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Ill Met by Moonlight
Rank Organisation (production company) Booklet
[Scans of the many pictures in the booklet will follow when I manage to scan them in]
The Rank organisation presents a Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger production
Ill Met By Moonlight
From the book "Ill Met By Moonlight" by W. Stanley Moss
Marius Goring David Oxley Cyril Cusack
Written, Produced and Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Made at Pinewood Studios. Executive Producer Earl St. John VistaVision
"In the midst of the dark sea is a land called Crete, fair and fertile surrounded by the waves"
ODYSSEY BOOK XIX
Appoximate length 9399 feet (2943 metres)
Appoximate running time 104 minutes
In the year 1944, the island of Crete saw one of the most daring and effective exploits that took place during the war. Daring, because a German general was kidnapped practically from his own camp gates by a mere handful of men. Effectively, because the incident, with its air of the casual master-stroke, did much to heighten morale in Crete.
The film opens as Captain "Bill[y]" Moss (David Oxley) sails from Libya, escorted by a group of partisans, to join his friend Major "Paddy" Leigh-Fermor (Dirk Bogarde), a Special Services Officer, on enemy-occupied Crete. Paddy, a debonair blend of poet and soldier, has already become something of a legend on the island, where he is popularly known as "Philidem".
The dangerous landing is successfully made, and Bill makes the acquaintance of the leading partisans, including Zahari (Adeeb Assaly), George (Wolfe Morris), and Manoli (Laurence Payne). Now Paddy himself arrives, elaborately dressed as a Cretan chieftain, and spirits run high as the first step in the adventure is achieved. A celebration follows in the mountain village of Skoinia, and then Paddy settles down to his self-imposed task.
Dressed as a peasant, Paddy makes his way down the mountain to Knossos, to meet Micky Akoumianakis (Rowland Bartrop), Britain's chief agent in Herakleion.
Micky is at first sceptical, then wildly enthusiastic, about Paddy's scheme. Together they move on to Herakleion, to seek the co-operation of another partisan, a dentist in the town. They are trapped, however, in the surgery, by two German soldiers [One of whom is played by Christopher Lee] and although Paddy tries to bluff things out in the dentist's chair he cannot completely allay suspicion. The soldiers have to be silenced, and this is done swiftly and efficiently. Paddy and Micky return to the mountains with an unexpected set of uniforms!
Now comes a period of intensive reconnaissance and detailed planning. The movements of the German Commanding Officer, General Karl Kreipe * (Marius Goring) are studied, and it is found that he usually returns from his headquarters to his residence at about 8 o'clock in the evening. The most strategic point in the road is selected: a sharp bend at which all vehicles are forced to slow down. An alarm is wired up so that a sharp-eyed partisan further up the road can let the ambushers know when the staff car is approaching. And one night all the preparations settle like a net over the head of the unsuspecting General. Kreipe finds himself looking at two courteous German soldiers - and the next moment at several hostile machine-guns. Fuming, he is bundled into the back of his car, and forcibly kept quiet.
Before the long trek over the mountains can begin, sentry check-points and picket-groups have to be passed, even the heavily garrisoned town crossed. But the combination of the General's car, the blinding headlamps, and ruthless acceleration brings the kidnappers through, and the alarm is not given until Kreipe has begun his forced journey to the south side of the island.
When the Germans do realise what has happened, they throw all the weight of their forces into a frantic search for their Commander. No fewer than 20,000 troops are sent out to comb the hills, and reconnaissance planes continually explore likely areas. Only constant liaison with the watchful Cretan scouts keeps Kreipe's "escort" from blundering into the enemy's hands. Naturally, Kreipe does his best to frustrate the operation. He grossly exaggerates the seriousness of a shoulder injury he has received, and thereby slows up the trek; and he leaves a trail for his troops to follow, composed of his hat, decorations, and buttons.
In spite of all difficulties, the party reach their goal on the southern shore on the day they have arranged to be picked up - only to find the place swarming with Germans.
A miracle, it seems, will be necessary to enable them to contact the waiting ship. And General Kreipe works the miracle.
Kreipe makes the mistake of trying to bribe a Cretan boy to tell the German troops of his whereabouts. But the loyal boy asks for Paddy's opinion on the matter - and leads the Germans straight into an ambush in the hills.
There is an anxious moment as Paddy realises that his ignorance of the Morse Code makes it impossible for him to signal the ship. Kreipe considers his degradation complete - kidnapped by amateurs who do not even know the Morse Code! Luckily, an eccentric radio operator, Sandy (Cyril Cusack), is found and the manœuvre is completed.
On board the launch that is to take him to British headquarters in Cairo, Kreipe is handed his hat, medals and buttons, all of which have been carefully picked up behind him by Bill Moss. The General permits himself a smile, and pays them the greatest tribute his position allows: "Gentlemen, you are not amateurs. You are professionals!"
* The General was never identified by his first name in the film. In the credits he is referred to as Maj. Gen. Kreipe. In real life he was Generalmajor Heinrich Kreipe. Calling him Karl seems to have been an invention of the Rank publicity department. Back
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