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Night People (1954)

Night People (1954)

aka Night People

Directed By: 
Written By: 
Details: 93 mins · English, Deutsch


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Small Col. Steve Van Dyke
Small Charles Leatherby
Small "Hoffy" Hoffmeir
Small Ricky Cates
Small Maj. R.A. Foster
Small M/Sgt. Eddie McColloch
Small Frederick S. Hobart
No_movie_poster Frau Schindler / Rachel Cameron
Small Capt. Sergei "Petey" Petrochine
Small Kathy Gerhardt
No_movie_poster Cpl. John Leatherby
No_movie_poster Maj. Burns
No_movie_poster Lt. Col. Stanways


No_movie_poster Nunnally Johnson Director
No_movie_poster Cyril J. Mockridge Original Music Composer
No_movie_poster Dorothy Spencer Editor
No_movie_poster Tom Reed Story
No_movie_poster Charles G. Clarke Director of Photography
No_movie_poster W.R. Burnett Screenplay
No_movie_poster Jed Harris Story
No_movie_poster Nunnally Johnson Production


Allied enemies kidnap Corporal John "Johnny" Leatherby, a young American soldier in West Berlin. Lt. Col. Steve Van Dyke, the American provost marshal assigned to investigate, learns through his East German contact Frau "Hoffy" Hoffmeir that the soldier has been kidnapped by East German agents who want to trade him for a pair of elderly Germans. At the same time, the Soviet Union has closed border posts into Berlin, suggesting an impending international crisis. Johnny's father, Charles Leatherby, is a wealthy and politically influential industrialist from Toledo, Ohio and flies to Berlin to bully the military bureaucracy into finding his son. Accustomed to being in charge and never refused, he issues a demand that the military attempt to bribe the East German government using Leatherby's money. Van Dyke is offended by Leatherby's arrogance and ignorance. ("You're a big wheel in the axle grease business. You're a personal friend of Senator...McDinglehoffer," he scoffs.)

They go to dinner at the Katacombe restaurant, ostensibly to discuss the proposed swap, accompanied by Van Dyke's assistant, M/Sgt. Eddie McCulloch. In actuality, Van Dyke wants Leatherby to see the cost of the trade: the elderly female piano player and her blind husband (his eyes gouged out by the Nazis during the war) demanded for Johnny's return. When the Americans move to detain them for forged identity papers, the couple attempts suicide by using strychnine. Van Dyke has them taken to a U.S. military hospital under the care of Major Foster, the cigarette-mooching doctor in charge. The husband is near death. The wife is in better shape and conscious, and Eddie discovers in interrogating her that she is actually English and demanding to talk to someone in British Intelligence. Van Dyke recognizes that he could be in legal jeopardy if the British determine he is using one of their citizens as a player in a "swap shop." The woman identifies herself as Rachel Cameron, wife of Gen. Gerd von Kratzenow, an anti-Nazi conspirator, and reveals that the people wanting them are not Russians but former Nazis working now with the communists.

Leatherby begins to understand the complications involved. (Van Dyke tells Eddie at one point, "You're right, this deal is getting trickier than a basket full of eels.") Friends are often really enemies, and adversaries sometimes secret allies. Van Dyke learns that his friend and Soviet counterpart, Col. Lodejinski, has been betrayed attempting to escape to the West and has committed suicide with his whole family. He also is told that Rachel Cameron acted as a spy for the Allies during the war. Van Dyke considers submitting to the demands and trading the elderly couple for the soldier. He provides Leatherby with this stark choice. While using Hoffy, with whom Van Dyke had once engaged in an ill-advised love affair, as an intermediary, he causes jealousy on the part of his secretary, Ricky Cates. Hoffy's loyalty comes under question; she is the common thread in so many twists. Van Dyke arranges for Johnny to be delivered by Russian ambulance to the American hospital to complete the trade, but concocts a dangerous double-cross in which he has to intentionally poison himself to succeed.