Perhaps if original director Fritz Lang had remained on the film, Moontide might have been something other than a standard by-the-numbers thriller. Certainly France's great actor Jean Gabin deserved a better vehicle for his Hollywood debut. It's not that Moontide is a bad film, for it's more than watchable; it's just that the screenplay settles for the mundane and predictable instead of surprising the viewer with anything unexpected. Again, perhaps Lang could have worked a little magic on the material; all that replacement Archie Mayo can muster is to make it professional but workmanlike and impersonal - although, admittedly, he does add some interesting visual touches. But he brings no passion to the story, and without that, there's a big hole in it. Gabin does the best he can under the circumstances and fortunately that is saying a great deal. He imbues the role with both vigor and weariness and by sheer strength of his unique star power pulls the film together. Ida Lupino also scores solidly, and the two stars have a chemistry that is palpable, helping to flesh out the relationship beyond what is written. Thomas Mitchell overplays somewhat, but a hard-to-recognize Claude Rains is a surprising treat. On the whole, Moontide disappoints, but its cast deserves credit for succeeding so well.
by Craig Butler review