Tuesday, May 04, 2010


Walt Disney does a Gothic romance, except instead of stormy nights and gloomy mansions, this one is set on the warm and sunny island of Crete, at a relatively modern hotel. But the real problem here isn't the setting, its the fact that the heroine is a teenage girl. That girl (Hayley Mills) and her aunt (Joan Greenwood) arrive at their hotel, The Moon-Spinners, in the middle of a gala wedding feast only to find their reservations supposedly never got made. The brusque owner (Eli Wallach), who has been acting strangely ever since he returned from a trip to England, clearly wants them to leave, but his sister (Irene Papas) finds them a room. Mills meets handsome Englishman Peter McEnery, who while chastely flirting with Mills is also playing some cat-and-mouse game with Wallach involving something in the nearby Bay of Dolphins--the name of the hotel comes from a myth about being able to find sunken treasure there by the light of the full moon. Sure enough, Wallach is a jewel thief and McEnery is a bank clerk who was blamed for wrongdoing in the recent disappearance of a priceless necklace, and he's hot on Wallach's trail in order to clear his name. Mills is actually OK, but she makes the whole thing feel like a Nancy Drew story, with a hint of Gidget thrown in. McEnery makes a fairly good dashing leading man, but he and Mills have very little chemistry--he's only six years older than her, but the age gap feels much bigger and scuttles any real romance. Wallach doesn't get a chance to do much more than play an average bad guy, but Papas is very good, and two other actors deserve mention: child actor Michael Davis does a nice job as a helpful island boy who gets to say things like "No time make love" whenever Mills and McEnery might have a tender moment tohether, and silent film star Pola Negri steals the show at the climax as a millionaire jewel collector to whom Wallach is trying to sell the jewels. There are scenes here that feel inspired by Hitchcock (such as a dangerous escape from a windmill) but Disney was no Hitchcock—and neither was Disney’s director, James Neilson—just as Mary Stewart, who wrote the novel on which this was based, was no Daphne du Maurier. [DVD]

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