16 April 2010


A strange early Noir entry, directed by Fritz Lang for about two weeks before he quit in disgust over the French mega-star Jean Gabin, who was making his first American movie appearance in this one.

Gabin plays the ridiculously named *Bobo,* a hard-drinking French dockside drifter, burdened with a faggy leech of a *friend* named *Tiny* (played by It's A Wonderful Life's Uncle Billy). As best as can be determined from Moontide’s obtuse script, Tiny once helped Bobo escape from a murder pickle, and now out of blackmail-tinged gratitude, Bobo lets Tiny use him as a kind of one-man dock worker temp agency—Bobo works, and Tiny gets a nice cut of the pay to finance his E-Z barfly life.

Moontide features one of the most bizarre scenes in Hollywood history, with faggy Tiny shown in a lockerroom sadistically snapping a towel at a nude Claude Rains, with nothing before or after to explain this arbitrary glimpse of the pseudo-homo nightmare world.

There’s another weird scene early in the film. Bobo is on a bender, and his descent into an alcoholic blackout is rendered in a surreal montage, featuring clocks with wildly spinning liquor bottles for the hour and minute hands. Salvador Dali was hired to do the scene, but his ideas were found too disturbing for use, so a watered-down Hollywood version was substituted.

Moontide’s rather thin plot revolves around the murder of an old rummy named Pop, with Tiny showing up every now and then to darkly hint Bobo did the killing during his drunken blackout.

This non-mystifying murder mystery quickly takes a backseat to the romance between Bobo and Anna (played by a scrawny-looking Ida Lupino). Bobo saves Anna as she tries to drown herself in the Pacific Ocean. Why is Anna suicidal? Who knows? Who cares? Certainly not Anna, who regains her will to live with astonishing alacrity after meeting Bobo. In fact, Anna marries Bobo three or four days after her suicide attempt, and there can be no finer testimony to the joys of living on a bait barge with an alcoholic French drifter.

Tiny, now broken-hearted in addition to being faggy, turns up one last time to nearly spoil the newlywed’s fun, but is eventually forced by Bobo to take a long walk off a short pier. And so Bobo and Anna can live happily-ever-after selling chum together.

Because this thing started production shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, with the resulting Pacific Coast-wide fear of further Jap mischief, no filming could be done on location at the San Pedro harbor, so a bait barge set had to built in a studio—thus all the waterfront scenes look loopily artificial, further adding to the already kooky vibe of this eccentric Noir exercise. Worth a look only for the sake of curiosity.

No comments:

Post a Comment