(out of 5)
Having recently lost his mother, young and innocent Jon Whiteley follows her last spoken instructions and makes his way back to a village he has never known, seeking out a roguish aristocrat (Stewart Granger) to whom he immediately becomes attached. Granger is living the high life of a fornicating cad in his crumbled manor, once the ancestral seat of Moonfleet but now overgrown with weeds both physical and metaphorical. Through the young protagonist’s eyes we come to understand an undercurrent of crime in the village thanks to the presence of wicked buccaneers and the possibility, in the most Jamaica Inn-esque way, that the beloved hero is involved. Fritz Lang makes a rare foray into period drama with this gorgeously shot oddity, rarely seen since its unremarkable first release. Casting is inconsistent, with Whiteley warmly likable as the impish hero and Granger’s handsome caddishness at its most ripe, but elements such as snide George Sanders and a suavely corrupt Joan Greenwood, not to mention a very strange (and strangely costumed) supporting role by Viveca Lindfors, don’t quite mix together smoothly. That said, the auteur’s penchant for expressive image-making does not fail him here, and the film is a joy to view: only Fritz Lang is given a scene in an English country churchyard and turns it into a spooky nighttime affair complete with crooked gargoyles in the abutting cemetery.
Directed by Fritz Lang
Cinematography by Robert H. Planck
Produced by John Houseman
Music by Miklos Rozsa
Costume Design by Walter Plunkett
Film Editing by Albert Akst