Moonfleet, contrary to what its name suggests, was not a science fiction film, nor was it -- despite the presence of veteran suspense master Fritz Lang in the director's chair -- a murder mystery or psychological thriller. Rather, it was a swashbuckler set in 18th century England, involving smugglers and murder, and the relationship between a young orphaned boy (Jon Whitley) and his guardian, a roguish nobleman (Stewart Granger). It was, even more improbably, scored by Miklós Rózsa, the renowned Hungarian-born composer who had successfully transposed his career to Hollywood -- Rózsa had scored films in many genres, even one Western, but had become best known for the music he wrote for dark, psychological thrillers such as Double Indemnity and Spellbound, and the Biblical epic Quo Vadis. His music for Moonfleet trades in images of the sea and the adventure that it seems to offer, intermixed with material that recalls his earlier "thriller" material -- specifically, "The Cave/Redbeard" recalls the music that Rózsa authored for Alexander Korda's production of The Thief of Bagdad (1940), and the score accompanying Sabu's theft of the All-Seeing Eye. The mix of influences is rather odd at times -- except in the context of the film itself -- showing elements of Rózsa's film noir and fantasy periods, but also occasionally interjecting material intended specifically to evoke the sea and the English setting, and on one appropriate occasion also quoting from his own score for the earlier MGM production of Madame Bovary. The CD is filled with especially memorable passages for the strings and brass, and can be counted among the best extant examples of Rózsa's mid-career work. What's more, in putting together this album, the producers were able to locate the unedited versions of several of the tracks that were later cut down in length to go with the finished film, as well as Rózsa's scoring for the various different endings that the studio considered at different times while the film was in production. That material has been appended to the main body of the score, and the resulting CD is an extraordinarily full account of the film's music, containing a significant body of work that has never been heard before. The fidelity is also exceptional as a very late-era soundtrack recording, from a period in which all of the relevant technologies had achieved an extremely high degree of sophistication -- this is one of the few archival exhumations of its kind in soundtrack music that doesn't need a disclaimer for deficiencies in condition or quality.
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder
|Moonfleet, film score|