Ill Met by Moonlight (aka Night Ambush) (1957)

 

 

 

Director:    Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

Starring:      Dirk Bogarde (Maj. Patrick Leigh Fermor aka Philedem),  Marius Goring (Major General Kreipe),  David Oxley (Captain W. Stanley Moss, M.C.),  Dimitri Andreas (Niko Soldan Emeris),  Cyril Cusack (Captain Sandy Rendel),  Laurence Payne (Manoli),  Wolfe Morris (George),  Michael Gough (Andoni Zoidakis),  John Cairney (Elias),  Brian Worth (Stratis Saviolkis),  Roland Bartrop (Micky Akoumianakis),  George Eugeniou (Charis Zographakis),  Paul Stassino (Yani Katsias),  Adeeb Assaly (Zahari),  Theo Moreas (Village Priest),  Takis Frangofinos (Michali),  Christopher Lee (German officer at dentists),  Peter Augustine (Greek),  Phyllia Houseman (Michali's Sister),  John Houseman.

Resistance with help of British capture the German commander-in-chief  (based on events on Crete in World)

 

Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.

In 1944 Crete was fighting a heroic battle against the Germans. Some British soldiers fought alongside them. The Cretans would get in trouble if and when they harbored Allied stragglers. Out of the comradeship between the men opposing the Germans grew the famous Cretan section of Force 133. They stayed mostly in the mountains.

In Knossos a bus picks up a passenger named Philedem, a leader of the Cretan Resistance. Philedem gets out at his stop and walks up to a restaurant. There a man named Micky Akoumianakis, their chief agent in Heraklion, meets him. Micky asks Philedem why he came to Knossos in the first place. After all, the commander-in-chief of the Germans lives at the nearby Villa Ariadne. Philedem say thatís exactly why heís herr. He wants to kidnap the commander-in-chief, General Kreipe, and bring him to Cairo. Micky suggests that if they are going to snatch him, they do so on an open road between Knossos and the Generalís headquarterís at Archanes.

The guys go over to the dentistís office. The dentist is also with the Resistance. When the guys enter the office, the dentist tells them that the Germans are watching the house. Two German military policemen along with a Greek policeman come into the dentistís office. Philedem jumps into the chair and the dentist pretends he is working on Philedemís teeth. The Germans check the papers of Micky and then those of Philedem. One of the Germans is suspicious and confronts Philedem. When the German pulls off the sheet over Philedem, Philedem is holding a pistol on him. Philedem pushes the German against a wall and shoots him in the gut. Micky knocks the other German out.

The British are bringing men in to Crete. A ship approaches the coast and men and supplies are put in small boat and taken ashore. Captain Bill Moss is one of the new arrivals. Captain Sandy Rendel greets him. Another man, named Houseman, is leaving on the British boat. He has been on the island for one year and is known as one of the cavemen of Mt. Ida.

Philedemís real name is Major Leigh Fermor and he is one of the leaders of the Resistance campaign. He greets Moss, who is an old friend of his. A convoy of men and supplies goes up the mountain.

Bill is taken to a local house where the Cretan men are greeted by their relatives and friends. Captain Moss meets Michaliís sister. The group has a little party complete with live music. Late at night Philedem tells Bill that he has a big job for him. Itís a risky one too. There are 30,000 paratroopers on the island. Gen. Kreipe is the Divisional Commander-in-Chief. They will be joined by Micky Akoumianakis.

The men check out a possible ambush site. They look for a good place to stop the Generalís car. While they reconnoiter the area, the General in his chauffeured car goes right past Philedem who is known as just one of the locals.

At night Bill and Philedem dress in the uniforms of the two German policeman they eliminated. Backed by others hiding in the bushes, they stop the Generalís car. Suddenly the men jump out of the bushes and they grab the general. The driver is knocked out. They place the General in the back of the car and three Cretans sit on him. Bill drives and Philedem puts on the Generalís hat to play the General in the passengerís seat.

Bill drives right by a German convoy headed the other way. And they are able to get through all the check points with little trouble. They are headed for Heraklion.

The car stops in the mountains. The men start hiking up the mountain with the General. Philedem drives the car to stash it away and then plans to return to the village. A scout plane flies low searching the mountains. At the village Philedem is greeted warmly by the locals.

The Germans are coming and theyíre taking hostages. The villagers head back to their homes to warn others. Bill is informed that the Germans have picked up their trail. They are less than half and hour behind them. When the group moves out quickly, the General deliberately leaves his hat behind so that the German searchers will find it. He is being taken to Mt. Ida.

At a hideout the men split up. They will meet together at the cave on Yerakari. Another fellow with news from the village arrives. There are many Germans in the Valley of Armari. Captain Tom and Corporal Yanni packed up this morning and moved out to a new hiding place. The other news is that the cave on Yerakari is no longer safe.

Manoli brings a letter from Adoni for the British leaders. The Germans are drawing a cordon between them and the sea. They have to go. They put the General on a donkey. He falls off the animal and he says he has a broken his soldier. The men help him up and put him back on the donkey. The General complains of being in agony.

The men get down to the valley. They think they have been followed and lay an ambush. But the followers turn out to be a small flock of sheep. They see fires burning in the mountains, a sign that it is not safe to proceed into the other mountain. Philedem demands to see the letter from Adoni. It turns out that Manoli misread the letter. Instead of saying it was alright to proceed, Adoni wrote that it was not safe. The guys scold Manoli for his carelessness.

Proceeding in a different direction, the fellows run into Yannis and his andartes. A young boy who serves as a runner for the men, named Niko, tells the leaders that he needs boots in order to run in the mountains. And he wants them badly.

Niko tells them that their runner is back from contacting Captain Sandy. Bill and Philedem find the messenger drunk. He is incoherent, so they search him. They find a letter from Sandy in the messengerís cap. The message is that they will be picked up on the 13, 14 or 15 of the month at 2200 hours at Rodhakinon Beach. To get there the men will have to march night and day for it is already the 14th.

They march with the General up and down the mountains. The General becomes exhausted. When they see the beach, they also discover half a company of German soldiers there. They will have to wait.

The General thinks of a plan. He gives Niko a gold coin and tells him if he gives the gold coin to any German soldier, the soldier will give Niko a pair of German boots.

Niko is sent with a message to Sandy. He takes off. The General carefully watches Niko. He tells Bill and Philedem that the boy is headed straight to the beach and the Germans. At the beach Niko is grabbed by a German guard. The General has a big smile on his face.

The General hears Junker planes in the air. He tells Bill and Philedem that the Junkers are dropping paratroopers nearby to cut them off. He adds that he bribed Niko and that the men have been betrayed for a pair of boots. The General feels that this proves his observation that the Cretans are just a bunch of barbarians.

More German soldiers arrive. They confer a bit with those soldiers on the beach and then head out. But not up to the mountain, but on the road to Patsiano. Now itís Billís and Philedemís turn to gloat a little. And, they tell the General, his troops are marching straight into a trap.

Now there are only two German sentries left on the beach.  The guerillas warriors head down and kill the sentry on duty. Then they subdue the fellow sleeping in the tent and tie him up. The dog got a few good bites in on Manoli.

The fellows are now all set to signal the British ship. But neither Bill or Philedem knows Morse Code. The General knows it but he will not tell them. Sandy himself shows up and, fortunately, he knows Morse Code. They signal the ship.

The fellows are picked up. On the ship the General cleans himself up. He now takes off the sling on his arm because he no longer has to pretend his shoulder was really hurt in the fall off the donkey.  Bill and Philedem come in to speak with him. They give him all the things he left behind in order to make a trail for his soldiers. They give him back his various metals, his hat and then his gold coin.

The General is impressed with the men and tells them so. From the first item the General left behind, Bill had some men follow behind them and pick up anything the General might have dropped on the trail.

Philedem says no hard feelings? The General says: "Not at all." They are sending a message to the Generalís successor on Crete and they ask the General if he wants to say something to his successor? Yes. "Tell him heís an incompetent idiot."

And Niko finally gets his boots.

 

Good movie. Simple plot, but still interesting. Itís basically an action movie and a chase movie. It kept my interest. I chose the movie because I wanted to know something more about the Greeks in World War II. There are not a lot of movies about Greece and I wanted to know more about what the Germans were doing to them.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 


Historical Background:

 

1941 (May)  --  Battle of Crete in which Germans suffered  7,000 casualties).  The heavy losses forced Germany to abandon any massive airborne invasion of the Soviet Union.  And the battle also prevented the Germans from expansion in the Mediterranean, thereby saving Malta, Gibraltar, Cyprus and the Suez Canal  from airborne invasion.

The Germans occupied western Crete, while the Bulgarians had the rest of the island.  The Germans organized the defense of the island by turning it into a fortress that was garrisoned by the 22nd Air Landing Division. 

A Bulgarian Army Corps took charge of the rest.  The Bulgarians were faced with active resistance virtually from the start from the local population.  They began a policy of Bulgarization (spread of Bulgarian culture among the Bulgarians on the island). 

1944 (October)  --  the Germans were forced to evacuate mainland Greece.

1944 (October) to 1945 (May)  --  the German garrisons remained in Crete, the Dodecanese and various other Aegean islands until the end of the war.

 

 

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