Ill Met by Moonlight

UK 1957, 104 mins
Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

In 1950, Emeric Pressburger read an extract from ‘Ill Met by Moonlight’, Stanley Moss’s account of his adventures on occupied Crete during the Second World War, and immediately optioned its film rights. Michael Powell set off on a location scouting expedition to Crete, but it was another six years before Ill Met by Moonlight finally went into production. After leaving the Rank Organisation in 1949, Powell and Pressburger had briefly returned to producer Alexander Korda to make films such as The Small Back Room (1949) and Gone to Earth (1950). They then encountered a period of difficulty in securing financing for the projects they wanted to make, and by the mid-1950s were willing to contemplate a return, albeit a short-term one, to John Davis and the Rank Organisation. The Battle of the River Plate (1956) was a commercial success and chosen for the Royal Command Performance of that year (an honour that had been bestowed upon A Matter of Life and Death back in 1946). Davis then offered the Archers a seven-picture contract, but wary of committing themselves, they signed for just one picture – Ill Met by Moonlight.

By 1956, the political situation in Crete had made location shooting unviable and Ill Met was instead filmed in the hills behind Powell’s family hotel in the south of France. However, the poetic use of landscape that characterises earlier Archers’ films such as A Canterbury Tale (1944) and ‘I Know Where I’m Going!’ (1945) is evident in the atmospheric shots of the mountainous countryside, beautifully photographed in black and white by Christopher Challis, while Mikis Theodorakis’ rousing score conveys something of the richness of Greek culture, the patriotism and bravery of its people and the rugged beauty of the Cretan landscape.

Michael Powell took mischievous delight in tormenting Davis with requests for actors such as Orson Welles and James Mason to play lead roles, but Dirk Bogarde, one of Rank’s contracted stars, was eventually chosen to play Patrick Leigh Fermor. His portrayal is flamboyant, charming and charismatic, although Powell later grumbled, ‘I wanted a flamboyant young murderer, lover, bandit… and instead I got a picture-postcard hero in fancy dress.’ Archers regulars Marius Goring and Cyril Cusack, as the malignant General and the unwashed Captain, turn in strong performances that rather obscure David Oxley’s adequate but anaemic portrayal of author Stanley Moss.
Nathalie Morris, BFI Screenonline

Directed by: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
©/Production Company: The Rank Organisation Film Productions Ltd
Presented by: The Rank Organisation
Released by: J. Arthur Rank Film Distributors
Executive Producer: Earl St. John
Produced by: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Associate Producer: Sydney Streeter
Production Manager: Jack Swinburne
Production Controller for Pinewood Studios: Arthur Alcott
Assistant Director: Charles Orme
3rd Assistant Director: David Tringham *
Continuity: Gladys Goldsmith
Written by: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Adapted from the book [by]: W. Stanley Moss
Director of Photography: Christopher Challis
Camera Operator: Austin Dempster
Special Effects: Bill Warrington
Editor: Arthur Stevens
Art Director: Alex Vetchinsky
Dress Designer: Nandi Routh
Make Up: Paul Rabiger
Music Composed by: Mikis Theodorakis
Music Director: Frederic Lewis
Sound Recordists: Charles Knott, Gordon K. McCallum
Sound System: Westrex Recording System
Sound Editor: Archie Ludski
Technical Advisers: Micky Akoumianakis, Major Xan Fielding
Cretan Dialect Coach: Patrick Leigh Fermor *
Made at: Pinewood Studios

Dirk Bogarde (Major Patrick Leigh Fermor, ‘Philedem’)
Marius Goring (Major General Karl Kreipe)
David Oxley (Captain W. Stanley Moss M.C.)
Demetri Andreas (Niko)
Cyril Cusack (Sandy)
Laurence Payne (Manoli)
Wolfe Morris (George)
Michael Gough (Andoni Zoidakis)
John Cairney (Elias)
Brian Worth (Stratis Saviolkis)
Rowland Bartrop (Micky)
George Eugeniou (Charis Zographakis)
Paul Stassino (Yanni Katsias)
Adeeb Assaly (Zahari)
Theo Moreas (village priest)
Takis Frangofinos (Michali)
Christopher Lee (German officer in dentist’s)
Peter Augustine
John Houseman
Phyllia Houseman
Gisela Birke *
Patrick Leigh Fermor (Greek-speaking voice for Patrick Leigh Fermor) *
E.V.H. Emmett (narrator) *

UK 1957©
104 mins


Rynox + Hotel Splendide
Mon 16 Oct 18:10; Fri 10 Nov 18:10
A Matter of Life and Death
Mon 16 Oct 20:45 (+ intro by Thelma Schoonmaker and Kevin Macdonald); Sun 29 Oct 12:10; Sat 4 Nov 15:00; Tue 7 Nov 18:10 (+ intro by academic Lucy Bolton); Sun 19 Nov 18:30
Farewell (Abschied)
Tue 17 Oct 18:40 (+ intro by filmmaker Kevin Macdonald); Wed 1 Nov 20:40
His Lordship
Tue 17 Oct 20:50; Sat 4 Nov 12:20
The Fire Raisers
Wed 18 Oct 18:40; Sat 11 Nov 12:30
Black Narcissus
Wed 18 Oct 20:50; Sun 22 Oct 18:30; Wed 8 Nov 18:15; Sun 12 Nov 18:50; Thu 16 Nov 20:50; Sat 18 Nov 20:50; Mon 20 Nov 20:45 (+ intro by author Mahesh Rao)
The Edge of the World + Return to the Edge of the World
Fri 20 Oct 18:20; Wed 8 Nov 20:30; Wed 15 Nov 20:50
The Thief of Bagdad: An Arabian Fantasy in Technicolor (aka The Thief of Bagdad)
Fri 20 Oct 20:30; Tue 24 Oct 14:40; Sat 28 Oct 15:00; Sun 26 Nov 12:00
The Spy in Black + Smith
Sat 21 Oct 15:30; Sun 29 Oct 15:30 (+ intro by Bryony Dixon, BFI National Archive Curator)
The Boy Who Turned Yellow + Heavenly Puss
Sun 22 Oct 12:00
49th Parallel
Sun 22 Oct 12:20; Mon 6 Nov 20:30
One of Our Aircraft Is Missing!
Sun 22 Oct 15:10; Tue 31 Oct 20:40 (+ intro by film historian Ian Christie)
Mon 23 Oct 17:50 (+ intro by Miranda Gower-Qian, BFI Inclusion Lead); Mon 30 Oct 20:30
Red Ensign + The Night of the Party
Tue 24 Oct 20:30; Sun 5 Nov 14:40
A Canterbury Tale
Wed 25 Oct 20:20 (+ intro by academic Thirza Wakefield); Sat 11 Nov 14:50; Fri 24 Nov 20:35
Library Talk: The interior life of an archive: an evening with the Michael Powell Collection
Mon 27 Nov 18:00
The Elusive Pimpernel
Sat 28 Oct 12:20; Mon 13 Nov 18:00 (+ intro by Bryony Dixon, BFI National Archive Curator)
Gone to Earth
Sat 28 Oct 18:20; Wed 22 Nov 20:45; Sat 25 Nov 17:50
Silent Cinema: The Magician + The Riviera Revels + intro by Bryony Dixon, BFI National Archive Curator
Sun 29 Oct 15:00
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
Sun 29 Oct 17:20 (+ intro by Kevin and Andrew Macdonald); Sun 5 Nov 17:45; Thu 23 Nov 17:45; Sun 26 Nov 14:00 (+ pre-recorded intro by Stephen Fry)
Paths to Partnership: Powell + Pressburger before The Archers
Tue 31 Oct 18:30
Projecting the Archive: The Queen’s Guards + intro by Josephine Botting, BFI National Archive Curator
Thu 2 Nov 18:20
Twice upon a Time
Mon 6 Nov 18:10 + extended intro by James Bell, BFI National Archive Senior Curator
Talk: Philosophical Screens: A Matter of Life and Death
Tue 7 Nov 20:20
Talk: Centre Stage: The Leading Women of Powell + Pressburger
Thu 16 Nov 18:20
Ill Met by Moonlight
Fri 17 Nov 20:40; Sat 25 Nov 12:40
The Battle of the River Plate
Sat 18 Nov 18:20; Mon 27 Nov 20:30
Behold a Pale Horse
Sun 19 Nov 11:50 Wed 22 Nov 17:50
The Wild Heart
Sun 19 Nov 15:10
Miracle in Soho
Mon 20 Nov 18:10; Sun 26 Nov 18:30

Course: The Magic of Powell + Pressburger
Wed 25 Oct to Wed 22 Nov 18:30

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Programme notes and credits compiled by Sight and Sound and the BFI Documentation Unit
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