I viewed an incomplete print of 'Night Life', so I don't know the ending and I missed several crucial scenes. What I did see here reminded me strongly of 'The Devil's Circus', made a year earlier ... but what I've seen of 'Night Life' is still impressive enough to make me wish I had seen this entire film.
Before the Great War, young Max (John Harron) was a professional magician ... apparently able to support himself by pulling rabbits out of hats. Now, upon returning to Vienna from the trenches, he finds he can't get a job in Austria's post-war economy. (So far, this is very plausible.) He reluctantly turns to a life of crime. Along the way he meets pretty young Anna (the attractive Alice Day) and falls in love with her, to the point where he considers giving up his life of crime. This prompts one of Max's underworld friends to get jealous, framing Anna for one of his own crimes, in the hope she'll get arrested and leave Max alone. Slight whiff of homosexual jealousy here.
I don't know the movie's ending, but some clumsy foreshadowing in the early reels leads me to suspect that ex-magician Max will use some sort of stage illusion (as in 'West of Zanzibar') to rescue Anna. Eddie Gribbon overacts horribly. Alice Day is exactly right for her role; delicate, beautiful, yet conveying uncertainty. In the male lead, John Harron is quite handsome but extremely untalented; I don't wonder that he never became a successful actor. Walter Hiers is superb in a semi-comic role as the landlord of a biergarten; Hiers is so rotund, he looks as though he's been sampling his merchandise. Leopold of Austria, a genuine deposed archduke, lends dignity to a small Javert-like role: he was much better in 'Four Sons', in which he got to wear his military uniform and lead a parade.
The art direction, photography and editing in 'Night Life' (at least, in the reels I viewed) are excellent, and quite impressive within the low-budget range of the Tiffany Productions studio. The story (again, judging only the parts I've seen) is extremely trite, far too similar to several other films of this period. Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell did three or four movies with plot lines similar to this one. As I've viewed only an incomplete print, I shan't rate this movie.
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