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THE GREEN MAN (1956)

The Green Man - CoverStudioCanal’ have recently released a digitally enhanced version of ‘The Green Man’. It was directed by Robert Day; it starred Alastair Sim, George Cole, Terry-Thomas, and Jill Adams; and it lasts for 80-minutes. Plus, as an extra added bonus, the Blu-ray edition comes with a picture gallery, a documentary about Alastair Sim, as well as pre-recorded interviews with Stephen Fry (the actor) and Matthew Sweet (the cultural historian). Please enjoy.


The Green Man [Blu-ray]


THE STORY:
Throughout my long and illustrious career as a freelance assassin, I’ve always tried my best to complete all of my missions in a straightforward and orderly fashion. Firstly, I'd meticulously research the victim in order to understand their habits and social interactions. Then I would compile the knowledge I’ve accumulated and establish an appropriate plan of attack. And finally, I’d kill them, preferably with a bomb, and depart from the scene of the crime without being caught by the local authorities.

Well, that’s what I normally try to do, until recently, when I was discovered by an unwitting accomplice. Or to be more specific about it, my so-called fiancée, Marigold (Avril Angers), who accidentally came across my plans to kill her boss, Sir Gregory Upshott (Raymond Huntley), just after I charmed my way into her affections. 

So, what should I do next? How should I rectify this troubling situation? I mean, should I kill Gregory? Even though I might get caught in the act! Or should I dispose of Marigold? Despite the fact that she might not inform the police! Either way, that’s most probably why what next transpires goes, boom-boom-boom, when a door-to-door salesman (George Cole) and a lovely lady (Jill Adams) both discover a dead body. As a murder mystery suddenly turns grim - a lively corpse plays a harmonious hymn - a seaside hotel doesn’t have a gym - and at the end of the day, please remember, the assassin named Hawkins is played by Alastair Sim.




THE REVIEW:
According to the experts, ‘The Green Man’ is defined as a ‘black comedy’ because it manages to convey a taboo subject (murder) in a fairly farcical fashion. But as far as I’m concerned? Well, yeah, I suppose I would have to agree with that definition, up to a point, but only because killing someone for fun and profit isn’t exactly a normal thing to do, especially when the person who’s hired to carry out the killing is an elderly, English gentleman, with a bald head, a timid frame, and a fascination for blowing people up with the use of a well-placed bomb.

The Green Man - Movie Poster
BOOM! That said, however, this film also has a somewhat unfocused side to it as well, bordering on the uneven, as it began in one place (kill the businessman), then briskly moved to somewhere else (kill the lady), before finally ending up where the initial part of the plot left off (let’s try to kill the businessman again). Or in other words, it’s a movie of two unequal halves, with one half dedicated to conveying the intended assassination attempt (slam-boom-kill), while the other half was dedicated to establishing the dynamics between most of the key characters (him-her-them).

Well, let’s face it, this film is an English film, a very English film (made in the 1950s, no less), and as such, it’s polite, it doesn’t f*cking swear, and it largely revolves around three sets of archetypal characters that were rather popular in British cinema at the time. For a start, we have our two main killers, Hawkins (the assassin) and Mc Kechnie (his Scottish sidekick), who both botch their respective crimes either by accident or total incompetence. Then there’s our two main heroes, William (the salesman) and Ann (the sexy lady of leisure), who both unintentionally discover one of these crimes before tiptoeing their way towards the other. And finally, we have our two main victims, Upshott (the businessman) and Marigold (his secretary), who are both positioned at either end of the narrative in order to establish the initial set-up and the final finale.

The Green Man - Alastair Sim
So, as you can see, from a chronological point of view, most of the people who populate the plot were there to satisfy certain scenarios. More importantly, though, some of them also served to expand the story by giving it a bit more depth. William, for instance, was a rather reluctant hero at the start of the film, but by the end of it, he managed to heroically save the day and make Ann realize that she isn’t in love with her fiancé anymore. Marigold, on the other hand, acted like a bridge of sorts, a bridge that linked Hawkins to Upshott and eventually William and Ann, depending on which part of the plot she was trying to facilitate (informant, victim, or signpost to murder). And as for Hawkins? Well, he's also a pivotal player within the scheme of things. But in his case, he’s the big bad villain who initially introduced us to his story and then guided us through it (whenever the central focus wasn’t on Ann or William).

Now, in regards to the overall style of this film, and more or less, you can easily break things down into two basic components. The acoustic component, which was mainly used to punctuate plot points, Ding!, or enhance the mood of certain scenes, Ta-Dah!, by playing such melodic melodies as a rhythmic Bossa nova, a militaristic march, or whatever else that’s tonally appropriate at the time. Whereas the visual component, on the other hand, was mainly used to illustrate the flow of the action in a clear and concise fashion. Too concise, some might say, because most of the movie was shot on a set and populated by dated decor, suburban chic, or rustic paraphernalia. Well, apart from a couple of brief establishing shots that emphasized the variation in the location (including a seaside hotel, an ornate office, and a homely home).


The Green Man - George Cole and Jill Adams


The Green Man - Foreign Poster
Anyway, that’s enough of that for the time being, because now seems like a pretty good time for us to sit back, relax, and check out the following filmic facts: (1) ‘British Lion’ first released this production in London, England, on the exact same day women's professional wrestling was officially established [WWE Championship]. It was on the 18th of September, 1956. (2) This film was based on a stage play originally written by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat. It was initially called, ‘The Body was Well-Nourished’, and after some revisions, it was retitled, ‘Meet a Body’.  In any event, both versions of this play performed fairly well on stage, which was why Frank and Sidney were able to produce and adapt it for the big screen. (3) Loosely translated, this project was entitled ‘Wolf in Sheep's Clothing’ in Norway, ‘Six Bombs’ in Denmark, and ‘The Secret of the Inn’ in Finland. (4) One of the taglines used to promote this picture, states, 'The Kind of Picture the British Have a Way With...Things Like Very Merry Murders...Very Unusual Characters...Very Sly Sex...And All Combined in an Uproar of Laughs and Suspense'. (5) The majority of this movie was shot inside ’Shepperton Studios’, Surrey, although some of it was shot on location nearby. This includes Oatlands Avenue, Weybridge [which doubled for ‘Windy Ridge’ & ‘Appleby’]; Littleton House, Shepperton [which was where the ‘Green Man’ hotel was located]; as well as Lombard Street, London [which served as the face of the ‘British Investments House’]. (6) The actress who played Upshott’s mistress in this film, Eileen Moore, was, in fact, George Cole's first wife. They were married in 1954 and divorced in 1962. (7) The music for this movie was composed by Cedric Thorpe Davie, OBE, and throughout his illustrious career, he composed the soundtracks for such classics as 'You’re Only Young Twice' [1952], 'Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue' [1953], and 'Jacqueline' [1956], to name but a few.


The Green Man - George Cole, Terry-Thomas, and Jill Adams


The Green Man - Raymond Huntley and Eileen Moore
In closing my review of ‘The Green Man’, I would now like to rank each key performance in order of preference. So, at the top of my list, I’d like to select the star of the show, Alastair Sim, because he was able to portray the many different sides of Hawkins in a semi-believable manner, ranging from his sinister side, to his smart side, all the way to his charming side. Trust me, his performance was so captivating to watch, I actually wanted him to successfully complete his deadly mission. Up next, I would like to single out two icons of British cinema, George Cole and Jill Adams. Although in their case, I enjoyed George’s performance of William Blake as it was one part bumbling and one part down-to-earth, while Jill, on the other hand, depicted Ann Vincent as if she were a sexy MILF who married for money and not for love. As for the rest of the cast, though? Well, if truth be told, despite most of them doing their best with their respective roles, in the same breath, I would’ve liked to have seen more of Terry-Thomas (Charles Boughtflower) and Avril Angers (Marigold) because they’re both such marvelous actors, and I would’ve liked to have seen less of Raymond Huntley (Sir Gregory Upshott), Colin Gordon (Reginald Willoughby-Cruft), and John Chandos (Mc Kechnie) because they’re not.

In fact, not only was this film let-down by some of the performances, but in addition to this, the archetypal nature of certain characters also lets it down as well. After all, the vast majority of these characters don’t exist anymore (i.e. door-to-door salesman), and as such, aren’t that relatable to a 21st-century audience. But then again, this film was made during an era where no one f#cking swore and politeness was the standard of the day. So to some extent, I suppose we have to appreciate it for what it is, ‘a black comedy’, rather than disrespect it for what it’s not.

THE RATING: B-

THE GREEN MAN (1956) THE GREEN MAN (1956) Reviewed by David Andrews on May 18, 2020 Rating: 5

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