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Ill Met By Moonlight [DVD] 
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The final film created by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (their partnership having previously produced 'A Matter of Life and Death', 'The Red Shoes' and 'The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp'). Set on the island of Crete during the Nazi occupation, the film stars Dirk Bogarde and David Oxley as British officers assigned to kidnap the German commander-in-chief General Kreipe (Marius Goring) and spirit him back to Cairo. If successful, the morale of the Germans would be weakened and the resistance would be stronger. But once he is captured, the British officers have to get him passed German patrols at almost every turning.
A distinguished British cast, headed by 1950s heart-throb Dirk Bogarde, leads I'll Met By Moonlight--a Powell and Pressburger war film which is based on a true story. British agents conspire with local partisans to kidnap a prominent German General during the occupation of Crete in WWII. They decide to bring the officer to a beachhead, where he'll be transported to Egypt, but the Germans don't take this lying down and their method of revenge capture the Brits by surprise.
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As mentioned in other reviews, colour case but film is B&W and better for it as the transfer to DVD is sympathetic, evocative and of very good technical quality. This is not a 'Blockbuster' it's just a modest, simple, pleasing and most enjoyable 'British Wet Sunday Afternoon' indulgence.
(Slight 'location' spoiler coming up).
The film was predominantly shot in the South of France in the Maritime Alps behind the directors house! Its so well done though that you really would not know if you had not already read Bogarde's wonderful autobiographical books; better it must be said than much of his cinematic output.
He was indeed a truly gifted and much missed actor and author.
(1957, UK, 100 min, b/w, English subtitles, Aspect ratio: 4:3 Letterbox, Audio: Mono)
EXTRA: Theatrical trailer
Ill Met by Moonlight is the second of two propaganda war films that The Archers (aka Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger) were roped in to make in the late 50s to celebrate the achievements of servicemen who fought in World War Two and to further rapprochement between Britain and Germany. The Battle of the River Plate (1956) centers on the Royal Navy while this one spotlights the army, more precisely an SOE (Special Operations Executive) operation on German-occupied Crete involving the kidnapping of a General (Marius Goring) by gallant British officers Leigh Fermor (Dirk Bogarde) and Stanley Moss (David Oxley) with the help of undercover British soldiers (especially stinky ‘Sandy’ [Cyril Cusack]) and the Cretan underground resistance. The film is an adaptation of a W. Stanley Moss book about his own wartime experience titled ‘Ill Met by Moonlight: The Abduction of General Kreipe’. The title quotes Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and refers to the fact that most of the action takes place at night – the hijacking of the General’s own car, the trek across the Cretan mountains and the rendezvous with a ship who picks them up in a secluded cove and conveys them all to Cairo. I can convey the whole story because there’s not an ounce of tension throughout and there is no real plot to spoil. The Archers don’t do conventional dramatic tension (on the contrary they have always specialized in the unconventional!) and they were perhaps the last people who should have been approached to make this film.
The very factors which stymie all tension (and blow it out of the water as a great war film) prove to be the most endearing features, though they don’t necessarily add up to a great film. As Moss arrives on the island and meets his friend Fermor, you could be forgiven for thinking he has stumbled onto a fancy-dress party with Bogarde togged up in Cretan national costume giving a laid back, highly indulged performance which continues throughout. Before we know it we are whisked off to a Greek Night replete with thunderous Mikis Theodorakis music and gay dancing – it had me waiting for Zorba to arrive. Having been to Crete I can assure you The Archers certainly give us a good idea of the place replete with the indulgence of locals (mostly played by British actors) and the highlighting of various clichés – the sharp-eared partisan who can tell the car from the sound of the engine alone, the drunk dimwit who confuses messages so that the party are sent walking straight through the German army who are mounting a search and the boy whose only dream is get a decent pair of boots and who proves decisive in the film’s denouement. Those who have observed Marius Goring’s wonderful performances in A Matter of Life and Death and The Red Shoes will enjoy his fancy dress party incarnation as a jackbooted German General, leaving behind a trail of belongings which his army could possibly follow, faking a broken arm, then a sprained knee to slow the party down, and then playing jolly Uncle Fritz trying to bribe the boy with a gold coin. It’s all light fun, highly civilized and boils down to sporting stiff upper lip respect from both sides of the conflict. The film has the air of an amiable game of cricket more than a wartime operation, but it’s entertaining in its own way. I found it much more approachable than The Battle of the River Plate where military and diplomatic hardware prevent anything humorous or even realistically human from penetrating through the stifling fidelity to fact. That said, the film’s very easy-going amiability militates against the brief to provide a war film, and with nothing else to say about anything (just compare it with the resonant complexity of films like The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp or A Matter of Life and Death), the film flounders on its own lack of ambition which seems to have been checked in at the local taverna for a bottle of ouzo.
In sum then Ill Met by Moonlight is certainly an entertaining highly diverting watch, but it falls well short of being either a first class war film or first class Powell/Pressburger. This was their last official outing together as a collaborative team and it’s a shame they couldn’t have gone out with a bigger bang. It’s not quite a whimper, but Archers aficionados will be disappointed. I would like to blame the official guideline to provide a routine war film just like numerous others made at the time, but in reality I think we can see a dip in their work after The Red Shoes (1948). One can make a case for Gone to Earth (1950) and The Tales of Hoffmann (1951), but The Small Back Room (1949), The Elusive Pimpernel (1950) and Oh…Rosalinda!! (1955) all hardly represent them at their best and one suspects that by 1957, The Archers had perhaps pushed each other as far as they could go.
My dvd is from the white box collection (without Black Narcissus) thought I'd give it a go last night. Two surprises, first in the quality of the print and second that this 1957 movie is full widescreen no black bars. I especially wonder at those viewing the film in 1957. I'm sure the war had to be forgotten, I'm sure the war had to be remembered. The horrors were never depicted in post-war movies. In this film there is a sanity to the German response to their kidnapped General (rounding up locals) only Bogarde's telling of what would happen to a boy gets close to the level the war was fought at.
For the most part everyone is sane, respectfull and honours the rules of war. But no one takes the pess. The joviality is part of the motor of it all. A real war film with real people. Nearly.
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