Sunday, August 11, 2013
The Moonraker (1958)
In 1651 Cromwell routed the Royalist army at the Battle of Worcester and Charles II found himself a fugitive. Luckily the Moonraker is on hand to help him escape the country. The Moonraker (who is in fact the Earl of Dawlish) is an unrepentant Royalist who had vowed to kill a Roundhead every month as revenge for the execution of King Charles I. So far he has kept his promise. There is a price on his head but he has led the Parliamentarian armies a merry dance and despite their best efforts he remains at large, a constant thorn in Cromwell’s side. Cromwell increases the price of his head but the Moonraker merely takes this as a compliment.
It’s all just an excuse for a series of adventures, and the movie provides all the action required of the genre. There is swordplay aplenty and an abundance of narrow escapes.
Scottish director David MacDonald had a long if not terribly distinguished career. On the other hand he learnt his stuff serving as a production assistant to Cecil B. DeMille so it’s not surprising that he approaches his task quite confidently. He makes good use of some nice locations. The budget was by no means lavish but it was enough to get the period look fairly effectively. Mutz Greenbaum’s cinematography is suitably lush.
Marius Goring does well as Colonel Beaumont, whose job is to catch the fugitive King and the Moonraker. John le Mesurier was an unusual choice to play Cromwell but he gets away with it. Look out for Patrick Troughton (the second Doctor Who) as a Roundhead captain. Paul Whitsun-Jones goes close to stealing the movie as the bumptious but engaging Parfitt who makes his Royalist sympathies all too plain without any heed for the consequences. Peter Arne, an actor who specialised in villains, does good work as an itinerant Puritan preacher who is not quite what he seems to be, as does Sylvia Sims as the very pro-Parliament Anne Wyndham who finds herself torn between love and what she conceives to be her duty.
The Moonraker is an entertaining and high-spirited swashbuckling adventure and fans of that genre (and I certainly number myself among that company) will have little to complain of. Highly recommended.