It’s extremely rare to come across a comedy-chiller that genuinely works on both levels – An American Werewolf in London (1981) being one and BBC1’s three-part series The Green Man (1990) another. Based on (and very faithful to) Kingsley Amis’ atypical 1969 novel of the same name, The Green Man concerns the supernatural adventures of lecherous alcoholic innkeeper Maurice Allington (Finney) who summons the spirit of evil 17th century necromancer/perv Thomas Underhill.
Always a fine actor, Finney is excellent as the randy, boozy Allington who doesn’t know whether the ghostly episodes are the result of his alcohol intake (hypnagogic jactitation) – or the real thing. The scene where Allington first conjures the spirit of Underhill is still very unsettling. In between his encounters with ghosts, the monstrous Green Man and, in one particular scene God himself, Maurice is trying to organise a threesome with his wife and latest mistress – which is why his aged father (Michael Hordern) calls him a ‘bad lad’.
Allington’s carnal schemes don’t turn out quite the way he expects…
Amis’ novel used his own booze-induced experiences as a jumping off point for the story, echoing Evelyn Waugh’s The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold (1957). The serious existential point of the book is the inability of anyone to escape the prison of the ‘self’. Tell me about it.
Maurice with his mistress (Sarah Berger, left) and wife (Linda Marlowe):
Fortunately readers you don’t have to take my word for it, as all three episodes are available to watch FREE on YouTube:
And if you like Finney in horror, you will want to check out Finney’s other foray into the supernatural. Below is the trailer for his 1981 picture Wolfen: