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  • Although the story could have easily been adapted into a gritty film noir, director Frank Borzage turns it into a dreamlike, and even romantic, saga of guilt and expiation. The plot is simple and uncomplicated. No cynical, wisecracking dialogue; no hard-boiled detectives or double-crossing femme fatales. The small town setting with frequent rural scenes creates a world far removed from the unusual noir cityscape. The love story unfolds with both strong sexual attraction and delicacy. Imbued with a strong atmosphere and vision all its own, MOONRISE resists easy classification. Like THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, it succeeds in creating a drama of mythic resonance in an American rural setting.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Of all the directors who made both silent and sound films, Frank Borzage may have been the most successful at carrying over the silent style: he never abandoned his sublime romanticism, and he continued to tell stories visually. Moonrise is not just beautifully filmed, not just atmospheric, it actually uses imagery with the expressive and communicative power I associate with late silent movies. A hand pursues a fly across a tablecloth as a sheriff questions a suspect; a knife whittles a stick almost to the breaking point; goldfish swim in a bowl behind the head of a man who feels trapped in a conversation. Such obvious symbolism may sound hokey, but Borzage knows how to use it to create a heightened, evocative film that makes us feel we are inside the characters' heads. Other Borzage talkies that I've seen have been flawed, and I thought his style didn't translate very well from the silent era, but despite several over-the-top moments, everything in Moonrise works. The love story is as touching and convincing as those in his great silents, and even the comedy relief from a jive-talking soda jerk and an ancient Civil War vet succeeds.

    The movie opens with an expressionistic sequence, using only shadows and striking visual details, that lays out the story's premise: a man is hanged for murder, and his son is tormented and bullied throughout his childhood because of his "shameful" parentage. Danny Hawkins (Dane Clark) grows into a tortured adult, lonely and gentle, but also prey to uncontrollable rage and the fear that his "bad blood" destines him to repeat his father's crime. The first scene, set at an outdoor dance held near the swamps, introduces a nasty Southern small town community in which young people laughingly taunt a retarded deaf-mute. Danny gets in a fight in the woods with his lifelong nemesis, and in an ambiguous combination of self-defense and revenge, crushes his skull with a rock. The remainder of the film follows the gradual unraveling of this crime, and Danny's growing relationship with Gilly Johnson (Gail Russell), a beautiful and civilized schoolteacher who is initially put off by, then irresistibly drawn to, this rough and troubled man.

    Dane Clark never quite made it out of the B-list, but in Moonrise he got the role of a lifetime, and no one could have played it better. He has a fist-clenched fighter's stance and dark wounded-animal eyes, a rugged face softened by long, thick eyelashes, and a deep, husky, sorrowful voice. Though we identify with him completely, Danny often behaves irrationally and badly; in one wrenching scene, he nearly strangles the deaf man he has always protected, and is horrified at himself. Gail Russell, an actress famously crippled by stage-fright and dependent on alcohol, makes the loveliest of Noir's "good angels," her dark beauty lit by an intense, melancholy stillness. In the latter part of the film she looks like a heavenly messenger of mercy in her white trench coat, but she is also a believable and fully-rounded character, especially charming in the exquisite scene where the lovers meet in a derelict plantation mansion. Gilly pretends they are attending an old Southern soiree, and they waltz without music in the dark, cobwebbed parlor.

    Danny's only friend is Mose, one of those saintly African American characters who often turn up in films of the forties. Rex Ingram's strong performance transcends stereotype; though all-wise, he is also a lonely, somewhat embittered character, who says he has "resigned from the human race," and who addresses his hunting dogs as "Mister," because, "There's not enough dignity in the world." Harry Morgan is flawless in the mute role of another outcast, the retarded man who looks up to Danny. And Lloyd Bridges, though he is only on screen for about five minutes, makes an indelible addition to his collection of loathsome, cowardly bullies.

    Did Borzage ever make a film that wasn't about the redemptive power of love? If so, I haven't seen it. But Moonrise is also about the persistence of hate and the way people can be robbed of their humanity by degrading treatment. It demonstrates as well as any film Borzage's two great gifts: his expressive and dynamic visual sense, and his ability to draw intensely heartfelt performances from his actors. In a love scene shot in silhouette against lace-curtained windows, Borzage proves that the transcendent romanticism of the silent screen isn't incompatible with sound. And with help from Dane Clark, he creates a portrait of a mind haunted by the past and at war with itself, the essential Noir predicament.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Moonrise" is director Frank Borzage's most astonishingly beautiful films; his best known work, his last great film, and yet it is also very atypical of his work. The story is film noirish and deliberately departs from the kind of soft-focus, tender love stories Borzage specialized in (e.g. "Man's Castle", "Little Man,What Now?"). As some critics have pointed out, the film's formal, experimental blend of neo-Expressionism and rural lyricism anticipates Charles Laughton's "The Night of the Hunter", but unlike Laughton's film, "Moonrise" strangely retains Borzage's sense of romanticism and transcendence. "Moonrise" concerns Danny Hawkins (Dane Clark), the son of a convicted murderer, who unexpectedly kills one of his tormenters (Lloyd Bridges). Not wanting to relive his father's fate, he has to confront the consequences of his crime as he is chased by the authority. He flees from the police and falls in love with Gilly Johnson (the beautiful Gail Russell) and their love both relieves and transcends the problems that are keeping them apart.
  • MOONRISE shines. Borzage brings expressionist silent movie technique to bear on what is really more a melodrama than a film noir, a tale of guilt and redemption ultimately close to his romantic concerns. The difference is the degree of psychological angst we have to go through with the protagonist in order to reach it. Borzage's technique brings us into the hero's mind, from the stunning opening (flashbacks within flashbacks) to the hero's guilty visions. That opening is one of the finest I've ever seen, building up an unbelievable pressure in the first couple of minutes of the picture, leading to a thirst for revenge which the hero, and the audience, can spend the rest of the film regretting.
  • During all his childhood ,Danny had only known ragging.Being the son of a hanged man was not easy when your school pals kept laughing at you.We can comprehend Danny's hate for Jerry Snykes ,the boy born silver spoon in hand ,whose father is a banker .

    The resentment had been building up for years.Not only Danny was an innocent victim ,but he also showed compassion for the half-wit,the town youth's punching bag.As grandma says,he is a good guy ,and so was his father,another unfortunate victim of fate .

    When Danny tries to join the human race,that is to say when he falls in love with Gilly ,it's too late: "why do you always take me far from the others?" she complains.The scene at the fair could be a respite : this is a place dear to Borzage;you may remember Margaret Sullavan on a carousel in "little man what now? " and there's a similar scene in "Liliom" .But the big wheel is also a trap.

    Filmed in black and white ,often in the dark,in a desperate atmosphere ,"Moonrise" is an extraordinary film noir.It nearly matched the brilliance of Borzage's precedent decade.
  • Really interesting photography and moody music sets the tone in this very stylish, excellent film noir about a troubled, bitter man who has a rather bad temper caused by the treatment he has received over the years based on the hanging of his father for murder. One youth who taunted him in childhood has now become a rival for a young lady he admires and in an act of violence and anger, he ends up killing this bully with a rock. But - during the crime he drops his pocket knife which is picked up by a local man who is deaf and mute.

    This film is very dark and atmospheric, full of facial close-ups, shadowy rooms, and an interestingly photographed ferris wheel ride with cop and panicky murderer in separate seats as the wheel goes round and round. Well done performances by all, I thought Dane Clark very convincing in his role - he really comes across as broody and bitter. Ethel Barrymore really good in her small, but effective part as his grandmother and Harry Morgan very memorable as the deaf-mute young man. I saw this film on the big screen and the print looked really great, with very sharp black and white contrast. A first-rate film.
  • Steve-O-220 August 2001
    Dream-like dark film about a man driven to murder. Aside from the soundtrack and the lack of southern accents, this movie shines. A great b-movie with great visuals. Check out star Dane Clark goes eye to eye with a racoon, realizing they're both trapped with no escape. The film's not for everyone, but if you like b&w film noir you should dig this one up.
  • Moonrise is made with such care. It is visually both expressive and restrained. It exhibits a remarkable feel for nuance in language (the words of the soda jerk who constantly speaks in late '30's hipster slang being the most obvious sign of this). The film is morally complex and avoids any easy resolutions. For example, Dane Clark as Danny Hawkins seems genuinely disturbed and doesn't turn this into some kind of Ray Milland/James Dean tour de force. Probably he didn't have the chops. But still, this is one of the most affecting things about the film: his hurt goes so deep, neither friendship nor love nor pleasure nor any sense of purpose can really sway it. His emotional violence seems so chimerical that it barely feels like "acting". Rex Ingram as Mose plays his role with an enormous sense of gravitas and dignity, something one rarely sees in Black characters in films of this period. He enables, sure, but he also speaks in his own voice. This is consistent with the film's palpably Southern, swampy atmosphere - it is amazing how Borzage can make studio sets speak like that.The brilliant expressionist opening is often remarked upon, but I also love the elegant, understated crane shot that privileges the couple's ghostly, beautiful dance in the abandoned mansion. And Moonrise (like Murnau's Sunrise, Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train, Sirk's Tarnished Angels, Lewis' Gun Crazy, Siegel's The Lineup etc.) makes use of the beloved German Expressionist trope which counterpoises the calculated mass entertainment of Carnivals with the particularity of an individual's crisis or tragedy. I wish there was a whole study written on this theme. While on this subject, I just want to say a little more about the traces of other films I perceive here. Moonrise's connection to Night of the Hunter has often been noted, and the debt to Murnau and Sunrise seems obvious, although Borzage was making a couple of his greatest films at the same moment Murnau was making his masterpiece (both were using Janet Gaynor as their star). One small caveat: I find the ending of this film perhaps a little abrupt, but it is consistent with the film's "moral universe". Which is not too high - faluting a term to use while speaking of this film. Moonrise is a minor masterpiece - why isn't it better known?
  • I was 11 years old when I first saw this film and, being so young, I only recalled that it was a haunting tale of misdeeds, guilt, and romance. And of course I developed a crush on Dane Clark at an early age!

    After 50 years I've had the privilege of seeing it again and was very much absorbed into the atmosphere of this fine drama which takes you through many levels of emotion.

    What impressed me most was the gradual unfolding, or dissolving, of the tumultuous emotional grip which anger and revenge had wrought on Danny (Dane Clark) throughout his life, who seemed overwhelmingly burdened by the past guilt of his father, and some would not let him forget it. No doubt living in a small town only added to the difficulties since everyone knew their neighbour, not like city life would be.

    The actors are first-rate here and do justice to every phase of the story. Ethel Barrymore as Grandma has a way of bringing so much authenticity to the story. Gail Russell as Gilly is superb and exquisite in the romantic lead although she too is troubled by Danny's behaviour for much of the film and tries to help him. Henry Morgan in this film was my first encounter with him and of course he went on to greater fame in later life as an actor.

    Since this film is based on a novel, I think I just might get out there and buy the book! When a movie is that intriguing it's interesting to trace it to its source.
  • Plagued by his father's crime and ridiculed by others, Danny Hawkins (Clark) confronts an outcast's life in a small southern town.

    When old Mose addresses the dog as Mr. Dog or the guitar as Mr. Guitar, we realize a long suppressed desire for human dignity and respect. If the black man Mose (Ingram) can't get that from the larger community, at least he can create his own little world where all worthy things get respect. I think that's why he lives alone. But despite his estrangement, he hasn't lost perspective. As he says, he wants to rejoin the human race, and it's easy to suppose the larger community needs to change by rising to his level, rather than vice-versa. Then too, when he says dogs should not be used to hunt humans, there's a veiled echo of Jim Crow, covert Hollywood style.

    It's only natural that another outcast Danny Hawkins would be drawn to Mose, his only friend. Their scenes together are beautifully performed and sensitively scripted. Note how the subject of "bad blood" and free will comes up elliptically. Danny is haunted by his father's crime and fears it has become his own destiny (the Sykes murder). In Danny's eyes, it's as if he's fated by the blood he's inherited. But Mose knows something about the racial aspect of "bad blood", and insists that blood is no more than "red" and doesn't tell you "what you have to do". This means Danny must overcome the spectre of genetic determinism by becoming his own person and taking responsibility for his own actions. It's only then, by acknowledging a sense of free will, that Danny can escape the burden of inherited guilt.

    Of course, it's through Gilly's (Russell) unconditional love that Danny finds the redemption he needs. By releasing himself to that bond, he experiences an emotion strong enough to overcome the haunting sense of inherited fate. At the same time, he can only overcome the anguish of personal guilt for the crime he has committed by owning up to the crime, and confronting the inevitable I-told-you-so's". In Mose's terms, there's a heavy price he must pay for rejoining the human race.

    The character of Billy Scripture (Morgan) is often overlooked, but remains a mysterious and profound presence. A simple-minded mute, he's another outcast and frequent figure of ridicule. However, unlike Danny, he remains sweet-tempered and forgiving despite the provocations. Even when nearly strangled by a desperate Danny, he responds with a difficult yet forgiving smile, a touching and unforgettable moment. In his own mute way, he appears to understand an underlying theme—that anger and alienation are symptoms and not causes. His name, I believe, is no accident.

    In terms of the movie itself, the cast is superb. Clark may not have been director Borzage's first choice; nevertheless he comes up with a vivid and nuanced performance. Catch his many anguished expressions. Just as importantly, he doesn't look like a Hollywood leading man, nor does he bring the associations of a big-name star to the role. In short, he's perfect. Also, the famously edgy Russell shows none of that here. In fact, she projects one of the rarest qualities found in any love story, namely, genuine warmth. Her ethereal good looks also fit perfectly into the plot, and it's no stretch to see Danny changing his life for her sake. Then there's the quiet dignity of Ingram's Mose. His sterling character now looks like evolution from the caricatures of the 1930's to the assertive civil rights movement of the 50's. Too bad, the actor is largely forgotten. I guess my only reservation is with Barrymore. Her grandma strikes me as too stagey and "grand" (an apt term from another reviewer). Still and all, it's a fine, colorful cast, even down to bit players.

    Now, as good as these elements are, it's because of director Borzage that they're lifted into the realm of cinematic art. From hypnotic opening to pastoral close, the visual enchantment wraps around like an enveloping dreamscape— (the eerie sets are also a testament to lowly Republic's art department, the glittering impressionist photography to John Russell). Borzage's enclosed world is a world of artistic imagination that's at once both mesmerizing and compelling. But just as importantly, he's a filmmaker who clearly believes in the material. As others point out, he's that rarest of the breed, a director who genuinely believes in romantic love and its redemptive power, and not merely as a movie cliché. At the same time, it's the power of that vision that merges the movie's elements into a single dynamic whole.

    There are so many memorable moments and characters—the "hep-cat" soda jerk, the Methuslah old man, the gallery lined-up for arriving trains. But, I guess the high point for me is when Danny must shake the raccoon from the safety of the tree, seeing his own fate in the hapless animal and knowing that if he doesn't he may betray his own guilt. Here, script, acting, and direction come together brilliantly to create a truly shattering moment. All in all, the film may not rise to the level of a masterpiece, but it does stand as a work of considerable artistic achievement, and one that's stayed with me since I first saw it as a boy. And I'm glad the internet provides an opportunity for me to share that appreciation in a public way.
  • Moonrise (1948)

    A small rural town is the setting for a man struggling with an ambiguous crime he has committed. It's a psychologically loaded movie, and the clues start with the first abstract frames and last through every scene to the end. There is enough simplifying going on to keep it from being a classic or having the inventive flair of some contemporaries (or like "Night of the Hunter" a few years later), but I was impressed again in this second viewing.

    One of the strengths here is certainly the mood created by all the richly blackened night scenes, both in the town and in the woods. The camera moves with unusual elegance and boldness through the scenes, or you might say through the shadows. The heightened angles and lack of faces in the first few shots is a sign of the atmosphere to come.

    The little known leading actor, Dane Clark, is almost perfect in his role, partly for doing a great job and partly for letting his awkwardness bleed through into the character's. You come to feel his circumstance as an utterly ordinary guy. The sheriff is a restrained character and the man's girlfriend has a wonderful simple presence as well.

    The real meat of it all is the trauma this man goes through bearing the guilt of his actions. He isn't so much pursued as just haunted by the thought of being caught. It's like the secret we all have had at some point and we get away with it for awhile, but it wears you out from inside until something has to give. One of his solutions finally it to run for it, and he has one last turning point near the end with his grandmother played by Ethel Barrymore. The folksy philosophy gets a little thick, I suppose, but by this point you go along with it because it's true. And it's not what you might think.

    If you don't like old movies this will feel clumsy at times. But if you do already have a hankering for film noir and other crime dramas, even ones with mostly unknown actors, give this a try. And keep your eyes open for some great photography by John Russell, who is as important as anyone in this production. On some level it's truly great stuff.
  • Directed by Frank Borzage and adapted from the novel by Theodore Strauss, Moonrise sees Dane Clark playing Danny Hawkins, the son of a man who was hanged for his crimes. Tormented by his father's past and bullied about it as a child, Hawkins grows into a confused and resentful man. Striking out at anyone foolish enough to cross his fractured state of mind, tragedy is quick to strike, sending Hawkins deep into the Southern mire. Can solace come in the form of Gilly Johnson? (Gail Russell) or is it simply too late to rejoin the human race?

    We open with a hazy reflection that merges into the feet of walking men, men walking to the gallows as Danny Hawkins' father is hanged. The mood is well and truly set for Borzage's dreamy film noir. It's something of an oddity in many ways for it most assuredly is film noir, certainly in texture and on the technical issues it is, yet an overtly poetic heart and a distinctly less than broody ending almost steer it to being fanciful fluff. Borzage and his cinematographer, John L. Russell (in one of his first prominent assignments), do wonders with the atmosphere of the piece. Set in the steamy South, shadows and darkness are a constant and rewarding part of proceedings, while swinging lights and conversations filmed at midriffs further enhance the skew whiff state of Dane Clark's protagonist. Also of note is that some scenes showcase why Borzage was rightly held in high regard back in the day, a Ferris Wheel, a car crash and a Racoon tree top sequence (that upset and engrossed me simultaneously) are just some of the reasons why this is a must see for Borzage enthusiasts.

    Coming as it does out of the Republic Pictures house of "B" moviedom, it's natural to expect some low budgetary issues. However, this is a splendid production belying its "B" movie worth. The cast are fine, with Clark particularly doing well as his character battles with anger and warmth issues, and the sets and location work are effective and benefit the story greatly. Thankfully, and even though it has no restoration, the picture quality is very good, the sound mix is a bit down at times, but by and large this one has transfered well to prints being shown on British TV. With a support cast containing Ethel Barrymore, Allyn Joslyn (excellent), Henry Morgan, Harry Carey Jr and a brief Lloyd Bridges, this is a recommended film of course. But I can't, and will not, vouch for the ending appeasing all comers. 7/10
  • Danny Hawkins is still suffering from a traumatic childhood where he was teased and bullied relentlessly because his father had killed a man and been executed. Decades after leaving school Danny is throw into a state of temporary rage when another man (Jerry Sykes) makes fun of him for this very reason and from the resulting struggle he kills Jerry. Instantly regretting it, he is placed under suspicion and tries to escape but only finds himself trapped in more than one way by his crime and that of his father.

    From the title alone I had no specific hopes for this film other than just using it to fill a bit of time while I did some ironing. However, once it opens with a well-directed and atmospheric moment of madness crossed with flashbacks I was taken by it and held with it even if it never consistently reached that height again. The plot is straightforward but has some surprisingly dark elements within it that make it worth seeing. The haunted character of Danny is the main reason that it is interesting, whether it be in the dialogue or in the visual touches (such as Danny and the raccoon coming face to face with much shared emotion).

    Of course a big part of this working was a great performance from Clark who really gets into his character and dominates the film in an impressive manner. His performance is also helped by the good direction that frames interesting shots throughout the film, is imaginative when it needs to be and uses shadows really well; only in the final few minutes did I feel it lost this tone and delivered a morally satisfying that was required by the period. Support playing from Russell, Barrymore and others is OK but nobody really gets close to Clark; that said, it is amusing to see early appearances from Bridges and Morgan in small roles.

    Overall this is an enjoyable film that feels quite imaginative despite its rather straightforward narrative on the surface. The direction produces a good atmosphere and clever shots while the material has a moral darkness and complexity to it that works well even if it does tend to chicken out near the end. All this is delivered really well by Clark who eats up the scenery in some scenes while also being able to internalise a lot of stuff surprisingly well for what came across as a rather low budget affair. Worth seeing for what it does well.
  • Frank Borzage was winding down his career when he made this item for Herbert J. Yates's Republic Picture. For Borzage this film is probably an afterthought, after all he made some great classic films like Three Comrades and The Mortal Storm for major studios like MGM and others. But what might be an afterthought for him, would be an acclaimed classic for most other directors.

    Moonrise is the story of a troubled young man played by Dane Clark who has been teased and bullied all his life because his father was hung for murder. A particular bully has been Lloyd Bridges who is the son of the town banker Harry Cheshire. What little we see of Bridges is that he's a real lout.

    At a social event Bridges starts again when they're outside and alone and in a fight where Bridges who is losing for the first time picks up a rock and goes after Clark who takes it away from him and kills Bridges with it.

    At first it's a missing person case and then its homicide when the body turns up. What to do for Clark who is not a criminal by nature. The rest of the film is a study of Clark and the troubled conscience he has.

    Moonrise has a frightening relevancy today when we are finally focusing on the issue of bullying. This film should be seen and seen again for the message it contains. Today the character played by Dane Clark as a teen might just be the perpetrator of a school massacre today.

    Gail Russell as the woman both Clark and Bridges were interested in and Ethel Barrymore as his grandmother are the ones who most influence Clark in the decision he must make. Such fine character players as Harry Morgan, Selena Royle, Clem Bevans, Rex Ingram are all in this film giving it a nice rural touch as it does take place in the rural South. Best of all is Allyn Joslin who plays a philosophical sheriff very much along the lines of Theodore Bikel in The Defiant Ones.

    This film could very well be Dane Clark's signature role in a career that never quite brought him superstardom. You'll not forget his performance and how so many emotions register on screen with a troubled soul.
  • I agree with critic Dennis Schwartz, when he says The power of this film lies is in Borzage's "visual mise en scene." I honestly can't understand how and why Moonrise rated a measly 7.1 rating here. The story is engrossing, and the imagery, itself, has a powerfully beautiful impact on me. Beautiful and Sadly underrated film-thankfully Criterion recognizes this and put out a Fantastic restored version on Blu-ray! I Highly recommend it to any new viewers and to the rest of you naysayers, I think Moonrise deserves another look.... -todd gold
  • JohnWelles17 September 2010
    Moonrise (1948), based on the novel of the same name by Theodore Strauss, directed by Frank Borzage, a man who won the Academy Award for Best Director twice, but was subsequently rather forgotten after his heyday, although his reputation has started to improve, thanks to the work of some dedicated film critics. This movie is generally regarded as his last great one. It stars Dane Clark and Gail Russell, two people who never made it big in films, and Russell's other famous movies now, is probably Budd Boeticher's Seven Men from Now, a brilliant revenge Western with Randolph Scott and Lee Marvin.

    The screenplay is good leaving room for a lot of stylistic scenes, especially the first few opening minutes, which are breathtaking in their beauty, something we should thank cinematographer John L. Russell, which illustrate the hanging of the temperamental and volatile Danny Hawkins (Dane Clark) father for murder and his subsequent taunting right through childhood for this. One night, when he is a young adult, he gets into a fight with Jerry Sykes (Lloyd Bridges), a person who has took delight in reminding Hawkins of his father, and he accidentally kills Sykes. He hastily covers it up and falls in love Sykes girl, the schoolteacher Gilly Johnson (Gail Russell), but the police are closing in on him.

    Absolutely filled with wonderful photography, it's hardly surprising this movie has become something of a minor classic with very good performances from its stars and Ethel Barrymore, Rex Ingram, Allyn Joslyn and Harry Carey Jr. the little seen but mysterious Charles Lane. The direction is tender and meaningful, making the ending seem perfectly right, whereas in other hands it might have seemed mawkish. All in all, a very great film noir that deserves its reputation and one that shouldn't be missed.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Two strengths of this movie are seen at a very early stage as it starts particularly strongly and also conveys a great deal of important information about the main character's history by using visual means. The opening montage is very effective as it sets the foundation for the story and also establishes the visual style of the piece. Appropriately, some impressive low key lighting is used which is totally compatible with the rather grim and troubling nature of the drama that follows.

    Danny Hawkins (Dane Clark) is the son of a man who was hanged for murder and during his childhood had regularly been taunted and bullied by his contemporaries. Some years later, as a young man, Danny gets involved in a fight with one of his childhood tormentors called Jerry Sykes (Lloyd Bridges) and unintentionally kills him in self defence and dumps his body in a swamp. He doesn't realise that he's left his pocket knife behind at the scene of the fight and goes on to the local dance hall where he dances with Gilly Johnson (Gail Russell), a school teacher who's engaged to be married to Jerry.

    Danny has a close friend, an older man called Mose Johnson (Rex Ingram) who like himself is an ex-railroad employee. Mose lives in a shack close to a swamp and keeps a number of dogs which he uses on hunts for raccoons. On one such hunt, the dogs find Jerry's body which is duly removed and taken to the coroner's office.

    Danny and Gilly's growing relationship is noticed by the local sheriff Clem Otis (Allyn Joslyn) and when the couple are on a Ferris wheel ride at a fairground at the same time as Clem and his wife, Danny becomes overwhelmed with guilt, panics and jumps off the structure injuring himself in the process.

    A little time later, when he sees that Billy Scripture (Henry Morgan) who's a mentally retarded deaf mute has found his knife, Danny again panics and attacks his friend and almost strangles him to death. He then starts to feel that time is running out and that he'll soon be arrested and so goes to his grandmother's home where some information that she provides leads him to re-evaluate many of the issues which had affected him so profoundly over the years.

    "Moonrise" looks as if it was made on a modest budget and very successfully evokes the sense of confinement that can pervade life in a small community. The acting is of a consistently good standard and the screenplay is entertaining with lines such as "sometimes murder is like love, it takes two to commit". This remark is typical of some of the more sagacious and philosophical outpourings which emanate from both Clem and Mose. These two men are colourful characters whose style is well fitted to the rather laid back pace of the environment in which they live.

    Danny is a genuinely tragic character who was unfairly stigmatised and abused because of something which was completely outside of his control. His torment and emotional turmoil ate away at him until he became convinced that he had "bad blood" in his veins and his outbursts of uncontrollable anger nearly led to Billy's death and also to three of his friends almost being killed in a car accident which he caused. Dane Clark portrayed the full range of his tortured character's emotions with great skill and authenticity in what was unquestionably, a very commendable performance.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Moonrise" begins with the execution of a man. Then, in the next scene, you see kids taunting the executed man's son, Danny. And, as the years pass, the tormenting continues. Now, in the present day, the young man (Dane Clark) has grown--and he is still plagued with tormentors. One of them (Lloyd Bridges) picks a fight with Danny but for once Danny appears to be coming out on top. Then, the bully grabs a large rock and tries to brain Danny--but Danny takes away the rock and smacks the bully on the head with it and kills him. Instead of telling the police, Danny hides the body and pretends nothing happened.

    Through much of the film, Danny spends his time either snapping at everyone or sexually assaulting the local girl he fancies (Gail Russell). Now back in the 1940s, it wouldn't have seemed like sexual assault, perhaps, but she did say no repeatedly and he forced himself on her--after which she responded that she LIKED it--thus promoting a dangerous rape myth (that when a woman says NO she really means YES). Because of this, a lot of the empathy I might have had for Danny vanished. Plus, he was often just grouchy and nasty. I really think they should have not made him a sex offender nor behaved in such an obvious way--it really detracted from the film. Clark was a very good actor--but here he was not on his game.

    On the plus side, there was a reasonably good treatment of the deaf guy (Harry Morgan) in the film when Danny comes to the poor guy's defense. Of course, a moment later he refers to him as 'dummy'--a common term of the time but one that makes parents of deaf kids (like me) cringe. And, late in the film Danny does try to strangle him!! The main idea of the film was great. I just think that Clark's character was badly written and should have been a lot more sympathetic and less of a butt-head. It still is a decent film but could have been a great film with a bit of a re-write--especially in how you handle women!
  • Frank Borzage turned a noirish subject into an atmospheric romance. In some ways, this belongs to the sub-genre of noir headed by the beautiful "The Live By Night." Dane Clark was a handsome actor with a somewhat limited range but a brooding quality. He broods all over the place here.

    Gail Russell was an attractive actress with haunting pale eyes. They are an interesting, though not always believable couple.

    Ethel Barrymore is a bit grand to be Clark's backwoods grandma. Rex Ingram is not given a lot to do, though he has a central role. He maintains a noble bearing and that is what's called for.

    The scene on a ferris wheel is memorable. The rest is good but I wish it were great.
  • A sour experience in which a nice enough guy lands himself in big trouble and the rest of the picture is just counting off the moments until he must face the repercussions. It doesn't really go anywhere and is just a sorry bit of revelling in the sadness of a person. A tragedy where the tragedy happens in like the second scene. I don't mean the guy he kills, I mean this poor guy and his fate. Watching this movie is watching the helpless movement into a ruined life.

    Lyrical and charming in fits in starts, this is not the kind of movie one watches in one sitting. There's a reason why this isn't a famous movie. Some good talent went into making this rather atmospheric picture with a great sense of character, even in its minor roles. It just wastes itself on a tale I really don't want to know. The problem might be me, it hits a raw nerve with me, but I wouldn't put this on the watch list.
  • arthur_tafero5 August 2018
    You want dark? It doesn't get much darker than this. Director Borzage seems to live for shadows and darkness in this Ozark thriller. A son of a murderer thinks he has bad genes (blood), but its all in his head. After killing Lloyd Bridges in self-defense, he goes about trying to figure out what he should do next. Dane Clark, who must be related to Clark Kent, because he is in a serious car wreak, jumps off a ferris wheel and is chased by a pack of hounds without a scratch from any of them. Even Clark Kent would have trouble doing that, Harry Morgan does a good job as well as Billy, a deaf and dumb simpleton, who finds Clark's knife at the scene of the death. Will he get parole with good behavior? Or will he hang like his daddy? Tune in for the exciting conclusion. Recommended.
  • treywillwest2 July 2018
    I know there are those who hold this film to be a bona fide masterpiece. I wouldn't go that far. Many of its characterizations are hokey and it includes what might be the most troublingly nonchalant reference to sexual assault in all of cinema. Having said that, it is a memorable and unique picture. The opening scene is, admittedly, as aesthetically great as cinema gets. A luscious, mysterious credit sequence lays the groundwork for a series of dissolves between intricate shots, one more impressive than the other. It's not hyperbole to say that first scene is worthy of Wells or Tarkovsky. After that, the filmmaking comes down to earth, but there are other impressively shot scenes. The narrative is a strangely constructed anti-Noir that affirms humanity's difficult, perilous freedom. I wonder if Jean-Paul Sartre ever watched this movie. Bet he would have approved.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    MOONRISE is a psychologically-focused film noir with a murder plot and bags of sleazy, fetid atmosphere. The main character is a malcontent who saw his father swing from a rope as a child, leaving him a legacy of bullying and shunning by the townsfolk. At the film's outset, he's finally had enough and commits murder, leaving a body in the woods. The typical suspense plot follows, mixing in a little romance with some police investigation, and you really wonder how it's all going to play out. The little-known cast members work hard to convince, but it's director Frank Borzage who does the finest job in terms of atmosphere.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    It opens with a prisoner being hanged, dissolves to footsteps through a night-time forest, to a baby crying in the shadow of a dangling toy, to a brawl in which a gang of kids smears mud on the face of an age-mate, to a brutal fist fight between two grown men, with each blow landing with a loud THWACK on the snot locker of the other, ending with somebody's head being bashed in repeatedly with a rock. Lloyd Bridges is on screen for about 50 seconds before he becomes a corpse. Ditto, Harry Carey Jr. The sequence ends with the mangling of a borrowed car and its occupants. Don't worry, though. There's no blood. We Americans don't like violence.

    Gail Russell is not only beautiful and sexy, with her mane of wavy black hair and pale eyes framed by dark lashes. She's girlishly breathless and vulnerable, in real life as well as on the screen. Her character here is candid without being insulting. She's tender, empathic, nurturant, devoted to the man she loves, filled with principle and virtue, flawless in fact, just like my ex wife.

    But, if you ask me, she has poor taste in men. First she's hooked up with the barbaric Bridges and then, when he's hors de combat, she falls for Dane Clark, a guy whose demeanor always suggests a pustule about to pop, on top of which he's not much of an actor. The romance between Russell and Clark just doesn't click. Warners had tried setting him up as a replacement for Humphrey Bogart. What a laugh. Clark was most at home in ensembles, as in "Destination Tokyo." Speaking of amusement, the only time Dane Clark smiles in the entire movie is when he picks up a puppy and snuggles it. That suggests that inside that terrifying exterior he's really cotton candy. The only friend he has is an avuncular old black man who lives in a dilapidated bungalow on the edge of the water.

    Well, the question that plagues Clark is that he's a murderer in a small Virginia tidewater town and the perceptive sheriff (a nicely measured performance by Allyn Joslin) comes to suspect him. Should he run away, now that he's a murderer like his old man? Or, since it was Bridges who threw the first stone, should Clark turn himself in and plead self defense? It was produced by the notorious bonehead and cheat, Herbert J. Yates, at Republic Pictures. That means low budget. The art director has done what he could to suggest a Southern swamp but it's all obviously studio bound. But Russell's photography is very good, and the director isn't afraid to take some chances. The silhouettes, the sometimes hallucinatory dissolves, the tendency of the camera to linger on the hands of a conversant, twisting a handkerchief, tend to give the images a dreamy quality.

    None of that is enough to lift the movie out of the doldrums, though. It's a routine melodrama with psychological overtones. The plot is pretty sloppy. What's the deal with the knife that Clark left at the scene of the crime (a public place) and that is found later by the deaf-mute and retarded Harry Morgan? Or Henry Morgan. He couldn't seem to make up his mind about his name. He should have simply called himself H. H. Morgan. At any rate, he has the most startling moment on the screen, when Clark begins to strangle him and Morgan, without resisting, raises his eyes to the roof and opens his mouth wide, like a fish's, in a silent howl.

    Best exchange in the movie. Sheriff: "All I know is that there's a lot more to a human being than what you cut up down at the morgue." Coroner: "Not when they're dead."
  • sol-26 November 2017
    Teased throughout his childhood after his father is executed for a murder, an angry young man goes on the run after killing one of his peers in self-defense in this melodrama with noir elements from Frank Borzage. The film opens well with atmospheric high camera angle nighttime shots as the main character is bullied and teased as a boy. There is also some great nightmarish imagery as his childhood memories every so often haunt him as an adult. Excellent as 'Moonrise' might look though, it is not an easy film to get through. Always moody and morose, Dane Clark is never actually likable as the emotionally distraught protagonist. The love triangle that he gets into never quite gels either since we are given little insight as to what his love interest sees in him. This in turn makes it a little hard to care what happens to the characters, which is a shame because the film taps into some intriguing psychological territory - guilt over the sin's of his father, forced to live in a community where being a killer is thought to be hereditary and then unsure of what to do when he actually kills a man, albeit by accident. It is all too easy to understand his decision to flee and his conflict about leaving his girl behind.
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