I wonder why 'The Green Man' (1956) is not more well known. It stars Alistair Sim in full dour-droll mode, and it is a black comedy in the best old British tradition. Add in to the mix some great supporting characters, many with familiar faces, and you have a good old nostalgic giggle.
Sim plays a professional hit man, who enjoys his work of blowing up pompous asses who are too big for their boots. He's had a break during WW2 (the competition was too fierce) but is now intent on finishing off a government minister. This deed is to be carried out at an hotel on the coast called the Green Man. George Cole, playing a vacuum cleaner salesman and Sim's new neighbour (Jill Adams) uncover the plot and chase him down to the coast in order to save the day.
The part of the film set in the hotel is where the comedy turns more slapstick. Terry-Thomas arrives as one of the guests, and is obviously 'carrying on' with the barmaid, played by the fabulous Dora Bryan. The waiter, played by Michael Ripper, has a set of facial expressions that could almost steal the whole film. When Sim's bomb finally does go off - just after being thrown out of the window by Cole - Terry-Thomas looks at his whisky bottle with incredulity. This is a definite highlight - an old joke but one of the best, especially in the hands of a pro like him!
Sim hides his bomb in a radio and is dismayed to find a musical trio playing in the sitting room. Obviously it would be far too rude to put the radio on and activate the bomb when these fine old ladies are playing away. A lot of the comedy stems from his trying to distract them from playing by plying them with drink. I find this an interesting little window on history. Having a communal sitting room with live music for guests really dates this story. Sitting down in a communal area to write letters or listen to the radio is anathema to us now. As time progressed this sitting room would have become a TV room - but now it's rare to find an hotel without a TV in every room. How many hoteliers would go to the expense of hiring live background music for so few guests now? We have become a much more insular society from the days when we would sit and etch our postcards together, accompanied by chamber music or the BBC Light Programme.