29 Days til’ Halloween, 2014: Green For Danger (1946) and Night Of The Eagle (1961)

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I’m staying classy today…and I’m posting more classics…

Don’t you worry, tomorrow I’ll post a movie slightly more obscure and definitely more disturbing, but it’s raining here in Michigan today. It’s a beautiful gray day – a little slice of October heaven. My cat is sleeping by my side on the comfy couch and snoring softly. I wish there was a small fire burning in a fireplace. I wish I had a fireplace. I’m making do, however, with a Yankee Candle that’s campfire scented. Today I want to post movies that fit the mood of this season, obscure or not. If you happen to be reading this on a sweaty, sun drenched day in Los Angeles (Jeremy and April!) and are feeling far removed from the special coziness that is the Halloween season, I hope one of these movies put you in the right frame of mind…

GREEN FOR DANGER is far from being obscure in the sense of availability. It was released by Criterion, after all, and the DVD package included two (rather lightweight) critical essays that you can find on the Criterion website should you want some historical context. It’s not useful for me to spend much time discussing that sort of thing. However, I should say that the director and writer, Sidney Gilliat, is one of a screenwriting pair responsible for a series of excellent, well regarded pictures in England including the script for Alfred Hitchcock’s THE LADY VANISHES. In case you were concerned, this movie has pedigree.

That is not my concern. I’m all about the atmosphere and the horror. GREEN FOR DANGER is not, strictly speaking, a horror movie. It is a British-style “whodunnit” in the Agatha Christie vein and features a lot of dark British humor. It takes place in a wartime hospital and so has all the apparent trappings of a “war movie.” That environment and/or “genre” doesn’t personally strike me as fulfilling the requirements for atmospheric, spooky fun. The film tropes associated with British wartime films are just too familiar. Horror fans would not be blamed for overlooking GREEN FOR DANGER based on those superficial elements, but they would be mistaken. Apart from the overall atmosphere of coziness combined with dread (the result of beautiful tracking shots and meticulous attention to light and shadow), there are many moments of tension in this movie that would make Val Lewton proud. The second murder scene, the climax of an extended chase, is brutal and chilling. It is truly a “set piece” – a scene that stands alone like a little short film – filled with eery, menacing imagery such as moon-soaked curtains blowing in the wind, a sillhouetted killer, and disorienting reflections in mirrors and glass. If the same scene were in a slasher movie from the 70s or 80s it would immediately elevate that film to cult status among slashers, and this is a film from 1946.

NIGHT OF THE EAGLE, though sounding like a movie about a leather bar, is a pure horror film. It is a well regarded classic of the supernatural horror genre and, in recent years, has been categorized as “folk horror” because of its emphasis on the continuance of superstitious folk beliefs in contemporary times. That places it side-by-side with such films as THE WICKER MAN and CURSE OF THE DEMON and, frankly, that’s exactly where it belongs. Written, in part, by Richard Matheson (the author of “I Am Legend” and countless horror films and TV shows from episodes of The Twilight Zone to TRILOGY OF TERROR w/ Karen Black), NIGHT OF THE EAGLE is skillfully paced and directed so as to slowly build and boil over with paranoia in a manner reminiscent of better known films like ROSEMARY’S BABY. It’s also interesting for its exploration of prescribed gender roles in the early 1960s and the strange balances (or imbalances) of power such prescriptions wrought upon otherwise “happy” couples (then and now). Look for subtext in this one…but most of all enjoy the suspense and the child-like upending of logic, the indulgence in the magical, that this one provides…

GREEN FOR DANGER (1946):

NIGHT OF THE EAGLE (1961):

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This entry was posted in 1940s horror, 1960s Horror, British Horror and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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