powered by AFI
The film begins with the following written prologue: "Two hundred years ago the great heath of Dorsetshire ran wild and bleak down to the sea. Here, in hidden coves and lonely villages, the smuggling bands plied their violent trade. And here, one October evening of the year 1757, a small boy came in search of a man whom he believed to be his friend." A January 1952 news item in Daily Variety announced that William H. Wright would produce the film. A September 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item adds Ronald Green to the cast, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
According to Hollywood Reporter news items, portions of the film were shot on location along the Southern California coastline, in Laguna, Corona del Mar, Palos Verdes and the Point Dume area of Malibu. A September 2, 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that director Fritz Lang and cinematographer Robert Planck planned to shoot with minimal lighting in an attempt to create the "turbulent and brooding atmosphere" of an English smugglers' cove from the eighteenth century. According to the news item, the lighting would not exceed 500-foot candle power-the level used for black-and-white films-compared with the 1,000-foot candle power often used on color films.
Moonfleet was Lang's first film for M-G-M since Fury in 1936 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40), and his first film shot in CinemaScope. In a modern interview, Lang claimed that producer John Houseman reedited the film without his knowledge or consent. "Producer's cuts not only drastically reduced Viveca Lindfors' part," Lang said, "but rendered certain sequences almost unintelligible." Moonfleet marked British actress Joan Greenwood's American film debut.