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Robert Harris

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Nunnally Johnson is a name that's known to tried and true cinephiles, but possibly not to the more generally cinema public.

His career began as a writer, associate producer, and then producer, making his home at Fox, beginning in 1934. His credits include, Prisoner of Shark Island, Dimples, Jesse James, The Grapes of Wrath, Tobacco Road, The Woman in the Window, Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid, The Gunfighter, Phone Call from a Stranger, and How to Marry a Millionaire.

It's understandable that Fox would want to give him a shot a directing, which he received, via the support of Gregory Peck, in 1953, on Night People, an early CinemaScope film, released just months after The Robe.

It's a good film, not a great one, about a very, wealthy and connected business man, who feels that he's capable of teaching government and military how they should be run. Broderick Crawford plays the blustering businessman, a purveyor for axel grease, and Mr. Peck the military officer from whom he learns his shortcomings.

The major interest for me in this film, however, is none of the above, but rather the work of cinematographer Charles G. Clarke, also a Fox contract technician, and the perils of early CinemaScope.

From my perspective, one can see, and easily recognize every problematic facet of working with the anamorphic adapter lenses in this film.

One had to learn the exigencies of CinemaScope. I recall discussing the problems with Freddie Young, who in the early '50s was working at M-G-M London, and shot the first UK CinemaScope film, Knights of the Round Table, released in December of 1953.

He has spent an enormous amount of time testing the format, and after breaking the screen down into five or so sectors, came up with a formula of what not to do, and where not to place his actors, unless there was no other means of getting a shot.

Every one of those early rules in broken in Night People. Alfred Hitchcock, who never used the format, likened it to a perfect means of photographing a boa constrictor.

Best to watch this film for yourselves, as everything becomes very obvious. You'll see the wide aspect ratio being used for its width without reason. Actors placed at each side of the screen, in areas where they are fully distorted by the optics. Literally every negative aspect of CinemaScope is here.

And that, at least to me, as an instructive device, is a major reason to watch this film, and learn what every cinematographer using the format had to learn.

Image - 4

Audio - 4 (2-track stereo)

4k Up-rez - 4.25


Pass / Fail - Pass

Recommended for the reason above

RAH
 

Robert Crawford

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Unlike you, I'm a big fan of this film. I loved the Cold War aspects of this film and the actors in this cast. I'm ready to replace my German DVD Release that finally gave me an opportunity to watch it in its OAR so I'm hopeful this BD Release is a significant improvement over that DVD.
 

Robert Harris

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Unlike you, I'm a big fan of this film. I loved the Cold War aspects of this film and the actors in this cast. I'm ready to replace my German DVD Release that finally gave me an opportunity to watch it in its OAR so I'm hopeful this BD Release is a significant improvement over that DVD.

You may be mis-reading my comments. I do like the film. For me, however, the single most interesting aspect is that it proves how consummately difficult it was to shoot in Cinemascope, as Mr. Clarke was a superb technician.
 

Robert Crawford

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You may be mis-reading my comments. I do like the film. For me, however, the single most interesting aspect is that it proves how consummately difficult it was to shoot in Cinemascope, as Mr. Clarke was a superb technician.
Yeah, I kind of gloss over your good film comment and fixated on your major interest in this film one.:)
 

Thomas T

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Hitchcock's comments echo Fritz Lang's comment (who shot only one scope film Moonfleet) that CinemaScope is only good for filming snakes and funerals. Count me in as a big fan of the film.
 

lark144

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Hitchcock's comments echo Fritz Lang's comment (who shot only one scope film Moonfleet) that CinemaScope is only good for filming snakes and funerals. Count me in as a big fan of the film.
Fritz Lang said "Cinemascope is only good for filming snakes and funerals" in Jean-Luc Godard's CONTEMPT. I believe that line was actually written by Mr. Godard, as a few years later in a Canadian Film Journal, Mr Lang said, "Jean-Luc Godard made me say Cinemascope is only good for snakes and funerals...I'm afraid this will get me in trouble with the producers."
 

Flashgear

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I love this film also, acknowledging that it isn't a great film of the milestone variety...but the cast, Cold War Spy/Counterspy atmosphere (accurate, from every history I've read of that dangerous period), pacing and the location filming really work for me...and I have yet to see the new BD, I have only seen it in OAR in SD once...Night People represents a fascinating time capsule of early '50s West Berlin, soon after formal peace treaties ended the Four Power Occupation Government...in the very early days of the emerging Federal Republic of Germany with a democratically elected Chancellor Konrad Adenauer...thematically, it's part of a subset of popular movies set at war's end and the immediate post war period that I really enjoy...Berlin Express, A Foreign Affair, The Third Man, Decision Before Dawn, The Man Between, One, Two, Three, and Spy Who Came in from the Cold, among others...even other lesser known films like Ten Seconds to Hell, Verboten, Berlin Tunnel 21, Funeral in Berlin as well...that stark, desperate landscape of devastation and total defeat in postwar Germany and Austria is a fascinating arena for drama...and as the Great Billy Wilder proved, brilliant comedic satire as well...really looking forward to seeing KL's new Blu of Night People...and seeing the Peck Family interview reminisces about their Father and the film itself...
 
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Matt Hough

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Waiting for review materials to arrive, so I watched this movie this afternoon which I bought during the Kino sale. I don't think I had ever seen it before, and it was quite entertaining. I really loved Buddy Ebsen in this movie: a role that gave him some dry, funny lines and business.

I certainly noticed the various Cinemascope anomalies; they were quite glaring. The titles said Color by Technicolor. Was this a three-strip Technicolor release (which Fox likely didn't have the elements to use for this transfer) or was it Eastmancolor processed by Technicolor (because that's what it looked like)?
 

Douglas R

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I'd never seen this film before. I don't even recall it having any TV showings in the UK but I found it really interesting and entertaining with its intriguing plot, good acting and dialogue and some fascinating footage of 1950s Berlin. Allowing the for the vagaries of early CinemaScope I thought it a very good transfer with excellent image detail. I also liked Cyril Mokridge's dynamic stereo music for the main titles - I love that sort of dramatic opening which is never heard in films today. I think the only thing which dates the film are the light-relief scenes with the doctor who keeps scrounging cigarettes. No doubt audiences laughed in 1954 but it doesn't seem amusing in retrospect.
 

Joe Caps

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This film had someof the funniest ad lines.
Heres two -
We said night people not NICE people.
You haven't seen Gregory peck until you've seen him in cinemascope.
 

haineshisway

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I am shocked by no real mention of the color. The "too blue brigade" has apparently won the day - is Mr. Belston responsible for this ugly transfer? This supposed 4K restoration? I'd never seen the movie before but finally ran the Blu-ray from Kino and what a joke the color is and how amusing it is that no one mentions it other than Matt who says it looks like Eastman Color. What it looks like to me is a faded element with whoever did it refusing to do any color correction for fear of the usuals who would bitch about it. And this is the result. And if anyone thinks this looks anything like a Technicolor print of that era then you know NOTHING about film or color and I mean that in the nicest possible way :) How can anyone look at the pasty brown faces and think they're correct? Please, tell me. And don't tell me "It looked good on my set-up." I was appalled by it, frankly, but people now have what they want and bravo for making everything wrong actually happen.

As to the film, Mr. Johnson was a horrible movie director and a very good writer. I liked the movie because the writing and the playing was excellent. The direction was, of course, non-existent, and one of the biggest problems with the film and why it doesn't work as well as it should is the stupid and foolish and inane decision to have no music. You get a perky and dramatic main title by Cyril Mockridge and then nothing until the military march for the end. NOTHING. Oh, how this begs for a Herrmann or Friedhofer or even Leigh Harline. I was very enamored of Mr. Peck in this but all the players were good and, as Matt says, Buddy Ebsen is great.

But the color made me want to vomit on the ground and this is probably going to be the new normal and that's just sad.
 

Robert Crawford

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The new normal, this Blu-ray was released six years ago. Anyhow, it looked fine on my setup.;)
 

mskaye

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Hitchcock's comments echo Fritz Lang's comment (who shot only one scope film Moonfleet) that CinemaScope is only good for filming snakes and funerals. Count me in as a big fan of the film.
Howard Hawks chimed in as well on the process-
Cahiers: What have you concluded from your experience with Cinemascope?
Hawks: We have spent a lifetime learning how to compel the public to concentrate on one single thing. Now we have something that works in exactly the opposite way, and I don’t like it very much. I like Cinemascope for a picture such as The Land of the Pharaohs, where it can show things impossible otherwise, but I don’t like it at all for the average story. Contrary to what some think, it is easier to shoot in Cinemascope – you don’t have to bother about what you should show – everything’s on the screen. I find that a bit clumsy. Above all, in a motion picture, is the story. You cannot shoot a scene as quickly in Cinemascope, because if you develop a situation quickly, the characters jump all over the wide screen – which in a way makes them invisible. Thus you lose speed as a means of exciting or augmenting a scene’s dramatic tension. You have to proceed differently. What you lose on the dramatic plane, however, you gain on the visual plane. The result can be very pleasing to the eye. You have to decide what seems best."
 

benbess

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....One had to learn the exigencies of CinemaScope. I recall discussing the problems with Freddie Young, who in the early '50s was working at M-G-M London, and shot the first UK CinemaScope film, Knights of the Round Table, released in December of 1953. He spent an enormous amount of time testing the format, and after breaking the screen down into five or so sectors, came up with a formula of what not to do, and where not to place his actors, unless there was no other means of getting a shot....


I wonder if there's a chance we'll see Knights of the Round Table on blu-ray someday?
 

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