Ill Met by Moonlight (1957)


(directors/writers: Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger; screenwriter: based on the book Ill Be Met By Moonlight by W. Stanley Moss; cinematographer: Christopher Challis; editor: Arthur Stevens; music: Mikis Theodorakis; cast: Dirk Bogarde (Maj. Patrick Leigh Fermor), Marius Goring (Major General Kreipe), David Oxley (Captain W. Stanley Moss), Dimitri Andreas (Niko Soldan Emeris), Cyril Cusack (Captain Sandy Rendel), Michael Gough (Andoni Zoidakis), Laurence Payne (Manoli),Wolfe Morris (George), John Cairney (Elias), Brian Worth (Stratis Saviolkis); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger; Rank Film; 1957-UK)
“Exciting WW II drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It was released in the States as Night Ambush, thereby dropping its original title, Ill Met by Moonlight, a quote from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (“The Red Shoes”/”A Matter of Life and Death”/”The Battle of the River Plate”) write, direct and produce this conventional and minor but exciting WW II drama. It’s based on the memoir Ill Be Met By Moonlight by W. Stanley Moss, which relates his true war experience.

A pair of British citizen soldiers, Major Paddy Leigh Fermer (Dirk Bogarde) and Captain W. Stanley Moss (David Oxley), kidnap the Nazi occupying general of Crete (who commands some 35,000 paratroopers), the much decorated and pompous career soldier Major General Kreipe (Marius Goring). The Brits are helped by some 800 Cretan freedom fighters and three other Brit soldiers, as they easily nab the general in a car ambush and then find the hard part is to try to ship him off via the Brit Navy to British headquarters in Cairo. All the time the general expects to be rescued as he’s led to the beachhead through the rocky terrain, and when finally placed on the Brit ship acknowledges with a tip of his hat that he was captured by amateurs but they were good soldiers. This heroic deed demoralizes the German forces.

A peasant Crete adolescent boy, Niko (Dimitri Andreas), has a nice turn as the Brit soldiers’ lively guide through the turf, who proves to be loyal when bribed by the German general to betray the Brits for a pair of boots.