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After a drunken binge on the San Pablo waterfront, longshoreman Bobo fears he may have killed a man. In his uncertainty, he takes a job on an isolated bait barge. That night, he rescues lovely Anna from a watery suicide attempt and installs her on the barge. But Tiny, Bobo's longtime pal and parasite, hopes to drive Anna away before domestic bliss tears Bobo away from him; the still unsolved murder may be just the wedge Tiny needs. There's fog on the water and evil brewing... Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Warm, offbeat, professional...a just a bit unexceptional.
What a surprise, and with some well known actors in little known roles. And one little known actor in the U.S., the great French star Jean Gabin. All put together in an elegant, fast, and sympathetic way.
The story is rather sweet, a love story between two unlikely loners, the charming and volatile hard drinking Bobo, played by Gabin, and the young and troubled Anna, played by Ida Lupino. Each of their pasts looms and interferes in the romance, mainly through the maliciousness of Bobo's old friend, another violent man played by Thomas Mitchell. And then there is the incomparable Claude Rains (you won't recognize him in the first scenes with his beard), who plays a truly good friend. All of this takes place in a little fishing shack at a big stone breakwater on the California Coast somewhere, and most of it takes place at night.
Archie Mayo, who made a lot of really good films and few if any masterpieces ("Petrified Forest" is his most famous, from 1936), really does show mastery of storytelling here. And with cinematography by Charles Clarke good enough to get an Oscar nomination (with some help by the more famous Lucien Ballard), you can see why this is better than most. Fritz Lang is shown as a co-director behind the scenes, and you get suspicious that the visual strength of all this is partly his doing.
But it is the story itself that might be the achilles heel here--it progresses with some twists that are suggested in the first few minutes, and that don't turn and surprise us later. The end is the end you expect, all neatly packaged.
Not that you don't mind so much--the leading characters are, if nothing else, very likable. But along those same lines, I think every scene is filmed by-the-book. Very likable, and competent, and rather beautiful all along, but lacking the edges of uncertainty, of emotional depths you would expect from these kinds of characters, even of drama in the few scenes of violence. "Moontide," with its poetic title, insists somehow that it is a just a performance and an entertainment, a light romance, even though it's just an inch from tipping into something much bigger.
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