First time I saw Highly Dangerous, I remember really enjoying it. I had to find another good occasion to watch it again, and The Movie Scientist Blogathon seemed to be the one. Hosted by Ruth from Silver Screening and Christina Wehner, this event starts today on February 19, 2016 and will end on February 21, 2016. It’s the occasion for us to talk about a movie scientist. The blogathon has three different scientist categories: the good, the mad and the lonely. Of course, my choice was the good, by choosing Frances Gray (Margaret Lockwood) from Highly Dangerous.
Highly Dangerous, directed by Roy Ward Baker in 1950, is one of the most thrilling British Films I ever saw (please don’t read the silly review on IMDB…). Before exploring its main character, let see what the story is briefly about:
Margaret Lockwood is Frances Gray, a brilliant entomologist (scientist who studies insect) who is approached for a dangerous mission. The British Intelligence has reasons to believe that a country from the Iron Curtain is about to use insects has a biological weapon against their enemies (don’t forget, we’re in time of cold war). Frances is asked to go to this Balkan country to collect some of the specimens. This is of course a “highly dangerous” mission. After few hesitations, Frances finally accepts has she feels the future of humanity is in her hands. She goes there under a false name: Frances Conway and has to pretend she’s there to study tourism business. After her colleague is killed, she meets an American journalist, Bill Casey (Dane Clark) who will help her.
What I especially love about this film is that our hero, the scientist, is a woman. Unfortunately, it was rare in classic films. Yes, there were female scientists, but not as much as men. Or, if a woman had a role in a science-fiction film, it was mainly a victim, or the scientist daughter, or something like this. But here, our hero is a beautiful, courageous and bright lady who makes us all proud to be women. Ok, my objective here is not to write a feminist article, but I consider it quite important to be mentioned. However, I don’t think we can really say Highly Dangerous is a science-fiction film. Yes, the heroin is a scientist, but this film is more a thriller or an action movie. Because indeed, all movies with a scientist aren’t necessarily science-fiction films.
Frances Gray is just a fantastic woman. She’s the opposite of a victim. What I love about her is that she is really annoyed by men who think insects are disgusting. Most of the time it’s the opposite and women are the ones afraid of insects (we all have this image of a lady screaming when she sees a spider or a mouse or whatever). Even when she’s a victim of the circumstances, she manages to get out of it the best she can. We can think of this scene when she’s interrogated by the police who suspects she’s a spy. She is blinded by the very bright lights that are open in her direction and then she receives a drug to be more docile and answers the questions. Fortunately, this doesn’t really work and she still reveals nothing.
Despite this moment of suffering, she doesn’t give up and continues her mission. It’s fascinating to see her work, the decisions she takes, how she handles the insects. It almost makes us want to be an entomologist. Her pairing with Bill Casey also adds an interesting dimension to the film. Among the two, she’s the brain, and he’s the curious one. Two essential ingredients in such a mission.
Frances Gray, whatever the danger is, is never ready to give up. Even when Bill Casey asks her to, even when she’s arrested by the police. She came to the Balkans to do a mission for her country and is ready to accomplish it from A to Z. She has all the reasons to be a hero.
This lady scientist was portrayed by Margaret Lockwood, one of my very favourite actresses. This turned out to be my third favourite film of hers (after The Lady Vanishes and Give Us the Moon). It was her first film after a long absence from the screen. One more time, she had the occasion to prove us how a versatile actress she was. Margaret Lockwood could be bad (The Wicked Lady, The Man in Grey), good (The Lady Vanishes, Bank Holiday, Highly Dangerous), funny ( Give Us the Moon), a victim (Madness of the Heart), etc.
Her acting in Highly Dangerous is fascinating. She’s very natural and doesn’t exaggerate her emotions too much. The interrogation scene must have been a hard one to do and she manages to give us a great result. There’s even is a touch of humour in her character and in the film itself, which is highly appreciated.
I know Highly Dangerous is not a very well know film. I recommend you to see it as soon as possible, hoping my post convinced you to do so. And guess what? You can watch it on YouTube! You won’t be disappointed!
To read more about good, mad or lonely scientists, I invite you to take a look at the other entries:
The Movie Scientist Blogathon
One more time, a big thanks to Silver Screening and Christina Wehner for hosting such a fun blogathon!