Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Green For Danger

(UK, 1946)

If I had remembered the title of this film after we started watching it, I couldn’t have actually guessed whodunit, but it would have been pretty clear howdunit. The clue is green. This was based on a popular novel of the day by Christianna Brand, who wrote a lot of books with the character of Inspector Cockrill, and also children’s books about Nurse Matilda, who for some reason they renamed Nanny McPhee when they made the movie about her. The main reason we watched it was that Alastair Sim was playing Cockrill. He is one of my very favorite (sorry, favourite) British actors. Five years later he would create the best Scrooge that has ever graced the screen. It also stars Trevor Howard.

It takes place in the countryside during the war. Someone has murdered a man on the operating table, and everyone who was in there at the time becomes a suspect. More murders follow. Sim plays Cockrill as a slightly self-satisfied Poirot wannabe, who is a bit unmanned when the V1 buzz bombs snarl above him. But he is clever. He gets it all right … except for an embarrassing mistake right at the end, which brings him down a peg or two. But his final lines, delivered in voiceover as he is dictating a telegraph, made me laugh: “In view of my failure – correction, comparative failure – I feel that I have no alternative but to offer you, sir, my resignation, in the sincere hope that you will not accept it.”

One of the highlights, for me, was the V1s. The V1 buzz bomb was the first cruise missile. It was launched from the ground with a rocket booster, or dropped from the air. From there, a pulse jet powered it in the general direction of London, which made the distinctive buzzing sound, and its primitive autopilot guidance system was designed to take it over the target and then sever the control cables. That caused it to go into a nose dive, which cut off the fuel supply (unintentionally), so suddenly the sky would be quiet. It was only a pause before the damn thing hit the ground, with devastating effect. When the noise stopped, you knew it was time to get your head down. It was a pure terror weapon, killed mostly civilians, but was a great success for the Nazis because it forced the Allies to divert a lot of effort into shooting them down and destroying their bases. The scenes of the V1 in this movie are very effective.