Nov 21, 2019

On Blu-ray: Fritz Lang's Moonfleet (1955)

As a Joan Greenwood and George Sanders completest, Fritz Lang’s Moonfleet (1955) was a must-see for me. It doesn’t live up to the promise of its exciting cast though, which also includes Stewart Granger, Viveca Lindfors, and Melville Cooper. At best, it’s got its moments, and a cast like that can’t entirely disappoint. I recently watched the film on its Blu-ray debut from Warner Archive.

Moonfleet is the name of a coastal English village. It is there that the recently-orphaned John Mohune is sent to find his mother’s former lover, Jeremy Fox (Stewart Granger). On her deathbed, she felt this was the best course of action. Fox disagrees, but his enduring passion for Mohune’s mother makes him reluctantly take responsibility for the boy.

Fox lives as a gentleman and smuggles on the down low, so he attempts to smuggle young Mohune off to boarding school to avoid being a bad influence. When this fails and the boy returns, he draws him into his quest to find a valuable diamond.

Many liberties were taken with the plot and characters of 1898 source novel by English author J. Meade Falkner, which hadn’t been published in the United States until 1951. With its tales of smugglers and the search for riches, it was meant to have the thrills of Treasure Island, but was thought to be too grim a story for a faithful translation to work on the screen.

Even with dramatic changes though, the story never quite takes off. There’s some intrigue to the mystery of the diamond and a great fight scene in a pub featuring Granger that brought back a bit of the thrill of his legendary sword work in Scaramouche (1952). The production essentially lacks energy though. It’s disappointing that Greenwood and Sanders, perfectly cast as corrupt noble folk, don’t have better lines to purr with their equally alluring voices.

This film was a must-watch for me because of my regard for the talent involved, but it is a lackluster production overall.

As a special feature, the disc includes a trailer for the film.

Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copy of the film for review. To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection.

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