Release Date: June 24, 1955
Director: Fritz Lang
Production Company: MGM
I decided to watch the movies listed by the French magazine Cahiers du Cinéma as the greatest of all time to supplement the AFI and Sight & Sound lists with movies that aren’t in English. So I’m continually surprised at the appearance of Hollywood movies in the French list that seem to have been forgotten in the United States. Moonfleet (like Letter From an Unknown Woman, which I also watched recently) does have notable European director. In this case it’s a late-career work of Fritz Lang, famed for making Metropolis and M.
Moonfleet is a full-on gothic adventure tale set on the coast of England in the 1750s and is reminiscent of Jamaica Inn and Treasure Island. The Fritz Lang touches include dramatic use of light and shadow, impressive set design, and underlying mood of menace. The titular village of Moonfleet is home to gangs of smugglers under the direction of a “gentleman,” Jeremy Fox (Stewart Granger). 9-year-old orphan John Mohune (Jon Whiteley) arrives in Moonfleet on the instruction of his recently deceased mother who was an old lover of Fox.
Fox is not too keen on having a child in his manor, but John shows surprising devotion to him as a “friend.” Eventually they get caught up in seeking the lost treasure of John’s ancestor “Redbeard.” Plots are made, some buckle is swashed, betrayals are made, and characters grow. It is a fun adventure with a lot of “mood.” But I don’t think our French friends have discovered a lost Hollywood masterpiece.