It’s all going down at The Green Man, a seaside guest house in Newcliffe whose proprietor would boast of its two stars and twelve beds but whose clientele may be more interested in the anonymity of its overlooked charms, in particular Sir Gregory Upshott who would prefer his weekend away with one of the girls from the typing pool to not be common knowledge, not realising his secretary Marigold misses nothing.
Fortunately, Marigold is a loyal employee and has mentioned the indiscretion to only one person, the charming Harry Hawkins who has been courting her since the day they met in the St James’ Park and she had run out of breadcrumbs with which to feed the birds; regrettably, the mercenary Hawkins is in fact an assassin whose next target is Sir Gregory.
“I only accepted assignments against the so-called “great,” those overblown balloons who just cry out to be popped, and I was glad to offer myself as a humble pin – at a reasonable price… In fact, the more self-important my victims were, the greater my joy, so to speak, in making the punishment fit the crime.”
A perfectionist accustomed to shifting the pieces like a game of chess, Hawkins’ plans for Sir Gregory and a booby-trapped radio are sent tumbling in disarray first by a stray sheet of carbon paper which leads Marigold to his home with questions he would rather not answer, then by the arrival of vacuum cleaner William Blake whose eagerness leads him to check under carpets and in corners best left alone.
Hailing from the pens of writers, producers and sometime directors Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, The Green Man was based on their previously produced play Meet A Body, substantially rewritten to bolster the role of anti-hero bomber Harry Hawkins as a vehicle for the versatile comedy player Alastair Sim, clearly delighting in his subversive role.
Directed by Robert Day and originally released in 1956 and now restored for Studio Canal’s Vintage Classics range, primarily from the original camera negative but resorting to alternative sources where severe damage had occurred, The Green Man is a delightfully madcap romp, gleefully anarchic and surprisingly anti-establishment, starting and ending with a bang and with a body in the piano for good measure.
With a youthful George Cole as William Blake, Jill Adams as Ann Vincent, caught up in the plot when her house is used as a decoy, and the wonderful Avril Angers as Marigold, the dialogue is fast and the supporting cast are deliriously eccentric, led by the redoubtable Terry-Thomas and boasting a past-their-prime all-female musical trio and just a hint of chopped toad.
Included in the new edition is an interview with Stephen Fry effusively praising Sim’s performance and discussing the techniques of comedy in performance and shooting, cultural historian Matthew Sweet offering an oversight of the British film industry of the period with particular reference to the films of Launder and Gilliat and The Green Man and an archive documentary on Sim’s career.
The Green Man is available on DVD and Blu-ray from 18th May from Studio Canal