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Somewhere in the 18th century Great Britain, noble but penniless young boy John Mohune is sent by his dying mother to Moonfleet, to put himself under the protection of a certain Jeremy Fox. The boy discovers that Fox is both a former lover of his mother and the leader of a gang of buccaneers. A strange friendship grows as their adventures go on. Written by
Opening credits: Two hundred years ago the great heath of Dorsetshire ran wild and bleak down to the sea. Here, in hidden coves and lonely villages, the smuggling bands plied their violent trade. And here, one October evening of the year 1757, a small boy came in search of a man whom he believed to be his friend. See more »
Right at the beginning of the film, when the little boy comes to, there's a shot where we can see the people surrounding him (as seen by the boy). But judging by the boy's place on the table in the next shot, he should be looking at the people upside down. See more »
On the Boundary between Gothic Horror and Swashbuckling Adventure
It is a long time since I read J Meade Falkner's novel, but I remember enough of it to realise that this film bears little resemblance to it. Around the middle of the eighteenth century John Mohune, the young son of a once-wealthy but now ruined aristocratic family, is sent after the death of his parents to stay with Jeremy Fox, the squire of the Dorset village of Moonfleet. Before her marriage to a cousin, Fox was the lover of John's mother, but they were prevented from marrying by the opposition of her family, who thought he was neither wealthy nor well-born enough for her. As the fortunes of the Mohunes have declined, however, so those of Fox have risen, and he is now the wealthiest man in the village, living in their ancestral mansion.
Fox takes a liking to the boy, and a friendship grows up between them. Unknown to John, however, Fox is not the respectable country gentleman he appears. His main source of wealth is his involvement in the lucrative, but highly illegal, smuggling trade, and he has plans to go into partnership with Lord Ashwood, a local nobleman, in a venture which involves plundering foreign ships and which effectively falls little short of piracy. The debonair Fox is also something of a ladies man, with at least two mistresses, one of whom denounces him to the authorities when he tires of her. The main plot concerns Fox and John's search for a long-lost diamond which had once belonged to one of the Mohune family.
"Moonfleet" has similarities to "Treasure Island" although it is set in Britain rather than on a remote tropical island. The relationship between the likable rogue Fox (a name presumably chosen because of its connotations of cunning) and young John parallels that between Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins. The film has been aptly described as situated on the boundary between a traditional cape and sword adventure and a Gothic horror movie. The style of acting is more that of the swashbuckling adventure. Stewart Granger, taking over where Errol Flynn left off, made something of a speciality of dashing heroes in historical costume dramas ("Blanche Fury", "Saraband for Dead Lovers", "Scaramouche" and "Beau Brummell" are other examples) and he makes an attractive hero here. The other contribution that stands out is from George Sanders, always a good villain, as the corrupt aristocrat Ashwood.
Director Fritz Lang, however, brings a very Gothic look to the film. Moonfleet may be situated on one of the most scenic counties in England, but it is no picturesque village. The atmosphere is often a dark, gloomy one, with numerous shots of the shabby alehouse or the mist-shrouded churchyard. Fox may be a likable rogue, but the smugglers are for the most part dangerous ones who would have no compunction about murdering a child. (There is a fine duel between Fox and one of their number fought to decide whether John should live or die after he inadvertently overhears their plans). This is not a great film, but is nevertheless a well-made, watchable adventure. 6/10
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