Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Fantasy double bill: The Moonspinners / Moonfleet

Here's an antidote to grey wintry snowy skies: THE MOON SPINNERS, a 1964 Walt Disney confection set in sunny Crete - its still a delicious entertainment. One of Walt's Hayley Mills films it boasts an incredible cast of various acting styles from silent star Pola Negri to method man Eli Wallach, plus cute young leads Hayley and Peter McEnery, intense Greek actress Irene Papas (who is wasted here in a nothing role), marvellous British stage and movie actress Joan Greenwood (whom I have rhapsodised about several times here, see label) and English farcuers John Le Mesurier and Sheila Hancock - now one of England's great dames.

Directed by Disney regular James Neilson from a Mary Stewart adventure story, it has Hayley as the sweet young thing travelling in Greece with her Aunt (la Greenwood) who is collecting local folksongs for the BBC!, and becoming involved with strange young chap McEnery who it turns out is spying on local crook Wallach as he (Peter, that is) lost his job at the bank due to some missing jewels which it turns out Eli is going to sell to the reclusive wealthy Madam Habib (Pola - who makes a splendid late entrance with her pet leopard) - dependable Andre Morell (Mr Greenwood) captains her yacht where everyone converges for the climax. Add in escapes from locked windmills and lots of local colour, plus of course Hayley's first proper kiss! So it is all sweetly amusing.

A grimmer view of Crete was also on view that year, in Cacoyannis's ZORBA THE GREEK, which at least had an iconic role for Papas. McEnery (who was the boy in VICTIM) went on to an interesting career, he did another Disney THE FIGHTING PRINCE OF DONEGAL, and Vadim snapped him up for LA CUREE (THE GAME IS OVER) with sex kitten Fonda, he was with Glenda Jackson in NEGATIVES, and well as ENTERTAINING MR SLOANE (as the enterprising Mr Sloane) and THE ADVENTURES OF GERARD etc. He was the first Hamlet I saw on stage in 1967, and also in an 80s revivial of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC. I always liked Hayley back then, but she grew up to be perfectly ordinary as an adult - it was nice seeing her recently as the mother in law in an African medical tv series WILD AT HEART.

This is really a Joan Greenwood double bill - she is also fascinating in Fritz Lang's 1955 adventure MOONFLEET - which is totally different from the children's classic novel by J Meade Faulkner. It is also filmed in California but captures perfectly late 18th century England among the smugglers of the Dorset coast. Jon Whiteley is the little boy sent to stay with Jeremy Fox (Stewart Granger, at his most dashing) who of course is the leader of the smugglers. Add in churchyards, deserted tombs, a missing diamond, and intrigue with villains George Sanders and Joan Greenwood and one has a perfect period entertainment. Viveca Lindfors is also present. This is one I enjoyed as a child and still do now, its one of the high points (like ADVENTURES OF QUENTIN DURWARD) of the MGM '50s costume drama.

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