The Moonraker (1958)

 

 

 

Director:     David MacDonald. 

Starring:     George Baker (The Moonraker aka Earl Anthony),  Sylvia Syms (Ann Wyndham),  Marius Goring (Colonel Beaumont),   Peter Arne (Edmund Tyler),   Clive Morton (Lord Harcourt),   Gary Raymond (Charles Stuart),  Richard Leech (Henry Strangeways),  Iris Russell (Judith Strangeways),  Michael Anderson Jr. (Martin Strangeways),  Paul Whitsun-Jones (Parfitt),  John Le Mesurier (Oliver Cromwell),  Patrick Troughton (Captain Wilcox),  Julian Somers (Captain Foster),  Sylvia Bidmead (Meg),  Patrick Waddington (Lord Dorset).

the Moonraker, the Earl of Dawlish, travels to the Windwhistle Inn on the south coast to prepare the escape of the future Charles II

 

 

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

A wanted poster reads:  "By the Parliament.  A proclamation.  Whosoever shall apprehend the person of the traitor who calls himself by the name of Moonraker and shall bring him or cause him to be brought to the Parliament shall have given as a reward 100 pound.  The penalty for abettors is dearth."  It is signed Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector Westminster.  The year is 1651. 

The man known as the Moonraker spears one of these wanted poster onto his sword.  He rides fast on his horse.  He reaches Stonehenge and meets with the man in line to be the king and an elderly gentleman known as Lord Harcourt.  Moonraker apologizes for being late.  Cromwell's Round Heads are everywhere, he says.  the would-be king says that Cromwell has as many men out looking for him as he had facing the royalists at the Battle of Worcester (September 3, 1561, a Royalist defeat and the last battle of the English Civil War).   Moonraker says that Sir Nigel says that his house is at His Majesty's disposal.  And they must quickly get to the coast. 

His Majesty's horse looses a horseshoe, so the men go into a little town to get the shoe put back on.  The blacksmith says he will fix the shoe quickly.  His Majesty plays as if he is the servant of Moonraker.  The guys are about to go into a tavern when they see not only a wanted poster for Moonraker, but also for Charles Stuart.  The reward for Stuart is ten times as much as for Moonraker. 

The smugglers of a king sit down for a drink.  Into the tavern comes a corporal of the  Round Heads, who tells the tavern keeper that Captain Macey and two troops of dragoons will be here within an hour.  The tavern keeper calls for his daughter Sarah.  She carries outside two buckets.  The blacksmith calls the corporal outside.  He says the horse has four shoes set in different counties.  He wagers that the horse has come a long distance in a short while.  He even thinks that the horse may belong to Charles Stuart. 

Standing in the doorwell of the tavern, Mooraker overhears the conversation.  He goes back inside the tavern and tells his comrades that they must leave at once.  Then the Moonraker goes outside.  He asks the bar maid how long will it take to prepare them some food.  She says one hour.  Now the Moonraker walks past the corporal and the blacksmith.    The corporal says to the blacksmith that he will be back with the troops in half an hour.  He runs over to his horse.  The blacksmith tells the soldier not to forget that it was he that first told the corporal about Charles Stuart.  The corporal rides off.   

The blacksmith starts to walk back to his shop, when the Moonraker taps him with his blade.  He forces the smithy over to a wall and then he cuts off the fellow's belt and his pants fall around his ankles.  When the blacksmith turns around he sees the three strangers on their horses.   The Moonraker tells his two companions to ride straight to Nigel's place. 

The Moonraker chases after the corporal.  The corporal halts and takes a shot at his pursuer, but the shot misses horse and rider.  The chase is on again.  The Moonraker catches up to the corporal and pushes his sword into the soldier's chest.  The soldier falls off his horse.  Now the Moonraker sees a group of Round Heads headed his way.  So, he turns his horse around and rides off.  He hides in a huge tree and the Round Heads jusgt rush by him. 

Cromwell calls Col. Beaumont in to speak to him.  The two men both think that it was the Moonraker that killed the corporal.  They also think that the Moonraker is transporting Charles Stuart to the coast from where he can sail to safety.  Cromwell wants Major Gregg to pursue the Moonraker.  The colonel does not approve of the major, because he says the major uses the devil's methods in dealing with the enemy.  Nevertheless, says Cromwell, the major has never failed them.  Beaumont will have to use the man's services.  Gregg will meet Beaumont at Bodeham. 

The reward for finding the Moonraker is increased to 500 pounds.  A large group of soldiers head out to find the Moonraker.  Col. Beaumont tells his officers the positions of their different posts. The officers quickly head out after the Moonraker. 

A man named Parfitt is riding in a stage coach vehicle along with a reverend, a pretty woman and a servant.  He is angry about this Moonraker fellow still being on the loose and he lets everyone know about it.  The minister asks Parfitt what is a "moonraker"?  It's a Welsh name for smuggler.  The coach is stopped at a road block.  The passengers have to get out of the coach, something which Parfitt does not like.  The pretty woman is Ann Wyndham.  The purpose of her traveling is to marry Col. Beaumont.  The minister's name is Edmund Tyler.  He says he is going to Bodeham because he must speak with the Puritan commission there.  Parfitt is very disrespectful to and outspoke against the Round Heads, Parliament and Cromwell.  The Round Head officer says that he and his men were not so busy with his current mission, he would have Parfitt flogged and kept in the pillory. 

A local man comes to the officer and tells him he saw three runners near his house.  The officer is going to follow up on this piece of intelligence. 

The three runners are being hosted at a mansion.  Charles asks the Moonraker how far is it to the coast now?  The Moonraker says not more than two hours of riding.  He adds that he will go to the coast ahead of the other two and charter a ship.  The Moonraker tells them they will meet on the coast road three miles from Shoreham at 4 a.m.  As they enjoy a glass of wine the large troop of Roundheads arrive.  A lookout spots the Round Heads and rushes down the steps to warn everyone.  The three travelers are led out via a secret passageway. 

When the troopers bust down the door and come in, the host tells the soldiers that they have no guests.  He adds that the troopers were misinformed by bad intelligence. 

When the three travelers come outside the castle they are met by a small group of soldiers waiting there.  A big swordfight ensues.  The three men fight off the soldiers, killing some of them.  They all return inside the castle.  They run around a corner, but are pursued by another group of soldiers.  There is more sword fighting.  The fight ends with a result similar to the first fight.  The three runners get away from the soldiers. 

The stage coach arrives at Wood Whistle Inn.  The landlord. a man named Henry, warmly welcomes them to his inn and tavern.  They go inside.  Henry's wife Judith is stunned when she hears the name Moonraker.  In the kitchen she tells Henry that when the Moonraker arrives, he, of course, is going to help the rebel.  The wife is worried that Henry may be arrested and hanged. 

At nigh the Moonraker and his horse jump over the road block and rides off before the soldiers really have much time to pick up their muskets to fire at him. 

The boy who works at Wind Whistle Inn is the son of the landlord.  Moonraker touches the lad's shoulder and they both smile at each other.  After Parfitt goes upstairs, son and dad come into the dining room.  Dad sends his son away, so he can talk to Henry.  He tells Henry that he is desperate need of a ship on which two men will sail.  Henry tells him this is a bad time.  The ship is at sea and Marlow is in irons in Shoreham jail.  But Captain Lowry might be willing to do the job. 

Parfitt comes down the steps loudly complaining about how last the dinner is.  He stops to speak with the stranger, who now is dressed in Puritan clothing and says he is a scholar.  The Moonraker pretends that he supports the Round Heads and this makes Parfitt very angry.  So the heavy man keeps shouting, until the minister intervenes to put a stop to all the yelling.  The shouting brings Ann Wyndham out to see what has been going on.  She says she is glad to hear that the stranger is a Cromwell supporter.  She says they are in the minority these days.  She adds that she hates the royalist cavaliers.  Moonraker says it's hard to believe that a woman as beautiful as she can hate anyone. 

The Round Heads rush into the Wood Whistle Inn asking about their guests.  One of the soldiers is a bit suspicious of the man calling himself Rice (that is, the Moonraker).  He thinks he may be the Moonraker.  So the captain tells him to take a good look at Rice.  The soldier does so, but concludes that Moonraker was taller and broader in the shoulders.  Satisfied, the soldiers leave. 

Moonraker rides his horse to a village.  A Round Head guard watching the inn follows behind him.  Moonraker stops at a tavern.  He asks for Captain Laurey.  He is over to the side sitting at a table all by himself.  Moonraker goes over to the fellow and sits down at the table.  The captain says he will take the three people but has to be paid the handsome sum of 100 pounds.  Moonraker tells the captain to wait near Wind Whistle Inn.  One hour before dawn the captain is to come up to the inn. 

Moonraker starts to leave, but a corporal recognizes him and stops him.  He says he is not supposed to have left the Wind Whistle Inn.  He says he is going to take the scholar to jail to teach him not to treat the captain's orders as frivolous.  Moonraker socks the fellow, but the soldier is quickly back on Moonraker.  The corporal has a knife and tries to use it, but it's the corporal who gets stabbed, not Moonraker.  The Moonraker gets on his horse and rides away. 

Ann overhears Judith and Henry arguing.  They are loud that Ann can easily hear what they are saying. She gets the idea that the Moonraker is here.  Ann quickly writes a note and give it to her servant, Meg.  She tells Meg that she is to take the message to Col. Beaumont. 

Moonraker arrives back at the inn.  He grab a bottle of liquor and a glass and goes upstairs for a rest.  He runs into Ann who tells him that the Moonraker is here.  Judith knocks on the door and when the Moonraker answers the door, she is a bit shocked and refers to him as Lord Darlish.  This is going to make things more difficult for the Moonraker.   Judith leaves.  Now Ann knows that Lord Darlish is the Monraker.  Ann tells him:  "I hate you for the murderer that you are.  If I could bring you one more step near the scaffold, I would."  He tells her that she won't be able to do that. 

While they talk, the reverend takes a look at the book that Mr. Rice was reading.  It looks like he has come to some new conclusion about Rice.

As Moonraker and Ann talk, the reverend bursts into the room revealing his true identity: he is Major Gregg.  He charges Moonraker with the murder of trooper Darcet.  Moonraker will be taken to Newgate prison where soon he will be hanged.   In addition, the prisoner will be drawn and quartered.  This gruesome talks upsets Ann.  Moonraker hits Gregg in the stomach and runs out of the room.  Gregg chases after him and soon there is a sword fight between the two men.  This time it is Gregg that defeats the Moonraker.  As Gregg gloats over his victory, Henry comes up behind him and hits him over the head with a bottle.  Moonraker tells Henry to take the man to the cellar. 

Moonraker bleeds from wounds administered by Gregg.  Ann rushes to him to take care of him.  She takes him back to her room and starts to dress his wounds.  She tells Moonraker that she is going to marry Col. Beaumont.  He tells her that the colonel is the most feared soldier among Cromwell's troopers.  Moonraker says at least he tries to remember that his enemies are human.  Ann says:  "How dare you insinuate Col. Beaumont is capable of cruelty!"  Moonraker tries to soothe her by saying that, as a soldier, he has the greatest respect for the colonel.  He speaks to her very romantically and Ann seems to be eating it up. 

The ship anchors near the Wind Whistle Inn.  Henry goes in the cellar which opens up onto the North Sea.  He signals the captain with his lantern. 

Ann tells Moonraker that her father and brother were both killed by cavaliers and she swore she would hate all of them until the last are destroyed.  Moonraker kisses her on the forehead.  Henry comes in to tell Moonraker that Captain Laurey is anxious to get away.  Moonraker tells him he will be down shortly.   Ann warns him that troopers are on the way to the inn to arrest Moonraker.  He asks her: "Why are you trying to save my life?"  She says:  "Because you taught me how to laugh again.  Brought me happiness that I didn't know existed.  Now for pity sake, go!"    They kiss and he tells her that if he can reach the sea, they will meet again. 

Moonraker goes downstairs.  He sees Captain Laurey who says that he can wait no longer for the passengers.  Moonraker threaten him with his sword.  Just then Charles Stuart and Lord Harcourt arrive.  The captain recognizes Charles Stuart and decides he wants more money.  Now he wants 1,900 pounds.  Stuart promises the captain that he shall have his money with interest.  And now they hear the sounds of the troopers as they arrive.  Moonraker goes into the dining room to get his coat, when the troopers enter the room.  The colonel says that everyone in the inn is under arrest.

The captain, Stuart and Lord Harcourt reach the small boat that will take them to the ship. 

Ann tries to cover for Moonraker saying the man she was talking about in her message has already left.  Major Gregg comes into the room and contradicts Ann.  Moonraker robs Gregg of his victory by introducing himself to the colonel.  The colonel says he will spare the Moonraker's life if he will tell him where Charles Stuart is.   Moonraker, knowing Charles Stuart is on the boat, tells the colonel he will accept that bargain. 

Parfitt is brought down and he protests about being routed out of bed.  It's now that Parfitt is told that Mr. Rice is really the Moonraker.  Parfitt treated Mr. Rice with contempt saying that he was a cowardly intellectual.  Now he starts to try to help Moonraker.  He says that Henry could not have struck Gregg over the head because Henry is a bumpkin and wouldn't have the wit to do such a thing.  "The man can't even draw a pint of beer properly."   He adds that Ann does not have the strength to deliver a knockout blow to the major.  Instead, he says that it was he who knocked out the major.  Beaumont arrests the man immediately. 

Beaumont now has a serious talk with Ann.  He says she tried to shield the infamous Moonraker from the troopers.  She bravely says she gave the Moonraker his chance to escape.  Why?  She says Beaumont couldn't understand the reasons.  The colonel now puts Ann under arrest.  He asks the Moonraker where is Charles?  He's out on the ship that is now sailing away.  The colonel shouts:  "You fool, Gregg!" and rushes outside.  Moonraker throws his cape over Gregg's head, grabs his swords and runs outside.  The troopers try to catch him, but Parfitt delays them with his strength and a sword.  Gregg is the only one that got past Parfitt.

Gregg swordfights with the Moonraker, while Parfitt continues his swordfight with the troopers.  Moonraker wounds Gregg, a trooper wounds Parfitt in the side and Moonraker kills the trooper.  The Moonraker starts sword fighting with Gregg again and pushes the man outside the cave and onto the cliff beach.  Both men roll down the side of the cliff.  From the window Ann watches the fight.  Moonraker wounds Gregg again and they both fall into the sea.  Moonraker makes it out of the water, but Gregg has disappeared.  The boatman rows toward the Moonraker and he swims out to meet the boat.  The Moonraker gets onboard the ship and gets away. 

Ann says she is ready to go, but the colonel tells her that she is free to go wherever she wants to go.  She may even go to unite with the Moonraker.  He then tells her:  "No Ann.  You will never see me again.  Goodbye."  He leaves the inn.  Ann looks out the window at the ship sailing away. 

 

Although the film is set in the period of the English Civil War, this is primarily a swash buckler with lots of sword fights.  And, of course, there is a love story too.  The film does give a good idea of just how divided the people were during the Civil War.  Paul Whitsun-Jones (as Parfitt) was good at providing comic relief in the film.  I enjoyed the film even if there wasn't lots and lots of historical information.  As a suggestion, I think it's always good to become familiar with the period by reading a brief summary, at least.  These wars can get pretty complicated. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

 

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