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Moontide (Fox Film Noir)

36 customer reviews

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(Sep 02, 2008)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Jean Gabin, Ida Lupino. An alcoholic dock worker discovers he's killed a man in a late-night brawl. But when he flees to a brooding temptress, he starts to suspect he's been framed. A dark drama from the screenwriting pen of John O'Hara. 1942/b&w/94 min/NR/fullscreen.

The little-known but affecting film noir Moontide is full of surprises, especially for the many film fans who may not have seen it until its release on DVD. It stars Jean Gabin, a huge star in his native France, who was trying to cross over to Hollywood stardom in this film, but ended up making just two Hollywood features. It also stars Ida Lupino as his love interest, and who is very affecting and memorable in what could have been a two-dimensional role. Gabin plays Bobo, a wharf rat with a drinking problem working up and down the West Coast of the U.S., and happens on the desolate Anna (Lupino), whom he sees trying to kill herself in the sea. That two such broken characters can find love and help heal one another is one of the main themes of the film, and an unexpected one in the hard bitten genre of film noir. Gabin and Lupino really shine, though Gabin can be a bit hammy in his jauntiness. Playing against type as the bad guy, with unspeakable intentions, is Thomas Mitchell (at the time much beloved, having just played Scarlett O'Hara's Pa in Gone With the Wind). Claude Rains is also affecting, as the local failed intellectual. The story behind Moontide is at least as engaging as the film itself, and happily, this DVD edition includes a 25-minute documentary on the hurdles, some nearly fatal, that faced this little film on its way to be made in 1941. First, it was to have been filmed on location in San Pedro, California--but then the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and every port on the West Coast was suddenly girded for possible attack, so the elaborate wharf set was created on the Fox lot. There were tons of risqué themes in the original book upon which the movie is based, and the tales of getting it past the censors are riveting.

And the behind the scenes drama was also intense; master director Fritz Lang started the film, but quit in a snit, and was replaced by the journeyman Archie Mayo. Surrealist Salvador Dali was hired to create a hallucinatory alcoholic dream sequence, but his imagery was reportedly too disturbing to use, so the studio threw it out, but replaced it with an appropriately "Dali-esque" scene, complete with menacing clocks and shuddery imagery. Film buffs won't want to miss this fascinating mini documentary. --A.T. Hurley

Special Features

  • Commentary by Foster Hirsch, author of The Dark Side of the Screen: Film Noir
  • Turning of the Tide: The Ill-Starred Making of Moontide featurette
  • Still photo galleries

Product Details

  • Actors: Jean Gabin, Ida Lupino, Claude Rains, Jerome Cowan, Ralph Dunn
  • Directors: Archie Mayo
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Subtitled, Full Screen, Closed-captioned, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: September 2, 2008
  • Run Time: 94 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001CC7PLW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,554 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Moontide (Fox Film Noir)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 74 people found the following review helpful By The Purchaser on August 5, 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
My first introduction to the great French movie star Jean Gabin came not from his French classics like "Grand Illusion" and "Pepe Le Moko," but from this incredible, haunting overlooked gem -- one of the great lost classics of the 1940s -- which, thanks to Fox DVD, is no longer lost!

1942's "Moontide," one of only two American-made/English-language films in which Gabin ever appeared, is not only one of the most powerful and absorbing Films Noir you'll ever see in your life, but it's brilliantly made, as well: While the credited director of the film is Archie Mayo, Fritz Lang ("Metropolis") directed a handful of sequences, and Salvador Dali even contributed a great, surreal "drunk" sequence. The chemistry between Gabin and Ida Lupino is electric and, indeed, I can't speak highly enough about "Moontide," a film which will stay with you long after the final credits have ended. I'm excited that it has finally merited a DVD release, here in the US.

To read more about Jean Gabin and "Moontide," check out my book WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN, VOLUMES ONE AND TWO, which is available at, as well as through [...].
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By D. Hartley on September 18, 2008
Format: DVD
Back in 1941, director Archie Mayo (The Petrified Forest, Charley's Aunt, A Night in Casablanca) faced the unenviable task of stepping in to rescue a 20th Century Fox film project called Moontide, which had been abandoned by the great Fritz Lang not too long after shooting had begun. As one of the pioneering German expressionists, Lang was a key developer of the visual style that eventually morphed into a defining noir "look" (some of his pre-1940s classics like M, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse and Fury are generally considered seminal proto-noirs). Moontide was also to be the American debut for Frenchman Jean Gabin, already a major star in Europe (Pepe le Moko, The Grand Illusion, La Bete humaine). Needless to say, the pressure was on for Mayo to deliver. And "deliver" he did, with this moody and highly stylistic sleeper, ripe for rediscovery.

Gabin stars as Bobo, an itinerate odd-jobber (the type of character Steve Martin might call a "ramblin' guy") who blows into a coastal California fishing community with a parasitic sidekick named Tiny (Thomas Mitchell) in tow. Adhering to time-honored longshoreman tradition, Bobo and Tiny make a wharfside pub crawl the first order of business when they hit port. It is quickly established that the handsome, likable and free-spirited Bobo loves to party, as we watch him go merrily careening into an all-night boning and grogging fest. The next morning, Bobo appears to be suffering from a classic blackout, not quite sure why or how he ended up sacked out on an unfamiliar barge, wearing a hat that belongs to a man who has met a mysterious demise sometime during the previous evening.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By jd103 on September 27, 2008
Format: DVD
As a big fan of noir and old black and whites, it's fun to still be able to find an old unknown to me movie like this one and be able to enjoy it. And I did enjoy it for some surreal and unpredictable scenes (such as the drunken night, the locker room, and an unusual wedding gift) and some actors (Rains seemingly a perfect fit for his part, lovable character actor Mitchell playing well against type here, Lupino solid given what she had to work with), but I thought Gabin was fairly clunky throughout and calling it a great film is seriously overrating it. I wouldn't call it noir either even though it's got a French actor, night scenes, and fog.

I haven't listened to the commentary yet, but there's a 25 minute documentary about how it came to be the film it is which I found at least as interesting as the actual movie. It talks about why original director Fritz Lang left, the many topics in the original source material which couldn't get past the censor (and yet somehow did in less obvious ways), and how the film is different from the original story as a result.

It's a fun movie and you'll probably like it. Just don't prepare yourself to see a classic masterpiece.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Brian J Hay on October 5, 2008
Format: DVD
One thing this film does feature is fine acting. From the supporting actors to the lead stars the performances in this picture are stellar. Jerome Cowan, a character actor whose film credits read like a list of 'who's who' is in top form as the doctor whose chance encounter with the principle characters proves to be life changing. Robin Raymond turns in a solid portrayal of a dance hall hustler. Even Victor Sen Yung in a role that could have played as nothing more than a stereotype is believable as the bait pedlar who more or less adopts the film's leads. Claude Rains is wonderfully empathic as the picture's resident philosopher.

But it's the principles who really shine. Ida Lupino combines a nice mixture of vulnerability and street-wise toughness to form the basis of the troubled 'Anna'. Jean Gabin, in one of his rare North American films, is fabulous. This man comes across as rough and crude, but also sweet and kind. There's never a moment when he isn't believable. Thomas Mitchell comes close to stealing the show. And if it weren't for the calibre of the performances around him, he probably would have. He is magnificent in what proves to be a rare turn as a complete heel who steps away from but never quite loses his humanity.

The cinematography by Charles G. Clarke makes excellent use of the lines the sets provide him with. The film's score (by David Buttolph and Cyril J. Mockridge) is compelling and follows the drama well. The lighting (which is uncredited) alternates between darkly atmospheric and warmly radiant according to the demands of the script. And the Directing by Archie Mayo keeps the story moving at a brisk pace. Most importantly he seems to have encouraged the players to take their characters and flesh them out.
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