Night People (1954) Poster

(1954)

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6/10
good cast in cold war drama
blanche-29 August 2005
Gregory Peck plays a U.S. Army Provost caught up in exchanging a married couple wanted by Russians for a captured American soldier in "Night People," set in post-war Berlin. By today's standards, this film is on the talky side, with not much action. Although the script was nominated for an Oscar, it's problematic - the denouement was much too simple, for one thing.

Broderick Crawford is the father of the captured soldier, and he does an excellent job. Rita Gam is Ricky, Peck's beautiful and feisty secretary. There are several TV faces as well: Buddy Ebsen, Walter Abel, and Max Showalter. Anita Bjork is "Hoffy," a woman who works for Peck yet may be playing both ends.

But the film is really Peck's, who does a fantastic job creating an interesting, tough, passionate, decisive, and funny character. He's instantly both likable and admirable.
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8/10
Good Peck vehicle
luciferjohnson10 February 2004
Maybe not a barn-burner, but definitely worth seeing because of Peck. The movie actually captures quite well the tradecraft and moral dilemmas of counterespionage, and the scenes between Peck and Crawford are first-rate. Berlin locations add to the authenticity of this forgotten little movie.
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8/10
Superior Cold War Espionage Thriller; Very Well-Acted B/W Suspense
silverscreen88821 June 2005
Nunnally Johnson has been awarded every prize a screenwriter can be given. This film, with its many strengths, demonstrates why as well as does any of his efforts. The storyline here is both complex and adult; it is a Cold War thriller with very-strongly-developed characters, fine performances and great B/W production values throughout. Johnson wrote the script from a story by Jed Harris and directed. The story revolves around a Colonel played strongly by Gregory Peck who is in charge of US forces in Berlin who are dealing daily with the four powers governing their sectors there. Three challenges weigh on him at once. The Russian counterpart he has been trying to help defect is murdered; a young US serviceman is inexplicably kidnapped after meeting the German girl he loves, and demands are made by the Russians to get into their hands two persons in exchange for the soldier. Then the young man's industrialist father arrives to complicate matters further, making demands, while the Colonel discovers a traitor in his own circle of operatives. There are many fine performances in the well-chosen cast, headed by Peck's very strong military character, aided by Walter Abel and Buddy Ebsen; others noteworthy include Peter Van Eyck, Max Showalter, Jill Esmond, Marianne Koch, Anita Bjork and Broderick Crawford. Lovely Rita Gam plays the Colonel's secretary and steals every scene she is in. I found the military-parade pre-opening too-long; but the dialogue, characters and situations were everywhere absorbing and amazing memorable; had Johnson done nothing bu the scripts for this and "The Dirty Dozen", his place in Hollywood history would be secure. I suggest that with all its fine technical and creative aspects, when viewers talk about films "they used to make but can't or don't make any more", "Night People" is exactly the sort of powerful and adult film they have in mind.
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8/10
" When a Game appears to end in a Tie, the thing to do is steal the ball "
thinker169122 December 2013
Back in 1954, this spy film appeared on the Silver Screen. When it did, it was not promoted as a spy thriller to audiences. However, this is was one of those particular movies called " Night People " which does produces a bigger bang than one expects. The story as written by Jed Harris and directed by Nunnally Johnson begins slowly and tells of a single United States soldier, Cpl. John Leatherby (Ted Avery) stationed in West Germany shortly after W.W. II. After his kidnapping, the Americans are notified. A noise which is heard in the state department and there after reaches the the parents of the young soldier, who happens to have some very powerful friends, one which takes his millionaire status and starts banging on Washington doors to get his son back. Back in Germany, the problem lands on the stoop of one, Col. Steve Van Dyke (Gregory Peck) who is ordered to resolve the issue. He is an experienced soldier, but is hindered by the boy's Father (Broderick Crawford) who tries to throw his weight around and ably assisted by Sgt. Eddie McColloch (Buddy Ebsen). Dealing with the other major powers controlling the Eastern section of the Berlin Wall, proves a difficult task, what with the rise of the Russians, Ex-Nazis, double agents and political victims all vining for his attention. What we expect as an audience members is a sleeper, instead this film lays the foundation of later Tom Clancy type spy thrillers and Gregory Peck does a notable job in his role. Without hesitation I would recommend this movie due to the participation of Broderick Crawford, Buddy Ebsen, Anita Björk and Marianne Koch, and all the rest of the cast who made this remarkable film a classic. ****
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10/10
A triumph for the cast - and for Nunnally Johnson
john-harry-adams20 October 2014
This film is so well crafted that it still can't be faulted - 60 years later. There's not a weak player in the cast - and this must be the film to remember both Peck and Crawford by. Peck by his mastery of the very complex character he has to play, Crawford by the masterful way in which he plays his usual, boorish, stereotype - but then brilliantly wises up to reality. The scenes where Peck and Crawford interact are electric.

The plot is very, very complex. Even if you pay full attention to every word and every character nuance, you'll probably still be unprepared for the twists and turns of Nunnally Johnson's subtle and complex story.

On this topic, you'll note some reviews criticising the plot for weaknesses. Not So. It is a foolhardy reviewer who goes up against a Nunnally Johnson script! To elaborate I'd have to spoil. Suffice it to say that this story is a wild horse - and you'll have one heck of a job staying on its back as it bucks, twists and cavorts.

Worth seeing - has to be seen, some might say - more than once!
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6/10
Everything is all right except the story
piapia2 November 1999
This is an extremely well done motion picture. The first directorial job of longtime writer Nunnally Johnson revealed a fine talent which created suspense and captures the audience minds without resorting to chases and explosions. Everything happens indoors, and it is question of brains not of fists.

A magnificent job by Broderick Crawford and Gregory Peck, and a well done investigation into cold war minds, all about the kidnapping by the Russians of an U.S.Corporal in Berlin, in order to exchange him for a couple of elderly Germans wanted supposedly by former Nazis in the service of the Soviets. Everything works wonderfully, until one asks why didn't the Russians kidnap the couple in the first place and save all the trouble.

Curiously, this was nominated to an Oscar for best original story... It lost, and the award went to Philip Yordan for Broken Lance, which was based not on an original story but in the screenplay Yordan had written in 1949 for House of Strangers, from a story by Jerome Weidman.
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8/10
The Cold War in Technicolor
RanchoTuVu19 June 2009
A film that starts out innocently enough and is shot in Technicolor doesn't hold out much hope of being much of a tough Berlin Cold War drama like Carol Reed and James Mason might have made. Nonetheless, Night People gets pretty engrossing as the story unfolds. What it lacks in shadowy black and white photography and bleak ambiance, it makes up for in a couple of cool plot twists and attention to keeping the story moving. Gregory Peck bites off his lines as if he really means them as the colonel who's trying to get the young corporal who was kidnapped from the US sector after he kisses his German girlfriend good night, to the Russian sector and held for the ransom of an elderly couple, the wife of whom is part of a cool scene in a big beerhall restaurant where Peck is chewing the scenery and German sausages with Broderick Crawford. Crawford's character as a rich Toledo industrialist and well connected father of the kidnapped corporal gets pretty interesting as well as he's bent on throwing as much of his considerable weight around as he can in order to expedite his son's return. But this is international intrigue which requires a lot of preparation while the go-between German ex-mistress of Peck who likes absinthe, gets slowly revealed. Actually, the story is mostly top-notch, though with sergeant Buddy Ebsen's numerous humorous observations and overall casualness, the film is a lot lighter though not necessarily less smarter than some the of black and white classics.
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7/10
Gregory Peck carries movie, script has too many flaws
sutcal2 January 2000
It is always difficult to watch a movie that is now 46 years old and assess it as I am continually comparing movies of the 50's to that of the 90's. With special effects, digital sound and plenty of action in movies these days, I have to be careful not to expect the same type of style from 46 yr old movies.

Night People was nominated for an academy award for screenplay I believe. The movie is certainly enjoyabe and makes you think but as others have already pointed out there is one serious flaw with the story line that detracts from the overall viewing pleasure (to which I shall explain).

The plot centres around a young American GI being kidnapped by the soviets with a view of having him exchanged for to ex Nazi's who double crossed the Germans's during the war and are now hiding in Berlin (the West side). The Russians wish to exchange the American GI (who's father just happens to be a prominent businessman who flies to Berlin to exert his influence). One questions begs answering. Why didn't the Russians just kidnap the two ex Nazi's themselves without any American involvement????

And to add insult to injury the actual exchange insults the intelligence of the viewer as the Russians appear total clutses (the hand over the hostage in American territory before they receive their Nazi's (in fact they don't anyway). Sheer stupidity.

That aside, what the movie did highlight to me was that Gregory Peck was / is an outstanding actor. He is so far above the other cast members it isn't funny. His portrayal of Col Steve Van Dyke is excellent, being harsh, caring and funny at the appropriate moments. The movie also allowed me to acknowldege Broderick Crawford's acting ability.

I gave the movie a 7/10, it is certainly enjoyable enough, but I can't help wonder how the script got an Oscar nomination?
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6/10
Berlin, The Flashpoint Of The Cold War
bkoganbing28 April 2011
The Cold War was settling in for a deep freeze when Night People was made in 1953. The story is about the kidnapping of an American corporal on occupation duty in Berlin and the efforts by our military to get him back.

Mind you this isn't any ordinary corporal. Turns out he's the son of Broderick Crawford who is doing a light version of his junk tycoon from Born Yesterday. As it is explained in a line which audiences today might not get, 'he plays golf'. That he was a businessman who played golf was meant that he played regularly with the most famous golfer in America. You could not go a week in the USA of the Fifties without reading in the newspapers or hearing on radio or television about President Eisenhower tearing it up at some golf course. No one born after 1956 or so would possibly grasp the meaning of that description.

So Crawford goes to Berlin to get some action and he runs into Gregory Peck of the Provost Marshal's office who does things in his own time and won't be bullied or influenced.

Peck's role calls for him to be soldier, diplomat, and psychologist all in one. But he's a professional and he carries it off despite a few unexpected wrinkles. One of them turns out to be Anita Bjork who has been working both sides of the Cold War in an effort to obtain her much needed absinthe.

Aiding and abetting Peck in his attempt to free the corporal are Rita Gam as his girl Friday, Sgt. Buddy Ebsen, Peck's non-com aide, and army doctor Walter Abel who has to be on standby at the climax of the film. Why is that, you have to watch Night People to find out, but Abel's needed for a potential emergency.

Berlin ever since the airlift was at the center of the Cold War with the Russians. The wall had not been built yet and after that things kind of settled to an uneasy acceptance until the fall of the Soviet Union. Night People is an average Cold War drama made better by the presence of some A list cast members and a tightly edited script by Nunnally Johnson who also directed.
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an adult movie in that the characters acted like adults
Noir-It-All11 November 2005
I really enjoy this movie and have seen it frequently through the years. It has been running on the Fox Movie Channel lately. I think the other comments are probably true, but I enjoy watching the film nonetheless. I love the very end when Gregory Peck is listening to the way the situation he commanded is presented by the news over the radio, while he smokes and surveys the cleaned-up city of Berlin. Peck presents a man who might be in a dirty job but can look himself in the mirror. I agree it is an adult movie in that the characters acted like adults. I felt during the drinking scene Hoffie conveyed that she had some remorse and was tired. (Just before, I enjoyed scene showing the bad feelings between Hoffie and the secretary. "Would you be kind enough to tell Major VanDyke that I am here, please?) Later, it was pretty clear how Hoffie figured out Steve was onto her. The other character I liked was the British fellow. I enjoyed his dialog. I told my British husband about the scene. I also enjoyed listening to the American idiom of the time. I liked all of the characters very much and look forward to seeing it again. Another user mentioned the Oscar for best screenplay for 1954 went to Broken Lance. I liked that movie, too!
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6/10
Toledo tycoon toe to toe with Himmler & the Russkies.
rmax3048231 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
It's a fast-paced thriller about a mob of Himmler's goons in post-war Berlin who kidnap an American GI, the son of a big wheel in the ferris business, and who want to trade the kid back for a pair of burnt-out old anti-Nazi Germans so they can torture and kill them as revenge.

Get that? If not, it's not too important. The movie will make things almost clear enough. It's a lot of fun to watch. The acting required is negligible -- the plot is everything.

Broderick Crawford does his "junkman" number from an earlier movie, a blustering materialist who comes to Germany to cut through the red tape and see that his kidnapped son is returned regardless of the cost. The price is the return of those two anti-Nazis, one of them already deliberately blinded by the Gestapo because of his involvement in the plot to assassinate Hitler. By the end of the movie, Crawford has seen the human face of Cold War intrigue and decides that the elderly couple should be saved.

His feelings, of course, are as irrelevant after his change of heart as they were before. The job is in the hands of stern but human Major Gregory Peck. Peck snaps out orders and calls everyone by diminutives -- Stansman is "Stanzy," Frau Hoffmeier is "Hoffy," Colonel Ludovich is "Ludy", Petrochine is "Petey", and so on, so obsessively that one wonders if Nunally Johnson actually visualized the script.

There's a little hole in the plot too, or maybe it's somewhere in my frontal lobes. Peck discovers that his former girl friend Hoffy is actually a spy for the Russkies (or for Himmler's thugs, it's not clear). And she realizes at a critical point that Peck knows. How does she realize it? I don't know. In the scene, Peck seems to do nothing that would arouse her suspicions. Maybe she is a Jungian intuitive type.

But who cares? You can't really take any of this seriously, not even the deaths that crop up in the story, because we have never seen the people who die. And the film is leavened with occasional shots of humor. Barnaby Jones -- I mean Buddy Ebson as the wisecracking sergeant keeps poking his head into a room full of guys listening to the radio and asks who's ahead -- the Yankees again? And Ebson also has to go through one of those scenes in which he samples a bottle of absinthe, grimaces, shudders, and starts to speak in a hoarse whisper before clearing his throat and speaking normally. There is a running gag about a doctor who is trying to quit smoking by never carrying any cigarettes around, except that he keeps bumming them off other people. In my opinion the most amusing scene is one in which a British intelligence agent visits Peck and the two of them have soft drinks. On his way out, the Brit pauses at the door then walks back and leans over the secretary and asks what that stuff was in the brown bottle. "Root beer, sir," she replies. He thinks for a moment, then comments, "Curious sort of stuff, don't you think?" and leaves the room.

Enjoyable minor film kind of drags you along with its quick unfolding of events.
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A Cold War Propaganda Film
kloomnik30 March 2019
The subject would sound attractive to aficionados of Cold War spy stories (a-la John Le Carre or Len Deighton). Unfortunately, it's a huge disappointment: The story has incredible plot twists; everybody talks fast and furious like James Cagney in a 30s talkie; the are no subtleties whatsoever: it's us (the West) who are right, and it's them (the Russians) who are the new Nazis. Pure Cold War propaganda film that didn't survive the future.
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9/10
Gregory Peck having a hard time with foul play diplomacy in Berlin
clanciai25 August 2018
Nunnally Johnson at his best as both the script writer, producer and director here, with also Gregory Peck at his best as a very annoying colonel trying to resolve an impossible diplomatic puzzle and doing his best to make everyone his enemies, but ultimately doing the right thing, although it involves some traumatic settlements. Broderick Crawford as the stupid bullying American barging in and doing all he can to sabotage the proceedings by making a nuisance of himself eventually catches on and goes though an interesting character development. Anita Björk is the blonde agent lady of mystery, whom Gregory evidently has had a relationship with, which she still hopes is going on, while his responsibility calls for higher issues. Rita Gam finally is the perfect secretary who evidently knows more than she shows, which is wiser.

The story has been criticised, but it's a very good Nunnally script giving a very comprehensive view and insight into the mentality and challenge of the cold war with its twisted and almost adverse diplomacy. Almost everything takes place indoors, mainly in a hospital, and the film has a long and difficult start before lifting. Perhaps the best scene is the fantastic counterpoint inside view of the Katakomb restaurant with its baroque entertainment as a contrast to the seriousness of the dealings.

It's Gregory Peck's film above all, who succeeds in making an impossible tangle of criminal diplomacy come out with correctness.
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4/10
Ineptly filmed but intelligent "thriller".
David-2405 January 2000
Nunally Johnson proves again here that he was not really a film-maker. This so-called "thriller" is intelligent, literal and well acted - but way over-talkie and lacking in any visual style. They went to Berlin to film - and what a fascinating back-drop this is - but they hardly ever go outdoors. It seems to have been filmed mostly in poorly constructed studio sets. The best thing here is Peck's commanding performance as the hard-bitten military man, embittered by his dirty job. The attempt to use Buddy Ebsen for comic relief rarely works, and the political propaganda is offensive, particularly the referral to the Russians with terms like "cannibals". All in all pretty lame stuff.
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6/10
Decent but far from perfect
MartinHafer16 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Given the fact that this film starred Gregory Peck, it couldn't help but be entertaining and worth seeing. However, as far as Peck films made during his best years in Hollywood, this is definitely not one of his more memorable films. Most of the problems lie in the plot and the very unsatisfying ending, though the actors seem to give it their best.

The film begins with a common soldier being kidnapped in Berlin. However, this is no ordinary soldier, as his father is a loud-mouth industrialist played, not surprisingly, by Broderick Crawford. When Crawford impulsively shows up in Berlin to kick butt and demand action, he comes up against a colonel from military intelligence (Peck) who puts Crawford in his place but good. Given that the kidnappers were probably working for the Russians, Crawford's blustering and willingness to pay any ransom is rather hollow. After all, the communists probably could have cared less. So it's up to Peck to first establish why the guy was kidnapped and to see what he can do to get him returned.

While there are a few plot twists along the way, the film ends very poorly. In an ending rife with holes, Peck cheats the Russians out of their prize and gets the kid back--leaving you to assume that shortly afterward, the Russians just kidnapped some other poor shmoe and once again demanded a prisoner exchange or shot the guy to teach the Americans a lesson. Duh. Talk about a non-ending! Had the film ended well, it would have earned a 7 or even an 8. As it is, it's watchable but ultimately rather disappointing despite Peck's competent performance.
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5/10
The Berlin Reds Ride Again!
JohnHowardReid22 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Copyright 11 March 1954 by 20th Century-Fox Film Corp. New York opening at the Roxy: 12 March 1954. U.S. release: March 1954. U.K. release: August 1954. Australian release: 3 June 1954. Sydney opening at the Regent. 11 reels. 8,359 feet. 93 minutes.

SYNOPSIS: When Corporal Johnny Leatherby (Ted Avery) is kidnapped by East Berlin Reds after saying goodnight to his German sweetheart, Kathy Gerhardt (Marianne Koch), trouble really begins. His father, Charles Leatherby (Broderick Crawford), a tycoon from Toledo, Ohio, arrives in Berlin to get his boy back through his powerful political influence. State Department's Fred Hobart (Casey Adams) takes him to see the C.I.C. man working on the case, Colonel Steve Van Dyke (Gregory Peck), in whose office works a U.S. secretary, Ricky Cates (Rita Gam), and M/Sergeant Eddie McColloch (Buddy Ebsen).

NOTES: Fox's 7th CinemaScope feature. Jed Harris and Tom Reed were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Motion Picture Story, losing to Philip Yordan's Broken Lance. Producer/screenwriter Nunnally Johnson's debut as director.

COMMENT: A dull slice of Cold War propaganda which forces the viewer to sit still while the players ping-pong incessant information dialogue across the CinemaScope screen. Almost no action, despite actual location filming in Berlin. A dull, cliché-ridden, jingoistic and simplistic script, compounded by even duller direction. Peck is dull too. And with lines like he has, who can blame him? But we expected more from Sweden's top actress Anita Bjork, here making her Hollywood movie debut. "Miss Julie" is wasted in a thankless role.

The Broderick Crawford character holds out a promise of bombastic fireworks, but even this fizzles out. Miss Gam is likewise not utilized, whilst Peter Van Eyck is made to mark time in an equally small, utterly thankless role. At least Buddy Ebsen is occasionally if rather mechanically amusing, especially given the uninspired and even embarrassingly trite material he's forced to work with. Walter Abel is also cast for comic relief but he performs consistently poorly. Clarke's photography is early CinemaScope grainy, whilst the music is appropriately flag-waving.
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Just a couple of comments
hirsch-4326613 July 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I believe the reason the Reds kidnapped the soldier was because he was visiting his girlfriend in the Russian Zone of Berlin, while the old couple avoided it religiously. The prisoner swap was a stretch, I'll admit. The plot-point about former Nazis wanting the anti-Hitler-plotting old couple is hardly half the story. Not only did the KGB use Heinrich Mueller (head of the Gestapo) in recruiting former German agents, but they also employed and protected an even more famous ex-Nazi -- Martin Bormann. Yes, some real rascals, those Bolshies. I can't agree that this was any kind of ordinary Cold_War film, as I know of very few of any kind. "Big Jim Mclaine" was a live-action, comic-book sort of movie, although loosely based in fact after Communist-controlled unions in Hawaii did try to strangle the island with strikes for 177 days in 1949. Hitchcock's "Torn Curtain" and the awesome "Topaze" were two more. "The Third man" was tangentially about the Cold War in Vienna -- the real center for Cold War espionage, not Berlin. Even discounting the fact that many "Cold War" movies were actually defeatist, moral-equivocating messes, I'd still guess the 4 years of WW II accounted for 200 times more movies than the entire 1922-1989 Cold War, which was 200 times more interesting than tank battles and amphibious landings, and much more important for Americans to understand.
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7/10
Say Good Night to Night People **1/2
edwagreen6 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
It seems that someone pulled the plug on 1954's "Night People." There is a very good plot here about a young American soldier being kidnapped by the Communists in post-World War 11 East Germany. Broderick Crawford, in his usual tough no nonsense portrayals, comes to Berlin to make sure that no one is goofing off on getting his son free as well as to show that his a lot of political ties.

What I found interesting here is that the usual gang buster Crawford quiets down and even changes his opinion once he finds out the elements of the entire story. Seems that the East Germans want to exchange his son for an elderly couple, the wife was British and the husband was a German army official, blinded by the Nazis. Appears that the British wife was informing allied intelligence of Nazi activities during the war.

Peck is in his usual fine form as someone seeking justice and finding out along the way that his German female assistant is not everything she was cracked up to be.

The film needs to have excitement with such a plot but we don't get it at all. Even the drinking of the poison is not shown with any zest at all.
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4/10
Boring WW2 Spy drama - Night People
arthur_tafero31 August 2018
I like Gregory Peck, Buddy Ebsen, and Broderick Crawford. That being said, I have no idea how this script got nominated for an Academy Award; it was wretched. The Yankee game was the most exciting part of the movie. A US soldier is kidnapped and his influential father comes to Berlin to make sure that his return is accelerated. I would do the same thing. Peck tries to put him on a guilt trip about an exchange of "innocent" people for his son. Sorry, but my son would come first. I wouldn't care if they exchanged Eisenhower for him; I want my kid, Joe. Crawford is wasted in this role. Now if he went straight into the Russian sector with $100,000, I am sure he could have made a deal on his own; at least that is what my Russian friends tell me who were stationed in East Berlin. The plot is thinner than the margin of victory of the Yankees. Not recommended.
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Absinth ain't good for you
dbdumonteil2 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Gregory Peck "almost always played courageous, nobly heroic good guys who saw injustice and fought it."(IMDb)And from the very start as his debut (Tourneur's "days of glory" ) shows.I cannot remember him playing a villain.

A GI was kidnapped in Germany during his military service (it was a time when conscripts trusted their superiors,which was not that way in the late sixties;see the scene with the girlfriend );we do not exactly who abducted him:Russians or former Nazis.Peck portrays an officer who may seem cold and indifferent at first sight.The boy's father is a wealthy man who believes that money can buy anything: "your money does not mean anything here" says Peck .

They have to deal with "night people" in the cold war.The most interesting side of the movie is:shall we exchange innocent (and even heroic) people for an unfortunate rich kid?Which makes Charles Leatherby(Broderick Crawford) the most endearing character of the movie.The selfish millionaire discovers compassion and sacrifice.

The ending of the movie,on the other hand ,is too implausible to convince.Hoffy (Anita Bjork) is only an amateur and her bosses should have known better.
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