Robert Day (director)
Studiocanal UK (studio)
18 May 2020 (released)
14 May 2020
This black comedy from 1956 is based on the stage play 'Meet a Body' by Frank Launder and Sindney Gilliat who also wrote the screen adaptation, starring Alastair Sim as loveable rogue and professional assassin Harry Hawkins.
As we discover at the beginning of the film and via voice-over, Hawkins had discovered a talent for 'bumping people off' when, as a schoolboy, he accidentally blew his headmaster up with fatal consequences. It would seem that he'd only intended minor damage but overdid it with the explosives… however from little acorns... Jump to the present and our Mr. Hawkins, having acquired a taste for it, is now a fully-fledged professional assassin working for foreign powers. Mind you, the brief clips we see of his disposing of certain high-ranking individuals will hardly make the majority think of him as 'a bad lot'. His latest assignment is to dispose of another high-ranking Brit, in this case politician Sir Gregory Upshott (Raymond Huntley). Hawkins lives in a nice detached house in Turnham Green (Weybridge actually) where he has with him his equally murderous sidekick McKechnie (John Chandos) and plays regular games of chess with the local Police Sergeant Bassett (Cyril Chamberlain). Who would ever suspect such an outwardly respectable fellow as Hawkins to be the mastermind of such evil goings-on? In order to get the goods on the odious Upshott he's been romancing the politician’s secretary Marigold (a dotty and bespectacled Avril Angers). Unfortunately Hawkins has inadvertently written some incriminating evidence concerning Upshott's movements on paper in Marigold's office, not realizing a sheet of carbon copy paper was beneath his notes. Upon discovering the carbon copy, a confused Marigold immediately phones Hawkins demanding an explanation! Hawkins invites her to the house saying he will explain everything, cue for an ongoing farce as he's playing chess with the Sergeant Bennett.
The idea is to get McKechnie to briefly change the name of the two houses by exchanging the wooden name signs above the front doors. There is method is this seemingly prankish idea because the house next door (awaiting new residents) is vacant. Marigold will then go there and McKechie will 'do her in'. Unfortunately, Mr. Hawkins’ landlady has – unbeknownst to him - arranged for vacuum cleaner salesman William Blake (Sims' protégé George Cole) to turn up and give a demonstration. McKechnie kills Marigold (or thinks he has) and leaves the house briefly before getting a chance to dispose of the body, which he hides in a grand piano. Blake then arrives at what he believes to be the right house (which is of course the wrong house) and finds bloodstains on the carpet. Shortly afterwards the new owner Ann Vincent (Jill Adams) arrives and, after much confusion, Blake and Ann start a frantic search for the corpus delicti. Ann's crusty old boyfriend, BBC radio announcer Reginald Willoughby-Croft (Colin Gordon) turns up and immediately jumps to the wrong conclusion. Leaving in a huff he is followed by a furious Ann who wishes Blake gone by the time she returns. Certain that a crime had been committed Blake does the opposite and continues searching the house, eventually discovering Marigold’s body in the grand piano!
Horrified he then goes next door to Hawkins’ place and asks the man to phone the police. Hawkins only pretends to do so, engaging Blake in conversation while McKechnie sneaks back get the corpse out of the house and then dumps it into the boot of his car. When Blake returns to the other house to retrieve his vacuum cleaner Ann returns, incensed that Blake should still be in the room. Alas, he now insists he has found the corpus delicti: Marigold’s corpse in the piano! How embarrassing that the corpse seems to have vanished. As it turns out though, Marigold isn't dead, she was only unconscious and now she’s managed to climb out of the car boot and, disheveled, stumbles through the open veranda door with a disbelieving Ann and Blake looking on in shock. A bedraggled Marigold tells Ann and Blake about Hawkins dastardly plot to kill Upshott by means of a bomb hidden in a radio which he intends on blowing up in a coastal hotel called 'The Green Man'. While Hawkins makes all the necessary arrangements he orders McKechnie to dig a grave in the countryside to dispose of Marigold’s corpse. This he does, unaware that said corpse has come back to live and is no longer in the car boot! Meanwhile in the hotel, Hawkins encounters Lily (Dora Bryan doing her usual comic turn), a receptionist/barmaid who is having a fling with Charley Boughtflower (an underused Terry-Thomas) while Upshott checks in ‘incognito’ with his young and naïve secretary with whom he is having We can hardly go wrong here with the veteran team of writer/directors Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat and their perenial star the rather unique Alistair Sim.These three had by this time (1956) been enjoying considerable and deserved box office success since the late 30's when Sim played Sergeant Bingham in the In the Inspector Hornleigh films. Here the director's reigns are given to a youngish Robert Day (assisted it would seem by the vastly experienced Basil Dearden) making his debut; later known for his versatility and he does a pretty good job here.
a secret affair. As the seconds are literally ticking away and more and more mayhem ensues by the second, will Blake and Ann be able to avert a terrible tragedy?
We can hardly go wrong here with the veteran team of writer/directors Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat and their perennial star Alastair Sim. This trio had by this time been enjoying considerable and deserved box office success since the late 1930's. Here the director's reigns were given to a youngish Robert Day making his debut and he did a pretty impressive job. A good cast and a frenetic script are all rolled into a rollicking eighty minutes screen time. A witty score from the little known composer Cedric Thorpe Davie sets the pace only too well.
THE GREEN MAN has just received a brand-new 4K restoration and this Blu-ray/DVD release furthermore offers selected Special Features including an interview with cultural historian Matthew Sweet and a documentary about Alastair Sim.