Tag Archives: andre morell

The Moon-Spinners (1964)

I have to admit that every once in a while, I pick a complete flop with our son. He didn’t like Disney’s The Moon-Spinners at all. I thought it was a perfectly fine adventure film for kids, especially American kids in that early sixties sweet spot right before the Beatles exploded into pop culture.

I’ve often felt that Hayley Mills was absolutely in the right place at the right time. She had a legion of young girl fans and she was perfectly cast, often by Disney, as the engaging lead in fun movies like The Parent Trap and In Search of the Castaways, and of course she usually had dreamy boys with English accents around. You know how many of those girls who showed up to scream at the Beatles when they arrived in New York were Hayley Mills devotees? All of them.

But I guess that fifty-four years later, there’s not quite as much in a movie like this to thrill a six year-old boy. It sounded promising enough. There’s danger, intrigue, stolen jewels, and Eli Wallach and Paul Stassino as dangerous criminals. Plus there’s a terrific set of stunts when Hayley gets locked in a windmill by the baddies and everybody climbs out down the sails and blades. Honestly though, the part he liked the best was when Wallach got chased out of some ruins by feral cats.

For slightly older viewers, the story concerns Mills’ character, Nicky, and her aunt, played by Joan Greenwood, visiting a small village in Crete at the same time that a young man arrives in the hopes of finding some emeralds, stolen while under his care in London some months previously. So the young people get to have an adventure while an impressive cast of character actors, including Sheila Hancock, John Le Mesurier, Andre Morell, and George Pastell, provide support.

The lack of any of Disney’s trademark comic slapstick was perhaps one small failure in our son’s eyes, but this is a much more straightforward adventure movie than their seventies output, without a lot of levity. There is one deliciously funny moment where Mills breathlessly recounts her escapades to a millionaire played by Pola Negri, who definitely needs a drink before the recap is finished, but that’s more for the grown-ups in the crowd. I think somebody our son’s age would probably read that scene as played straight, because yes, that’s an accurate recap of the story so far. And viewers his age probably wouldn’t see the small hints to the audience in the way adult characters play certain scenes. We instantly knew that John Le Mesurier’s character wasn’t being completely honest in his explanations, but the reality of what he’s actually up to still eluded our son. And Sheila Hancock brings surprising tension to a scene in which her character gets drunk and talks too much, but all of these adult conversations just seemed like noise to him because it’s more subtle than the Hulk knocking over buildings.

So perhaps six was a little young or perhaps the movie is just a dated piece that’s going to appeal more to older viewers anyway, especially the older viewers who enjoy seeing all these great actors. Maybe we should have waited a couple of years, but I’m certainly glad of the experience and enjoyed the movie very much.

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The Avengers 4.4 – Death at Bargain Prices

Wow, I’d forgotten just how good “Death at Bargain Prices” is. It has a great reputation, and many fans say it’s one of the best episodes of the show, with good reason. It’s a terrific script by Brian Clemens, one of the great ones where we don’t know what the villains’ plans are at all and figure it all out along with our heroes. We know that the criminal scheme is based around a fancy department store, where Mrs. Peel is soon working undercover, but don’t quite know who among the staff are the real baddies or what they’re doing, or who can be trusted. The house detective could very easily turn out to be a villain, and we’re left wondering whether he will betray Mrs. Peel for a few minutes.

It all turns out to be agreeably grandiose, and climaxes with a dynamite fight scene that entertained our son almost as much as it did me. He really hooted when Steed deflects a dagger with a cricket bat into a dartboard, leading me to explain what a cricket bat is! Everything about this hour is incredibly impressive, especially the sets for the department store. The whole thing is about as flawless as it can be.

And there’s another batch of splendid guest stars! Maybe there’s not as many as last time, but heck, six is awfully hard to top. This week, Andre Morell, T.P. McKenna, and Allan Cuthberson, who’s practically typecast at this point in his career as a stuffy snob with a carnation in his buttonhole, all turn out to be villains, although I’m embarrassed to say that I somehow couldn’t place Morell, despite knowing him from at least six other films and TV episodes I could mention. This won’t be the only time that an actor who played Professor Quatermass appears in The Avengers, either; Andrew Keir is in a couple of the color episodes.

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