Thursday, May 05, 2016
Ill Met by Moonlight
Based on the book by W. Stanley Moss, Ill Met by Moonlight (Night Ambush in the U.S.) is the story of a couple of British officers who arrive in Nazi-occupied Crete where they abduct the island’s commander. Written for the screen, produced, and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, the film is a dramatic account of Moss’ actual real-life work as a British agent who does whatever he can to win the war as he is played by David Oxley. Also starring Dirk Bogarde, Marius Goring, and Cyril Cusack. Ill Met by Moonlight is a gripping and engaging film from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.
Set in April of 1944 during Nazi’s occupation of Greece, the film revolves around two British officers who are tasked with a mission to kidnap a Nazi general at the island of Crete and bring him to Cairo so that the Nazis would be forced out of the island. It’s a film with a simple plot as it plays to two men planning a mission but also deal with what lays ahead as they’re aided by Greek resistance forces at the island who are fighting a guerilla war with the Nazis. The film’s script play into the mission that Major Fermor (Dirk Bogarde) and Captain Moss would go as they had to make sure things go right and no one gets killed. Even as they have to deal with their hostage in Major General Heinrich Kreipe (Marius Goring) who is a man of great intelligence as he knows what he has to endure. Yet, there is a sense of respect between the general and his captors as it relates to strategy as well as making sure the general isn’t killed.
The direction of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger is actually simple as it’s more grounded despite that it’s largely shot at Pinewood Studios with some location shooting in the French-Italian alps and at the Cote de Azur in France. The usage of wide and medium shots play into the vast locations while the latter would also be used for these scenes in campfires and inside the homes of the locals at Crete to showcase a world that Major Fermer and Captain Moss are in. The approach to suspense is slow-building as much of the action in the second half is set in the mountains where the British and Greek resistance fighters are trying to hide from the Nazis as well as hide General Kreipe who will try to get their attention. Yet, there are these moments where Major Fermer and Captain Moss are trying to see what to do as it relates to its climax where General Kreipe would know they would have something up their sleeve as he tries to bribe a young Greek boy to ruin things as it has this battle of wits in some respects but one based on respect. Overall, Powell and Pressburger create a riveting yet compelling film about an abduction mission in World War II.
Cinematographer Christopher Challis does excellent work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to capture the naturalistic look for many of the film‘s daytime interior/exterior scenes as well as some lighting for some of the nighttime interior/exterior scenes. Editor Arthur Stevens does nice work with the editing as it is mostly straightforward to play up the suspense as well as some of the action in the film. Art director Alex Vetchinsky does terrific work with some of the set pieces such as the homes of the locals in Crete as well as the look of the warships the British officers would depart from. Sound editor Arthur Ludski does superb work with the sound to capture some of the action involving a few gun battles as well as the sounds of planes and cars surrounding the mountains. The film’s music by Mikis Theodorakis is fantastic for its music score that mixes some orchestral bombast with traditional Greek music including its percussions to help play into the suspense and action.
The film’s amazing cast include some notable small roles from Michael Gough as a Crete local, Christopher Lee as a Nazi officer attacked at a dentist, Dimitri Andreas as a Crete boy who would help the officers while befriending General Kreipe, and as a trio of Greek resistance fighters helping the British officers in Brian Worth, Paul Stassino, and Rowland Bartrop. Cyril Cusack is terrific in his small role as Captain Sandy Rendel who would also aid the officers in planning the capture as he would later take part in the film’s climax. David Oxley is fantastic as Captain W. Stanley “Billy” Moss as Major Fermor’s partner who would come up with ideas and do whatever he can to make sure no one gets killed.
Marius Goring is excellent as Major General Heinrich Kreipe as the island’s commander who is kidnapped as he realizes what he goes on where would try to resist only to realize the men he is dealing are just as smart as he is where he has a bit of respect for them. Finally, there’s Dirk Bogarde in a brilliant performance as Major Patrick “Paddy” Leigh Fermor as the leader of this operation who tries to ensure everything goes right while dealing with General Kreipe as he knows that he is an amateur in situations like this but does whatever he can to ensure the general’s survival.
Ill Met by Moonlight is a marvelous film from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. While it is a different war film of sorts where there isn’t a lot of violence in favor of planning, character study, and a battle of wits. It is a film that still manages to offer a lot in terms of suspense as well as be a war film that doesn’t exactly play by the rules. In the end, Ill Met by Moonlight is a remarkable film from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.
Powell/Pressburger Films: The Spy in Black - Contraband - (The Lion Has Wings) - (An Airman’s Letter to His Mother) - 49th Parallel - One of Our Aircraft is Missing - The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp - (The Volunteer) - A Canterbury Tale - I Know Where I'm Going! - A Matter of Life and Death - Black Narcissus - The Red Shoes - The Small Black Room - (Gone to Earth) - The Tales of Hoffmann - (Oh… Rosalinda!!!) - (The Battle of the River Plate) - Peeping Tom - (They’re a Weird Mob) - (Age of Consent) - (The Boy Who Turned Yellow)
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