Green for Danger is a 1946 British film adaptation of Christianna Brand’s 1944 novel of the same name, widely regarded as something of a minor masterpiece in the detective fiction genre.
The setting is a temporary emergency hospital in England in August 1944. Most of the casualties seem to be victims of the V-1 attacks that were reaching their height at this time. At the beginning we are introduced to the surgeon, Mr Eden (Leo Genn), his anaesthetist Dr Barnes (Trevor Howard) and a collection of nurses and the voiceover informs us that within 24 hours two of these people will be dead, and one will be a murderer.
There’s clearly plenty of potential for romantic tensions. Dr Barnes and his nurse fiancée have just broken off their engagement while Mr Eden definitely has a roving eye. And Mr Eden has an emotional entanglement of his own to sort out.
There will have to be an inquest of course but at this stage it seems to be just a tragedy. Until an accusation of murder is unexpectedly raised, and another death follows. This time there is no room for doubt - this was quite clearly murder.
Inspector Cockrill (Alistair Sim) now makes his appearance. Not altogether surprisingly this leads to a slight change of tone, with Sim injecting some witty banter and even whimsicality into the proceedings. This change of tone is a little jarring and from this point on the movie shuttles uneasily between taut mystery thriller and cynical acerbic comedy.
This film boasts a fine cast. Trevor Howard and Leo Genn are excellent as the two doctors who dislike each other intensely. Sally Gray is pretty good as the good-natured but faithless Nurse Linley.
Naturally once he makes his belated entry Alistair Sim proceeds to totally steal the movie. He’s in fine form as the unconventional, perpetually amused but deceptively sharp policeman.
The setting is used exceptionally well. The makeshift and temporary nature of the hospital, hastily converted from a picturesque Elizabethan country house, gives the film an interesting atmosphere. With V-1 buzz-bombs flying over and exploding randomly at various points throughout the movie it also emphasises the temporary and fragile nature of wartime relationships. It was shot at Pinewood and is a fine example of just how good a movie shot entirely in the studio can look.
Green for Danger offers an excellent mystery plot, an interesting setting and Alistair Sim at the top of his game. This all adds up to tremendous entertainment. Highly recommended.