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes, it's no surprise that the dialogue crackles and the action moves along with purpose, but he also shows himself to have a fine cinematic touch, with striking shot choices throughout the film, from the single shot which introduces all of the operating theatre personnel to the shot of the nurse-sister from the back of a medicine cabinet (a memorably shadowy image), to the hint of German expressionism as Inspector Cockrill (Alastair Sim, in sparkling form) enters the hospital on the second day of his investigation. Cockrill is a remarkable creation, introducing a rich vein of black humour to proceedings, particularly once the film begins to puncture his smug self-importance, underlined by the Inspector himself in the letter he reads in voiceover.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States