Movies You Might Have Missed: Green for Danger

TitleGreen for Danger
Release Date: 1946
Rating: N/A
Length: 91 minutes
Director: Sidney Gilliat
Starring: Alastair Sim, Sally Gray, Trevor Howard
Language: English
Country: UK

This is not your typical murder mystery. It’s set in a wartime British hospital. But it’s not in the warzone. And it’s not in London; it’s outside the city limits in the countryside. Unless you’re a fan of ’40s British cinema, you probably won’t recognize the actors. This shouldn’t concern you, however, since they’re all so well-cast. They fit their roles beautifully, all except the detective. He seems off, but then, he’s supposed to seem eccentric. And eccentric is something Alastair Sim does beautifully.

A postman, injured by a V-1 buzzbomb, dies on the table before an operation can begin. The next day, before any inquest is made, one of the nurses announces at a party for the hospital (village?) that it was murder. There is some skepticism, but she leaves to collect evidence and when she does an unknown figure pursues her and stabs her to death. Complicating matters is an undercurrent of sexual tension and jealousy between the nurses and the doctors. Is the handsome doctor really a good man? Would the nurses who compete for his attention go so far as killing? Is the motive unrelated to the personal rivalries?

With an unequivocal murder, an inspector from Scotland Yard arrives and sets out to determine whodunnit. We’re limited to five suspects, because he makes the not unreasonable assumption that it must be one of those present at the first death and that means only the medical staff in the operating room when the patient died on the table. After all, the clear case of murder seems to be motivated by the accusation of murder in the case of the first death.

The detective, played by Alastair Sim, goes through the usual routine of evidence gathering, motive investigating, etc. But he and his manner are bizarre. Sim plays the part as comic and macabre, producing black comedy that would feel much more at home in a period horror film. All the same, it works. Sim has an expressive face, ghoulish with deep-set eyes and a measured melodic way of speaking that puts one in mind of Bela Lugosi as Dracula. There is an undeniable tension built up throughout. Perhaps the solution isn’t perfectly fair, but we are given a terrible great hint the characters themselves are not.

As a whole the movie has a pleasing sense of being much like the Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers mysteries; genteel murders where even the more sordid elements are softened for publication. The denouement is a bit contrived, but also probably necessary in that day and age. It remains, on the whole, a charming, entertaining, and off-beat period mystery. It’s well-worth anyone’s time, but particularly recommended to fans of the mystery genre.

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