GREEN FOR DANGER —mystery classic from England in 1946, with a choice cast in an adaptation of a novel written two years earlier by Christianna Brand, one of seven she spun featuring the hawkishly keen ‘Inspector Cockrill’. Sidney Gilliat directed, co-writing the screenplay with Claude Gurney. It was the first movie made by Pinewood Studios, with a budget said to have gone over £725,000/$1,000,000, a tidy sum for the British film industry in the lean post-war days. A hit in England, in the States a whispy $580,000 only touched 159th place, the title changed to The Mad Killer, effectively reducing clever to cheap.
England, summer of ’44. With Hitler’s V-1 bombs peppering the war-fatigued country, two unexplained deaths—one clearly a murder— at a rural hospital bring acerbic, somewhat eccentric Scotland Yard Inspector Cockrill (Alastair Sim) out to investigate. Suspects include an anesthetist (Trevor Howard, a surgeon Leo Genn), and three nurses, one of them (Sally Gray) engaged to one of the men but pursued by the other. Jealousy, short fuses, checkered history, convenient coincidences and questionable decisions fray trust and nerves, but the bemused Cockrill has a grand time pecking it out.
Beautifully crafted all round, with Sim superlative as the shrewd terrier with an sharp eye and rapier wit. Fast-rising stars Howard (32, his 5th film) and Genn (40, back from distinguished war service) bristle under the detective’s grilling and goading while dueling over attention from the popular Sally Gray, a sultry looker who once said she’d insured herself at Lloyds of London for £36,000 against falling in love.
Suspenseful mood is heightened by excellent cinematography from Wilkie Cooper (later to work on Ray Harryhausen fantasy faves), and a tense score from William Alwyn. With Rosamund John, Judy Campbell, Megs Jenkins, Ronald Adam. Class-A stuff from all involved, wrapped up in 91 fat-free minutes.