Tuesday, March 8, 2022

The Green Man (1956)

A 1956 British comedy with Alastair Sim, Terry-Thomas and George Cole playing the starring rôles is almost guaranteed to be fun. On that basis The Green Man sounds very promising indeed.

Hawkins (Alastair Sim) is a professional hitman. He was introduced to his vocation at school when he blew his much-hated headmaster into a million pieces. He not only realised that assassination would be his chosen profession, he also realised that bombs would be his trademark. While assassination is his livelihood it’s also his passion. He is a man who loves his work.

His latest assignment calls for him to dispose of Sir Gregory Upshott. Hawkins is working this time on behalf of a client in the Middle East. Hawkins knows that Sir Gregory will be travelling in the country and will be staying at an inn called The Green Man. This seems likely to be a good place to make the hit.

Hawkins runs into trouble on this particular job. The problem is Marigold. She’s Sir Gregory’s secretary and Hawkins had been romancing her in order to pump her for information but now she’s started to get suspicious. She’s announced that she will be arriving on his doorstep shortly to demand an explanation.

Since Hawkins is entertaining the local police sergeant this is not a convenient time to have such a discussion with Marigold.

Hawkins feels that this problem can be dealt with but he hasn’t reckoned on the sudden appearance of an irritating vacuum cleaner salesman named William Blake (George Cole). Blake has turned up at the wrong house. The lady of the house, Ann Vincent, is alarmed to find a strange man in her house but she’s even more alarmed when Blake tells her he has discovered bloodstains on her carpet. He suspects there’s been a murder.

There’s no body, but then there is a body and it becomes a classic disappearing corpse farce.

William convinces Ann that he really did find a body but then Ann’s fiancé turns up and is convinced there’s hanky-panky going on between Ann and William.

William does however have a clue to the mystery, and that clue involves Sir Gregory and the Green Man pub. But what is a distinguished statesman and pillar of society doing at an obscure country pub? The answer is that he’s planning a dirty weekend with his very young and very cute secretary.

And things go on getting ever more farcical and frenetic.

Alastair Sim was of course a comic genius and he’s in superb form. George Cole is excellent as the well-meaning blundering William. Terry-Thomas really has only a fairly minor supporting part but he makes the most of it. Jill Adams as Ann has a much more significant part. I’d never heard of her but she’s extremely good.

Look out for brief appearances by wonderful performers like Arthur Lowe and Willoughby Goddard.

There are touches of dark humour but this movie is really too good-natured to be described as a true black comedy. It’s pure farce.

Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder wrote the screenplay (based on their stage play) and produced. They were a very successful team as writers, directors and producers (most notably writing The Lady Vanishes for Alfred Hitchcock). Along with Ealing it was Gilliat and Launder who dominated British comedy in the 50s.

The Studiocanal DVD release offers a good transfer and a few extras, the best being an interview with Matthew Sweet who puts the movie in the context of British pop culture of the era.

The Green Man is totally ludicrous in an inspired way and wickedly funny. It’s an obvious must-see for Alastair Sim fans or for any fans of classic British comedy. Highly recommended.

If you are an Alastair Sim fan you might also be interested in my reviews of Hue and Cry and The Belles of St Trinians and, for a chance to see him in a more serious rôle, Green for Danger.

No comments:

Post a Comment