Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||James Neilson|
|Produced by||Walt Disney|
|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 Walt Disney Productions action adventure feature film starring Hayley Mills, Eli Wallach and Peter McEnery in a story about a jewel thief hiding on the island of Crete. The film was based upon a 1962 suspense novel by Mary Stewart and was directed by James Neilson. The Moon-Spinners was Mills' fifth of six films for Disney, and featured the legendary silent film actress Pola Negri in her final screen performance.
Owner Sophia (Irene Papas) refuses to allow them to stay at her inn, The Moon-Spinners, but Aunt Frances and Sophia's teenage son Alexis (Michael Davis) persuade her into changing her mind. While Nikky and Aunt Frances are in their room, Sophia's brother Stratos (Eli Wallach) demands to know why they chose to stay at his sister's inn and says they should leave, but Aunt Frances insists on staying. Stratos reluctantly agrees to allow them to stay for one night.
During a wedding party at the inn later that evening, Nikky meets a stranger named Mark (Peter McEnery), who invites her and Aunt Frances to have a meal with him. They accept. Their dinner meeting attracts Stratos's suspicious stare, which Nikky notices and points out to Mark. Mark hints that there is more to Stratos than appears. At end of the evening, Mark suggests that he and Nikky could meet in the morning to go for a swim in the Bay of Dolphins. Nikky agrees. She comes downstairs the next morning, and quickly learns that Mark has checked out of the inn. She feels, however, that something is afoot, and goes walking.
During her walk, Nikky wanders into the basement of a church, where Mark is hiding. She learns he has been shot, and he asks her to go back to the inn and get supplies for him, but refuses to offer details as to how he got injured. Nikky goes back to the inn and successfully retrieves her aunt’s first aid kit, as well as a bottle of brandy, and a travel rug. She returns to church and treats Mark’s wound. He still will not tell her how he got injured, but instead urges her to go to the nearby town of Agios Nikolaos with her aunt for safety. Meanwhile, Aunt Frances notices that her items are missing, and Stratos promises to find them for her.
On her way back to the inn, Nikky runs into Stratos, who is looking for her and demands to know why she is carrying a first aid kit. Nikky tries to lie to cover up for Mark, but Stratos becomes suspicious, and goes to search the church. He does not find anything, however, sees Nikky as a threat, and ties her up in the top of a windmill. Alexis and Mark find her there, and rescue her. In the meantime, Stratos sends men out after Mark to kill him, so he and Nikky go on the run, eventually finding shelter in an abandoned temple. Here, Mark tells Nikky that he was accused of stealing jewels from a rich woman called the Countess of Fleet, but that he was actually attacked and had the jewels stolen from him. He believes the attacker to be Stratos, and he also believes Stratos is hiding the jewels in the Bay of Dolphins.
Mark and Nikky fall asleep, but are awoken some time later by a British gentleman who introduces himself as Anthony Gamble, and who takes them to his summer villa that happens to be in Agios Nikolaos, and has his wife, Cynthia, take care of them. It is revealed that he is working with Stratos. Through conversation with the couple, Nikky learns about a rich woman named Madame Habib, who is in Greece on her yacht. She tells this to Mark, who immediately feels strongly that Stratos intends to sell the jewels to her, but he is very weak because Cynthia has drugged him. He passes out. The couple advise that Mark go to Athens to receive medical care, and order a hearse to transport him in. On the way to the hospital, Mark wakes up and tells Nikky he has to go and stop Stratos before it is too late. When Nikky says it is too dangerous and tries to stop him, he kisses her and leaves. Nikky (unbeknownst to Mark) follows him, and makes it to the yacht of Madame Habib before anyone else. She tells Madame 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 Madame Habib. Stratos shows up to sell the jewels, but so do Mark, Frances, and Alexis. A fight ensues. In the end, Madame 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.
- 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 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. Both Mills and Wallach were interviewed extensively about their work with Negri in The Moon-Spinners for the 2006 biographical documentary film Pola Negri: Life Is a Dream in Cinema.
- "Big Rental Pictures of 1964", Variety, 6 January 1965 p 39. Please note this figure is rentals accruing to distributors not total gross.