Night People (1954) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • During the Cold War, an American soldier is abducted by Soviet agents in West Berlin, sparking a recovery effort led by Colonel Steve Van Dyke.

  • Post WWII yarn about a young GI abducted by the Soviets in West Berlin and hauled off to the East. His recovery gets complicated as Colonel Steve Van Dyke (Peck) tries to sort out the usefulness of informants, spies, bureaucrats, and the abductee's influential father (Crawford)!


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • This cold war film begins with a beautiful and affective montage of recently divided (though not yet wall-bifurcated) Berlin. The story proper gets going as a young GI is kidnapped by the East Germans (released in 1954, it's way too early for mention of anything called the KGB or Stasi). The initial dramatic conflict is between a U.S. military officer (Gregory Peck), who realizes that getting the kid out will be a delicate operation indeed, and said kid's blunderbuss father (Broderick Crawford), who immediately flies to Germany desiring a quick extraction, arguing for either a commando raid or a cash payoff. (Some similarity here to the last few episodes of TV's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.") Anyway, Crawford's character is an industrialist of some importance. So, Crawford assumes upon his arrival in Berlin that he can take charge of the situation, and marches straight into Peck's office with nary a word to the secretary or the two American officers standing outside the door. They don't stop him; they know Peck is expecting him. One of the officers says to the other, "How does he have all this influence?" "He plays golf," says the other. "Oh." Eventually Peck gets Crawford to cool his jets, largely by letting him witness a demonstration of the spy game's high tensions. When two elderly agents suspect that their cover is blown, they attempt suicide rather than be taken back to the East. Now another problem arises for Peck-- his ear in the East is a female ("Hoffy," played by one Anita Bjork) with whom he naturally has a romantic involvement, but who, it turns out, he cannot trust. Thankfully for the Yanks, Peck finds out about her treachery without revealing that he's on to her, and through a subtle double-cross gets her to effect a prisoner swap, which naturally doesn't take place the way he initially described it to her (and through her to her Comintern bosses). (This all takes place in and around a military hospital that has cool, old-style Berlin, dumb-waiter style perpetually moving elevators, that we won't see again, far as I know, until the film version of Len Deighton's "The Ipcress File," starring Michael Caine.) So, naturally the would-be swap winds up with the GI back on capitalist soil, the commies empty-handed, and the dissimulating female shattered and exposed, deprived of both Peck's love and her personal freedom (that's to say, she is taken off to jail). And Broderick Crawford finds out that a son's love is far more important than golf.

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