Moontide Fritz Lang and Archie Mayo

Moontide Fritz Lang and Archie Mayo
Fritz Lang started then abandoned this deeply melancholy early noir, famous for being the flop American debut of French idol Jean Gabin. Though finished by far lesser talent Archie Mayo and troubled in its production from the start, the movie is very generous and better than its obscurity would suggest. Gabin plays a longshoreman who brawls one night and then wakes up to learn his opponent is dead; he then saves Ida Lupino from a suicide attempt and the two fall in love. But just as happiness finally arrives for two lonely, unhappy losers, Gabin’s manipulative false friend Thomas Mitchell threatens to use the hero’s past to keep him in his pocket. This isn’t quite the killer it would be as a fully Lang-ian endeavour but it’s got sadness and pathos far beyond what a straight bread job might offer. Gabin and Lupino make a convincingly disaffected couple and though Mitchell and local fallen intellectual Claude Rains are a tad caricatured the central relationship is solid and carries you through. It’s a tragedy that Gabin’s brief Hollywood career was so blighted, as his typically fatalistic melancholy is a welcome tonic to the Pollyanna of even tough American movies. Best of all is the sense that these thoroughly forgotten people are worth more than their social sell-by date, perhaps carried over by the star’s connection to French poetic realism and its similarly disappointed resignation. Extras include a good commentary by scholar Foster Hirsch, an outstanding featurette on the production travails and Gabin’s failed foray into Yank stardom, and some still galleries. (Fox)