Wednesday, April 08, 2009


A delightful little wartime thriller with comedy, romance, and at least one surprisingly explicit death. In the Scottish countryside, Leslie Banks, an eccentric inventor, and his wife let a rather scampish Cockney evacuee boy (George Cole, pictured) stay at their country estate; already in the house are a mysterious boarder (Alastair Sim) and a wounded pilot (John Mills). Banks is working on a new bomb sight for the RAF, but insists on staying at his home to do the work rather than working from London. Fearful that spies are leaking invention info to the Germans, Scotland Yard is keeping an eye on things, but we are kept off guard as no one is quite whom he or she seems to be on the surface. In addition to the house guests, there's also Banks' nerdish assistant (Michael Wilding) who might be a traitor, a butler who might be a cop, a maid who quits rather suddenly, and Banks' daughter (Carla Lehman) who falls for Mills. Young Cole, a Sherlock Holmes fan, figures out who's who and plays an important part in the elaborate climactic sequence, in which he and Banks are kidnapped on the day of the village bazaar.

This was based on a stage play and, though it retains that feel, being mostly set in the house, there are crucial scenes which are opened up into the outdoors. The laboratory set is particularly well done. All the actors are good, with the young Cole (who went on to play Scrooge's nephew in the Alastair Sim CHRISTMAS CAROL), Mills, and Sim standouts. One character (I can't tell you who) gets a memorable death scene, involving a tortured scream and a lunge at the camera, right at the end of the film. This is not a widely seen movie in the States, but watch Turner Classic's schedule for it. One amusing quote: Sim says, "I'm a romantic sentimentalist"; Lehman's reply: "How uncomfortable for you." [TCM]

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