Green for Danger

Film Review by Dean Duncan Mar 28, 2015

The main character, more or less, enters the film a whole thirty-eight minutes in, which is pretty nervy when you think of it. I have noticed that people are tempted to give Alastair Sim a free pass, but you gotta admit that he really is effortlessly funny, and charming in a wonderful, paradoxical way.

Green for Danger is a nice bouquet, with some kind of surprising blooms laid in. The war is over, and it’s a film about the war. Could it be that it is similar to, say, They Were Expendable, or A Walk in the Sun? Having won, we can consider the costs, and how we might have fallen short. But where Ford is elegiac and Milestone kind of ecstatically mournful, Launder and Gilliat’s film radiates a surprising bitterness. It’s a nice bouquet of weeds, maybe. The film isn’t so interested in the tactical failures of the war effort, but the moral ones. There’s malice and mediocrity all around, recrimination and even villainy. And those qualities don’t even include the actual culprit. He’s decidedly guilty, but his death at the end leaves a distinctly bad taste. After all, who isn’t? “We all got it coming, kid…”

In the end, Green for Danger is a boldly groundbreaking whodunit. It’s most striking attribute may be that its main character, Sim, the droll Scottish policeman who symbolizes wisdom and justice and the possibility of order, got it all wrong. (A reference to, inspiration from E.C. Bentley’s Trent’s Last Case?)

So there are laughs, bits of breeziness, and lots of felicitous cinema. Note especially the second murder, which comes resoundingly at the end of an extended, rather bravura party sequence, and which resolves in a wonderfully operatic manner. But mostly, something’s rotten, and quite fragrantly. Was Gilliat consulting or channelling Henri-Georges Clouzot? Quite unusual, really interesting.