The Boy With Green Hair carries a serious message delivered through a fantastic story. The film tells the tale of Peter Fry, a young boy who turns up bald and unresponsive at an unknown police station. Dr Evans (Robert Ryan) comes to try and eek his story out of him and Peter agrees, assuming Dr Evans won’t believe his seemingly tall tale.
Peter reflects on life with a variety of ‘aunts’ and ‘uncles’ with whom he shuttles between after being orphaned due to the war. He eventually finds himself with Gramps (Pat O’Brien), whose name was Gramps, and was not Peter’s grandfather. The eccentric, Irish ex-actor and Peter hit it off.
Of course, this is not all, between the 1940s’ charm and quirky mirth there is a serious undertone to The Boy With Green Hair. After realising he is a war orphan, Peter, played by a young Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap), wakes up to find his hair has turned green; Gramps’ favourite colour. Thereafter, Peter is subject to prejudice, ridicule and even fear. He is left with no choice but to run away, a crying shame inasmuch that he has finally found a place he would like to call home.
Interestingly, The Boy With Green Hair proved a quite prescient precursor to America’s paranoid 1950s. The intolerance, fright and culture of mistrust that director Joseph Losey seeks to rail against became all too common and he himself fell victim as he became blacklisted due to his quite overt leftwing views; not a place you want to be in commie fearing America.
This is an enchanting and endearing film that really does stand the test of time. It is filled with classic little misdirection, and the kind of score that you would associate with films of the period. It is a real gem, and the way Losey handles the message about the evils of war and the fear of individuality is evidence of understated genius.
The cast is superb, Stockwell is fantastic as the quintessential American youth, and Pat O’Brien is charming as the loving Gramps who wants to do nothing but make Peter happy. The only minor criticism of O’Brien is that he gets a bit too clichéd as the genial Irishman but his sorrow at turning Peter bald is genuinely touching – knowing as he does that the reasons for doing so are wrong even if society suggests that they are right. The Boy With Green Hair is an excellent film and one that has some spooky relevance today.
DVD extras include a photo gallery.