In the midst of the Nazi blitz, a postman dies on the operating table at a rural English hospital. But was the death accidental? A delightful and wholly unexpected murder mystery, British writer/director Sidney Gilliat's Green for Danger features Trevor Howard and Sally Gray as suspected doctors and Alastair Sim in a marvelous turn as Scotland Yard's insouciant Inspector Cockrill. A screenwriter who had worked with Hitchcock on such classics as The Lady Vanishes and Jamaica Inn, Gilliat slyly upends whodunit conventions with wit and style. Part of The Criterion Collection of Fine Films.
Writer-director Sidney Gilliat isn't the household name he deserves to be, so his film Green for Danger
--once an art-house perennial--qualifies as one of the major, and surely most delightful, (re)discoveries of the season. Its cunning blend of character-driven mystery, gothic dread, and inveterately English gallows humor makes for sheer movie-movie pleasure.
There's a perfect fusion of storytelling and moodmaking, plot and setting. The time is 1944, when Hitler was attacking the British populace with V-1 flying bombs. Under this ongoing siege, at an Elizabethan country manor made over as wartime hospital, someone among a half-dozen doctors and nurses is up to something sinister. Which one is anybody's guess, given the adroitly suggested crosscurrents of loathing and desire, suspicion and jealousy animating the company. After a mysterious death on the operating table, followed by a second death that's unmistakably murder, Scotland Yard enters the picture in the perversely antic form of that long drink of wormwood, the definitive Scrooge, Alastair Sim. (Actually, Sim's sepulchral voice deliciously narrates the film from the beginning.)
Gilliat, with his partner Frank Launder, had written Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (Hitch signed on after their exemplary screenplay was done) and its de facto sequel, Carol Reed's Night Train to Munich. The same talent for drollery without sacrificing tension is abundantly apparent in Green for Danger. As added inducements, the cast includes Trevor Howard and Leo Genn; the artfully shadowy cinematography is the work of Wilkie Cooper. --Richard T. Jameson