Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||James Neilson|
|Produced by||Ron Miller|
|Written by||Michael Dyne|
|Based on||The Moon-Spinners|
by Mary Stewart
|Music by||Ron Grainer|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Distribution|
|Box office||est. $3,500,000 (US/ Canada)|
The Moon-Spinners is a 1964 American mystery film starring Hayley Mills, Eli Wallach and Peter McEnery in a story about a jewel thief hiding on the island of Crete. Produced by Walt Disney Productions, the film was based upon a 1962 suspense novel by Mary Stewart and was directed by James Neilson. It featured the legendary silent film actress Pola Negri in her final screen performance.
The Moon-Spinners was Hayley Mills' fifth film in the series of six for Disney.
A young English woman named Nikky Ferris takes a trip with her folk musicologist aunt Frances to the village of Elounda, on the island of Crete. They rent a room at the Moon-Spinners Inn, the innkeeper Sophia initially refusing them until her teenage son Alexis and Aunt Frances persuade her. Sophia's older brother Stratos, having told her not to welcome anyone into the inn, questions Aunt Frances over why she chose the Moon-Spinners, then reluctantly allows her and Nikky to spend a night.
During a wedding party at the inn later that evening, Nikky meets an Englishman named Mark Camford, who invites her and Aunt Frances to have dinner with him, as he hints Stratos is more than he appears. At the end of the evening, Nikky promises to meet up with Mark in the morning to go for a swim in the Bay of Dolphins. Mark then follows Stratos when he goes out night fishing along the Bay of Dolphins, only to be attacked while spying on the man.
The following morning, Nikky learns that Mark abruptly checked out of the inn; she does not buy the story Sophia tells her. While taking a walk, Nikky follows a trail of blood to a church basement where Mark is hiding. Mark refuses to explain the details of his gunshot wound to Nikky, asking her to fetch some supplies for him. Nikky returns with her aunt's first aid kit, a bottle of brandy, and a travel rug. Mark still refuses to explain his injuries while urging her to go to the nearby town of Agios Nikolaos with her aunt for safety.
On her way back to the inn, Nikky runs into Stratos, who is looking for her after learning of the missing items from Aunt Frances. Nikky tries to lie to cover up for Mark, but Stratos sees through her and searches the church; Mark is nowhere to be seen. Stratos assumes Nikky is a liability and ties her up in a windmill while enlisting his associate Lambis to search for Mark, who later rescues Nikky with Alexis's help.
Nikky and Mark take refuge in an abandoned temple inhabited by numerous cats, and Mark reveals he was a bank employee who handled the jewellery of the Countess of Fleet; he lost his job when he was attacked en route, and the jewels were stolen. Mark assumes Stratos to be his attacker who hid the jewels somewhere in the Bay of Dolphins.
The duo spend the night in the temple. Stratos attempts to track them down, only to be scared away by the resident cats. The next morning, Nikky and Mark are discovered by a British gentleman named Anthony Gamble and are taken to his summer villa in Agios Nikolaos where his wife, Cynthia, looks after them. But Anthony, who is partners with Stratos, assures Stratos that he will handle the interlopers.
Nikky learns from the Gambles that a rich woman named Madam Habib is travelling to Greece on her yacht. Mark realizes that Stratos intends to sell the jewels to her. But Mark is drugged by Cynthia, with the couple making preparations to send him to Athens to receive medical care. On the way to the hospital, Mark wakes up and tells Nikky he has to stop Stratos before it is too late. Nikky attempts to stop Mark before he kisses her and leaves, deciding to reach Madame Habib's yacht as Mark fails to prevent Stratos from escaping with the jewels.
Nikky tells Madam Habib that Stratos is a thief and that the jewels she intends to buy from him were stolen from the Countess of Fleet, who happens to be an old friend of Habib's. Stratos shows up, to sell the jewels, but so do Mark, Frances, and Alexis. A fight ensues. In the end, Madam Habib has police take Stratos off the yacht, and returns the jewels to Mark. The final scene shows Alexis leaving by boat, waving at Mark and Nikky, and implying that they will soon get married by the time they return to Crete.
- Hayley Mills as Nikky Ferris
- Eli Wallach as Stratos
- Peter McEnery as Mark Camford
- Joan Greenwood as Frances Ferris
- Michael Davis as Alexis
- Pola Negri as Madame Habib
- Irene Papas as Sophia
- John Le Mesurier as Anthony Gamble
- Paul Stassino as Lambis
- Sheila Hancock as Cynthia Gamble
- André Morell as Yacht Captain
- George Pastell as Police Lieutenant
- Tutte Lemkow as Orestes
- Steve Plytas as Hearse Driver
- Harry Tardios as Bus Driver
- Pamela Barrie as Ariadne
The lead character in the film is somewhat younger than in the novel. Traveling alone in the book, she is accompanied by her aunt in the film. The film is somewhat dark, similar to other Disney live-action features made in the 1950s and 1960s for more mainstream audiences, such as Treasure Island (1950) and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954). It was Walt Disney's penultimate live-action film in which he was credited as producer while alive.
Disney persuaded silent film actress Pola Negri, who had been retired for two decades, to return to the screen for this, her final film. For the 2006 biographical documentary film Pola Negri: Life Is a Dream in Cinema, both Mills and Wallach were extensively interviewed about their work with Negri in The Moon-Spinners.
The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther offered a mixed review, praising "the ripening attractiveness of the young British actress Hayley Mills and some beautiful scenery in color on the island of Crete", but calling the film "essentially an entertainment for the younger set". With regard to adult viewers, he noted that "it is a picture in which standard melodrama abounds—the kind that the older observer may find just too bubbling with cliches". Rotten Tomatoes, describing the film as a "distilled Hitchcockian suspense yarn, diluted for the consumption of children", gives it an approval rating of 63%.
- "Big Rental Pictures of 1964", Variety, 6 January 1965 p 39. Please note this figure is rentals accruing to distributors not total gross.
- Crowther, Bosley (1964-11-04). "Screen: Entertainment for Youngsters:'The Moon-Spinners' Opens at Guild". NYTimes.com. Retrieved 2020-03-25.
- "The Moon-Spinners (1964) - Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved 2020-03-25.