Sunday, March 29, 2009

Made for Television: Kingsley Amis's The Green Man (1990)

I was fortunate during my undergraduate years to have taken a seminar on British author, Kingsley Amis. I immediately fell in love with the author's work, favorites being his literary classic, Lucky Jim (1954), Girl, 20 (1971), Jake's Thing (1978), and this one, made into a television, 3-part series, The Green Man (1969). I vaguely remember the stories or the discourse in the seminar on the culture which produced these works, Amis's misogyny and fondness for alchohol. Likewise, I went to school in New Orleans and had my own fondness for chemical, ahem, inspiration. In any event, I'm inspired to pull some of my old paperbacks off the shelf for a reread.

The Green Man was made in 1990 as a three part miniseries as a co-production by A&E Entertainment and the BBC. It stars Albert Finney as Maurice, who runs the title "Green Man," as a bed-and-breakfast. Maurice is an alcoholic and a womanizer and his hotel has a fun history of ghosts roaming the halls, much to the chagrin of the guests. Recently, Finney has noticed that the supernatural goings on in his hotel have become very real. So it's either cut down on the alchohol (not happening) or investigate the ghostly goings on.

The Green Man was directed by Elijah Moshinsky, whose work included exclusively television work and who now directs opera stage plays. Although The Green Man is dated, it really captures a lot of the spirit of Amis's novel. The mystery unfolds in an always engaging and often humorous way. Of particular note are the supernatural scenes, and Finney has two encounters with ghostly figures, which would in poor hands come off as ridiculous. The encounters are quite credible and atmospheric. Did I mention Finney arranges a menage-a-trois with his mistress and his wife during the whole goings on? He does, and it unfolds quite unexpectedly, as well. Sarah Berger and Linda Marlowe give wonderful performances.

Anyone who likes good British ghost stories, dramas, or mysteries would probably enjoy this one as I did. While it's not wholly successful, it's a fun balance of supernatural horror and somewhat humorous drama. All the acting performances are tops, not least of all Finney.

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