It’s not unusual for British films to be retitled for the American market. This is one of the more radical changes.
Ill Met By Moonlight is a quote from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s the title of the wartime memoir on which the movie is based; more about that later. The American title is simultaneously more prosaic and descriptive, Night Ambush.
Ill Met By Moonlight AKA Night Ambush tells the story of a British commando team on the Greek Island of Crete during World War II. Dirk Bogarde is the head commando. He wants to do something splashy: kidnap a German general. The movie shows the planning and execution of that plan. It’s great fun with dollops of humor: it was before Dirk Bogarde became associated with very serious art films like The Night Porter.
That’s all the plot I’m willing to reveal. This feature is called pulp fiction, not pulp spoilers
The atmospherics are the best thing about the movie. It was filmed in the UK but still captures the Cretan terrain perfectly. The Germans never controlled the mountains, just the coastal towns. It was true elsewhere in the Motherland
The movie captures the spirit of the Greek resistance, which combined xenophobia and patriotic fervor. My people are fierce. That’s why the Italians lost the battle for Greece before the Germans bailed them out.
The movie also captures the spirit of the British commandos. Like the ones in the movie, they tended to be gifted upper class amateurs who went to fancy schools. It was a great adventure for them, eh wot.
The cast is full of lively performances by Greek actors as well as a charismatic lead performance by Dirk Bogarde, one of the finest actors of his or any other time.
Ill Met By Moonlight AKA Night Ambush was an unhappy experience for co-director Michael Powel. His long and fruitful partnership with Emeric Pressburger ended after the film’s release. Their production company was The Archers. This 1957 movie left that partnership shot to hell.
I mentioned the book on which the film is based. This is it:
Ill Met By Moonlight AKA Night Ambush is not exactly film noir but it has a noirish look courtesy of cinematographer Christopher Challis. The music is by Mikis Theodorakis but has little in common with his Bouzouki driven score for Zorba The Greek.
Grading Time: Michael Powell may not have cared for his own movie, but I liked it. I give Ill Met By Moonlight AKA Night Ambush 3 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B.
It’s poster time. I tried to divide things up evenly between the UK and US artwork.
Ill Met By Moonlight might be a better title but the Night Ambush poster kicks ass; German ass to be precise.
Do you know what time it is? It’s time to follow dancing refreshments to the lobby.
Did they serve Greek treats at this movie? Most Greek deserts are too sticky to be finger food. What can ya do?
This week’s lobby cards feature an English one in black and white followed by the obligatory color lobby cards for a black and white picture. I never get tired of those jokes.
It’s trailer time. Shouldn’t they call them caravans in the UK? It’s what they call trailers, after all.
The last word goes to Mikis Theodorakis’ theme music: