Ill Met by Moonlight (Filmmakers Collection) (1957)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 26-Jun-2009

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Menu Animation & Audio
Theatrical Trailer-(2:43) 1.73:1 and 16x9. Good condition.
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1957
Running Time 100:04
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Michael Powell
Emeric Pressburger

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Dirk Bogarde
Marius Goring
David Oxley
Dimitri Andreas
Cyril Cusack
Laurence Payne
Wolfe Morris
Michael Gough
John Cairney
Brian Worth
Roland Bartrop
George Eugeniou
Case Alpha-Transparent
RPI $19.95 Music Mikis Theodorakis

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.75:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes, in context of wartime.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis


     Father's Day is fast approaching, and there would be many a Dad, and Grandfather, who would be very happy to receive a copy of Umbrella's recently available Ill Met by Moonlight, starring Dirk Bogarde and produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Powell and Pressburger formed their production company "The Archers" in 1942 and subsequently were responsible for many unforgettable classics of the British cinema, including Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes, The Battle of the River Plate and I Know Where I'm Going. Here we have the final film from "The Archers", a rousing British war film firmly based on fact and delivering all that we came to expect from the genre.

    The Special Air Service was formed in 1941 as a commando force operating behind enemy lines in North Africa and Europe. Interestingly the film's star had actually been a member of the SAS during World War II. Based on the book of the same name, sub-titled  The Wartime Diary in Crete of W. Stanley Moss, the screenplay recounts an SAS operation on German occupied Crete. Major "Billy" Ross, played by David Oxley, is one of a group of British SAS officers, (which also includes Major Patrick Leigh Fermor (Bogarde), and Captain Sandy Rendel (Cyril Cusack)) who make their way onto Crete to support local partisans in their plot to kidnap the senior German officer on the island. We follow the planning of the plot, the kidnapping of Major General Kreipe (Marius Goring), smuggling him across the Cretan landscape to the coast where he is loaded onto a boat  and ultimately back to Cairo in British controlled Egypt. During all of this the Germans search land and sea for their Major and his captors, but the Brits, and the partisans, prevail, much to German embarrassment. There is much action, excitement and humour along the way, all as you would expect from this type of film. The atrocities which were a part of the wartime experience are touched upon, but humour is never far away. What makes this better than most of its ilk are the high production values, with external shooting on location on Crete, and in the south of France, doubling for Crete. Acting is of a high calibre, especially from Dirk Bogarde (Death in Venice) and Marius Goring (The Red Shoes).

    With his first screen appearance as an extra, his second as a "policeman", Dirk Bogarde became a star in his third film, Esther Waters (1948), which interestingly also featured Cyril Cusack. Through many years with J. Arthur Rank, the actor was at the top of the British male ladder, in everything from war epics, domestic dramas and comedies, period costume dramas and, of course, as the original star of the Doctor series with Doctor in the House and Doctor at Sea. Endowed with a beautiful speaking voice, in 1960 Bogarde recorded an album for Decca entitled Lyrics for Lovers, in which, to full orchestral accompaniment, he warmly recited the lyrics of the likes of Cole Porter and Lorenz Hart. By the end of the 60s Bogarde was one of the first actors "out of the closet" and an acclaimed and  respected star of international cinema, probably reaching his peak with The Damned (1969) and Death in Venice (1970). The pencil slim, sensitively handsome actor remained a star until his death in 1999.

    Proudly proclaiming itself "A British Film" , here you have an excellent example of what British cinema did best, the result displaying national resiliance, bravery and honour, filling the hearts of audiences, British at least - which would include the colonials - with enormous pride. ( Major Fermor was ultimately knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004.) Technically the film is an outstanding example of British film making. Originally shot in VistaVision, a process utilising horizontal projection - the projector, not the projectionist - which was never installed in any Australian cinema, this slightly cropped transfer does handsome justice to the excellent black and white photography. An atmospheric score by Mikis Theodoarakis (Zorba the Greek) adds colour and excitement to the unfolding real-life adventure on screen. This is a rousing, exciting wartime thriller, sure to delight any admirer of the genre.

    In the United States, the film was retitled Night Ambush. I guess that at the time the Shakespearean quote was a little much for a prospective "action" audience. The opening line of Act II, Scene ii of A Midsummer Night's Dream,  Oberon's salutation to "proud Titania" Queen of the Fairies, does have an interesting subtext.

Note : Congrats to Umbrella for a nicely designed slick, making excellent use of stills from the film.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The transfer on this disc looks extremely good. The source used is obviously in near perfect condition, with only minor film artefacts visible.

    The transfer is presented in a 16x9 enhanced transfer at the ratio of 1.73:1, the original theatrical ratio having been 1.66:1.
    The black and white photography by Christopher Challis mostly glistens, with clear, clean and sharp images.
    There is very little grain, and an extensive grey scale, with deep solid blacks. Note the beautifully rendered Rank trademark, with the muscleman bashing the famous gong. This appears to have been reshot for VistaVision - he is more modest here than in older g-string versions. The black background is immaculate. Whites do not flare, even in the sun drenched scenes on Crete.
    Detail is extremely good in most scenes, but shadow detail is often lacking in the night scenes.
    To accommodate the material on a single layered disc, compression has resulted in some minor problems. These do not detract from the general high quality of the image.
    Film artefacts are almost non-existent, with only minor flecking.
    All in all, a very good transfer that allows trouble free enjoyment of the material.

    There are subtitles in English for the Hearing Impaired.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is one audio stream, Dolby Digital mono, encoded at 192 Kbps.
    This is an action film with lots of dialogue, and the soundtrack reproduces everything most satisfactorily.
    Dialogue is crystal clear, and there are no sync problems.
    There is only very minor crackle in a few scenes, with no pops or dropouts.
    The mono sound has detail and depth, and is dramatically effective in the action sequences.
    The music of Mikis Theodorakis is reproduced with surprising fidelity and  force, considering the mono origins.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


The only extra is the trailer. I do wish we were still given, at the least,  filmographies - especially for notables such as Dirk Bogarde and Powell and Pressburger.

Main Menu
An interestingly composed blue-tinted screen, with live action and stills from the film. The main title music is heard.
Options presented are :
                                   Scene Selection : Twelve chapters on three screens, without thumbnails or audio.
                                   Subtitles : On/Off . The subtitles are in English for the Hearing Impaired.
Original Theatrical Trailer (2:43)
    Presented in a 16x9 enhanced transfer at the ratio of 1.73:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, at 192 Kbps, this is a typical 1960s British trailer.The very BBC voice-over meticulously articulates every syllable as the heroic and dangerous thrills in store are laid out for us.
    The print is not as good as the film itself, but there is no serious damage. The cropping of the image is evident with parts of words lost at the top and bottom of the screen.
    An interesting and worthwhile extra.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There is no release of this film in  Region 1.

    The Region 2 release seems to be identical to Umbrella's release.
    Region  2 also has an eleven disc box set devoted to the films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger  which contains :
          Ill Met by Moonlight
          A Matter of Life and Death
          The Red Shoes
          The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
          A Canterbury Tale
          I Know Where I'm Going
          49th Parallel
          The Battle of the River Plate
          They're a Weird Mob
          The Tales of Hoffmann
          Black Narcissus


    Here is an outstanding British war action drama. Everything is here that admirers of the genre would desire. With technical expertise and artistic taste, the exciting and true tale is one that delivers terrific entertainment. Given an extremely solid transfer of the original black and white VistaVision image, this is a release that will be snapped up by many fans - both of the genre and the star. Only extra is the trailer, but the price is pretty good.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Saturday, August 01, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE