Moonrise (1948)

moonrise poster 1948 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 9/10

Good concept, interesting looking movie

Feels like the story hits you over the head with the themes

Movie Info

Movie Name: Moonrise

Studio:  Chas K. Feldman Group Productions Inc.

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s): September 9, 1948 (Premiere)/October 1, 1948 (US)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

moonrise murder dane clark lloyd bridges

The crime!

Danny Hawkins (Dane Clark) has always lived in the shadow of his father who was convicted and hung for crimes.  When Danny kills one of the people who bullied him in a self-defense fit of rage, he covers the crime and questions if he is just his father’s son.  Dating Gilly Johnson (Gail Russell), the former girlfriend of the victim, Danny feels the walls of justice closing in on him as Sheriff Clem Otis (Allyn Joslyn) searches for the killer…can Danny escape his father’s fate?

Directed by Frank Borzage, Moonrise is a crime drama.  The story is an adaptation of Theodore Strauss’s 1946 novel and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Sound Recording.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #921).

Moonrise has a strange tone throughout the movie.  There is a very surreal feel to it particularly due to the fact that Danny is so unhinged by the crime he committed that it seems obvious that he is hiding something.  While that normally would be a weakness of the movie, the film really isn’t about covering the crime as much as what crime and the idea of the sins of the father can do to a person.

moonrise ferris wheel scene dane clark gail russell

Play it cool, Danny…play it cool…don’t start screaming and jump off the Ferris wheel.

Danny is broken.  He’s spent his life defending himself from attacks about his father’s past (which he doesn’t even really fully know).  When he is pushed to far he snaps and then questions if it is just in his blood.  He isn’t a master criminal, and he is riddled with guilt over what he has done.  Through the course of the film he realizes that he’s done something wrong, but facing his actions, that he owns, is a necessity.

The cast is loaded with big names that kind of go unnoticed due to the small roles.  Dane Clark does run the risk of coming off as just strange and moody which makes his relationship with Gail Russell questionable.  Russell’s character herself seems flighty and isn’t entirely likable.  Ethel Barrymore plays Danny’s grandmother and Allyn Joslyn is the kindly sheriff who sees Danny might not be entirely responsible for his crime.  Harry Morgan plays the mute Billy Scripture and Harry Carey Jr. also has a small role.  Lloyd Bridges victim of Danny’s attack, and Rex Ingram’s wise Mose Jackson (despite his home and vocation) feels rather progressive.

moonrise danny gilly abandoned house dane clark gail russell

Danny…you’re weird

The movie is largely set based, but it also has some interesting set designs.  Danny and Gilly meet in a large abandoned southern mansion and the exterior of the mansion is a model.  It is obvious, but well done and it also gives the strange impression that they are “playing house” which is kind of what the characters are doing in the mansion by trying to forget their lives outside.  A trip to the fair also provides some rather stylish shooting of a Ferris wheel scene that feels ahead of its time.

Moonrise is a good movie, but it does feel that it could be even better.  The message feels like it hits you over the head multiple times through the movie and a more subtle approach to the concepts and ideas of the sins of the father might have been more effective.  While this doesn’t diminish the movie to a point of being a bad movie, it does keep it from being a great movie that is still worth checking out.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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