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September 2010

Dangerous Moonlight

cast: Anton Walbrook, Sally Gray, Cecil Parker, Kenneth Kent, and Guy Middleton

director: Brian Desmond Hurst

94 minutes (15) 1941
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Odeon DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
review by James A. Stewart

Dangerous Moonlight

Many films are epitomised by their soundtrack. In the modern age there have been some spellbinding and unforgettable uses of music to compliment the pictures. Think about 2001: A Space Odyssey and, immediately, you reflect on the wonderful opening sequence and the tone it sets for the rest of the film. What about Dick Del and the Del Tones at the start of Pulp Fiction? And my personal favourite is Underworld's Born Slippy in Trainspotting.

But, importantly for each of these movies the music flattered rather than overshadowed the film at hand, which is, alas, not true about Dangerous Moonlight which is remembered more for its famous Warsaw Concerto score than the film itself. However, it would be wrong to assume the film is not meritorious itself, even if only a wee bit.

Released during the Second World War, Dangerous Moonlight follows the story of eminent Polish composer Stefan Radetzky (Anton Walbrook) who is smuggled out of Poland to avoid death at the hands of the Nazis. In England he meets American war correspondent Carol Peters (Sally Gray) with whom he quickly develops a bond, and eventually falls in love with - of course marriage is the next logical step. He educates the originally obstinate reporter in the real horrors of war and between them they tell a very misinformation-heavy story of love, loss and hope.

The film is shot is a series of real-time stories fused with flashbacks, usually as Radetzky is playing the piano and the flashbacks are focused on the composer's life in Warsaw. These sequences are what spurs Stefan to join the air force, his motivations is to play a part in the fight for his country's freedom; this of course is much to his American wife's chagrin. The unsympathetic depiction of the American not understanding the draw of Stefan's desire to fight for his country is puerile propaganda at its worst. But then again, when the timing of the release and the state of the war effort are considered, it is not surprising that this film half goads the USA attitude to the war. It was originally intended to try and spur the UK's special friend into supporting the fight against fascism in Europe. This is overtly the case.

The movie is okay, the acting not bad and the soundtrack beyond compare. This latter is the absolute reason for this film being released on DVD for the first time, and in many ways is reason enough. The Warsaw Concerto was written for this film, and it works, it works really well. The film is worthwhile viewing for students and wartime movie aficionados, but a classic it is not and never will be. Dangerous Moonlight is average but watchable, it is unabashedly hopeful in a time of no hope - thankfully we are not subjected to any such bias in films today, eh?



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