|The Green Man
Basil Dearden (uncredited)
|Cedric Thorpe Davie
The Green Man is a 1956 black and white British black comedy film based on the play Meet a Body by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, who produced and adapted the big-screen version. Gilliat said the film was "okay".
Harry Hawkins is a freelance assassin who is contracted to blow up Sir Gregory Upshott, a prominent and pompous London businessman. By courting Upshott's spinster secretary, Marigold, he learns that his target will be taking one of the firm's typists for a weekend at a seaside hotel called "The Green Man". Hawkins hides a bomb in a radio, which he plans to leave in the hotel lounge. Finding out his treachery, the secretary comes to his house to confront him but is attacked (unseen by the viewer) and left for dead by Hawkins' assistant McKechnie who, as nobody is next door, hides the body there (in a grand piano).
The body is found by a young vacuum cleaner salesman called William Blake who calls there, and he first goes next door and accidentally alerts Hawkins, who has his assistant move the body. He then alerts the house owner Reginald's pretty fiancée, Ann. The two are terrified, and when Reginald returns home he finds them lying on the floor next to the bed, with his fiancée on top of the stranger. Reginald's second furious exit creates doubt over the future relationship. William and Ann then face another moment of horror as the "corpse" staggers into the house through the French doors and, before collapsing again, tells them that Upshott will be blown up that night in the Green Man by a bomb at precisely 22:28.
Meanwhile a new group of figures assemble at The Green Man: Upshott arrives with his shy young secretary Joan, but wants a drink before he registers. The waiter tells them they must order food before 10pm because of the Catering Act. Hawkins arrives and sits in the lounge pretending to enjoy a violin concerto played by three mature ladies. The bomb is in a radio in his suitcase. Hawkins takes the three ladies for a drink in the bar just as Upshott and his secretary rise to take their meal.
Not knowing what name Upshott will register under, Ann and William rush there and decide he will be alone and under a false name. They wrongly assume that the name "Boughtflower" is false and track him down. But the time reaches 22:28 and they dive for cover. The trio starts playing in the lounge again. Hawkins encourages them to play faster and join him again in the bar.
Meanwhile Ann and William cannot get the landlord to believe their story, try to evacuate the place and locate the bomb. Hawkins has put the radio on in the lounge. It announces the time as 22:24. William realises the time on the hall clock was wrong. He starts to evacuate the hotel. Meanwhile Upshott sits closer to the radio to hear an article about himself. William has the brainwave that it will be on a timer in the radio, which he therefore throws towards the sea seconds before it explodes. Hawkins crashes into his assistant's car, and both are stopped by the police as they try to drive off.
Driving back to London, Ann and William hear her fiancé Reginald speaking on the radio: he is reading a poem, but breaks off in the middle to deliver into the microphone a vicious and impassioned diatribe about Ann. As Reginald is ushered away from the microphone, they stop driving and share their first kiss.
Cole's then-wife, Eileen Moore, appeared in the film as the typist with whom Upshott has a liaison.
The film, rated U, has been re-released on Region 2 DVD with School for Scoundrels.
The New York Times TV section noted "Weekend at a horrible little country hotel, same name, and one of the funniest British films ever"; the Radio Times wrote "If you ever doubted that Alastair Sim was the finest British screen comedian of the sound era, then here's the proof of his immense talent. As the assassin with the mournful smile, he gives a performance of rare genius that more than makes amends for the longueurs in Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat's script." Allmovie opined "If The Green Man finally falls a little short of being classic, it's only because the mechanics of the plot get a bit wearying at times; otherwise, it's a charmingly subversive little treat", while Time Out called it "A splendid black comedy."