theBCLMC     

The Long Island University Brooklyn Campus Library Media Center Newsletter 

 

We love movies, among other things.

January 2008, issue 29

"My presence lay over the hospital like a pall - I found it all tremendously enjoyable!"  --Inspector Cockrill (Alastair Sim), Green for Danger (1946). 

Green for Danger

Over the winter break I watched this entertaining British mystery for the first time, recently released on DVD by Criterion Collection.  It's a quiet, tense little film that opens up into a tart lightness and wry humor courtesy of Alastair Sim as the eccentric Inspector Cockrill of Scotland Yard.  Filmed in 1946, Green for Danger is set in a rural hospital during the V-1 attacks on London, Kent, and Sussex in 1944, not long after the Allied invasion of Normandy

 

Directed by Sidney Gilliat [who in 1938 helped to pen the great Hitchcock film The Lady Vanishes) from a novel by Christianna Brand, this is a finely tuned mechanism of a movie, giving pleasure in the way it sets its tale in motion, plainly laying out the characters and the motivations for murder.  Although set in wartime, it both follows and subverts the conventions of classic murder mystery, bringing films like Rene Clair's And Then There Were None to mind.   When a postman is injured in a V-1 attack, he later dies on the operating table.  One of the operating staff is responsible, and the "impeccably droll" Inspector Cockrill comes to investigate.

 

Visually, a couple scenes stood out for me.  The dance party, an occasion  for the staff to temporarily forget the tensions of war, is whirling and alive, and with the changes of partners and songs, the characters deftly weave in and out of each other, exchanging confidences and recriminations with steely purpose.  Following the dance scene is a dark and threatening set piece in the garden and the operating theatre which would not be out of place in a German Expressionist film or a Val Lewton grade B horror movie.  Geoffrey O'Brien's excellent essay "Laughing While the Bombs Fall" accompanies the DVD, and in it he deftly connects this chase scene to "the stylization of Snow White lost in the forest," as well as to Italian giallo.

 

The German V-1 s, also known as flying bombs, buzz bombs, and even doodlebugs, were the first guided missiles, unpiloted drones designed to fly a certain distance before the engine cut off and the plane fell to the ground with its 1-ton warhead, which detonated just before impact.  Unlike the airplanes of the Blitz, the V-1 s could fly around the clock and without regard to visibility.  (Polmar, 1996)

 

The terror of the V-1 campaign is evoked with great effectiveness in the film as actors react first with wary dread to the buzzing overhead and then with bald fear to the silence which means that the bomb is on its way downward.  Inspector Cockrill himself is first seen comically falling over himself to find shelter when he is caught by the ominous silence that follows a dead V-1 engine, and, in a somewhat ironic touch, the film's tone shifts markedly with this pratfall. 

 

Finally, if you only know Alastair Sim as the definitive Ebenezer Scrooge, it is well worth the time to watch this tremendously entertaining performance in a vastly different, if no less showy, role.  

 

Other motion pictures and documentaries in our collection that deal with World War II can be found here


 

Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood): You're the most contemptible person I've ever met in all my life!
Gilbert (Michael Redgrave): Confidentially, I think you're a bit of a stinker, too.

--The Lady Vanishes, 1938

 

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This issue of  BCLMC is brought to you all the way from the back row by impeccably droll Media Assistant Patrick Jewell.  Tell your friends. 

 


The Media Center is located on the fifth floor of the Library Learning Center.  Come up and see us some time.

BCLMC  BROOKLYN CAMPUS LIBRARY MEDIA CENTER

Questions?  Comments?  Contact us. 
Media Center Staff:
Andrea Slonosky,  Media Librarian  (718) 488-1311  Andrea.Slonosky@liu.edu
Patrick Jewell,  Media Assistant  (718) 488-3392  Patrick.Jewell@liu.edu
Lisa Rivera,  Media Assistant  (718) 780-4378  Lisa.Cotton@liu.edu