Thursday, March 08, 2007

Movie: Green For Danger (1946)

Seeing Green for Danger has been a mission of mine since first reading about it in my trusty Leonard Maltin Movie Guide (“exciting whodunit ... a must-see classic”). The fact that Rosemarie had stumbled onto a rare TV screening as a child and still vividly remembered the movie only made me more determined.

Now, thanks to a new DVD from the Criterion Collection, I can finally cross that goal off my list. Next up: bring sexy back. (Damn it. Remind me never to draft a list while sitting next to Justin Timberlake.)

At a rural English hospital during WWII, a patient dies on the table – before his operation begins. An eccentric inspector from Scotland Yard, played by the incomparable Alastair Sim, must discover which member of the surgical staff is the killer.

Danger is that rarest of birds, a mystery movie that succeeds as both mystery and movie. Co-writer/director Sidney Gilliat plays fair with his clues while capturing life in a once-bucolic setting where V-1 flying bombs, or doodlebugs, now rain down on the countryside. Best of all is Sim as the preening master detective who may not be as clever as he thinks he is. Danger lives up to its billing.

Upcoming: The Michael Shayne Collection

Volume One of Fox’s Michael Shayne, Private Detective collection will be out on March 20. The two DVD set contains four 1940-41 films starring Lloyd Nolan as the gumshoe created by Brett Halliday, as well as plenty of extras: a history of the character, a feature on the work of paperback cover artist extraordinaire Robert McGinnis, and more.

I’m curious to dig into the Shayne movies for two reasons. One, Nolan, while a fine actor, doesn’t jibe with my sense of the character. He certainly looks nothing like the mug on the covers of the books. (You know who would have been perfect as Shayne? Ken Tobey from The Thing. Tell me he’s not a dead ringer for Halliday’s “reckless, red-headed Irishman.”)

And two, after the debut film – Michael Shayne, Private Detective, which is based on Halliday’s Dividend for Death – the series cribbed from anything but the Shayne books. Take Sleepers West, for instance. It’s a remake of – what else? – Sleepers East (1934), from a story by Torchy Blane creator Frederick Nebel. A Nolan/Shayne film that will with any luck appear on Volume Two, 1942’s Time To Kill, is actually an adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s The High Window with Shayne subbing for Philip Marlowe.

Fate can be cruel. Decades later, another Michael Shayne novel finally reached the big screen as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, only without Michael Shayne. But that’s Hollywood.