Night People

The major basis is Reed’s The Third Man. Repercussions occur in Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Sagal’s The Omega Man.

The Soviets in East Berlin are “cannibals” who only come out at night. An American corporal loves a German girl, they kidnap him to exchange for an older couple wanted by “Himmler’s boys”, who now work for the Russians.

The boy’s father, an Ohio industrialist, muscles his way into the case and finds out the real score.

The provost marshal in charge has an absolutely vetted agent, anti-Nazi, anti-Red, suddenly she’s a ringer.

Johnson’s first masterpiece as a director.



The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit

The citizen-soldier.

War is bitterness, peace employment, all one, in the end one is saddled with a son “by other means”, and this must be cared for, and so forth...

But the mental health of the veteran demands, and that is not too strong a word, surcease from action.

Above and beyond the call of duty, he supplies the materiel of combat against madness, by living.

So goes the argument, a parallel of the war and Madison Avenue.


The Three Faces of Eve

An easy, biting joke on Freud (who is plainly parodied by Lee J. Cobb, with Edwin Jerome as Jung) that finally breaks like a wave over mythomania. The casting is the key, David Wayne and Joanne Woodward being a couple of the profoundest light comedians going (Wayne’s performance is a constant gradient, edging into things like a circus roustabout, Woodward’s is a circus act in all three rings).

The structural inspiration appears to be Nabokov’s Lolita, with its famous parody introduction by “John Ray, Jr., Ph.D.” Johnson has big eggs frying, and he lets you know first by having Alistair Cooke set up the joke before the curtain rises, and then with an overture in CinemaScope that divides the screen equally between Cobb, Woodward, and Wayne. This goes so far as, in some shots, to have the two fountain pens in their holders on Cobb’s desk accentuate the division. So what is going to happen will be a formal affair, he tells you.

Johnson never articulates the wide screen, and this is quite a feat, as you can see in Truffaut’s Tirez sur le Pianiste, where the screen naturally articulates in every shot and fills every scene with an extra dimension of joy in the discovery (possibly influenced by The Three Faces of Eve, Jules et Jim strenuously avoids this articulation). On the contrary, he uses it as a slice of life or a goldfish bowl, varied by occasional camera movements which alter the volume of the playing area, or by angles. Mostly, however, and this is what Truffaut perceived, CinemaScope can be used to convey the formal equivalent of a sustained joke, so that what appears at first to be a fairly uncinematic approach to wide-screen quickly shows great fortitude and flexibility. Johnson is able to create by editing (this is how he establishes Cobb as Freud), and by simple preparation can produce Manet’s Olympia in the flesh.

The influence on Fellini and De Sica is evident in Giulietta degli Spiriti and Woman Times Seven, and after this Joanne Woodward was ready for A Big Hand for the Little Lady.

At the end, Johnson simply sweeps all the chips off the table into his cocked hat and walks away with them, to the sound of countless bluffs being slapped down, and how often do you hear Henry Vaughan’s verses at the movies?


The Angel Wore Red

The dual infliction of Communism and Fascism upon Spain and its faulty Church, where yet after all a shrine can be discerned for a holy relic of Saint John, a drop of his blood.

Thus, very briefly, the construction of Johnson’s film, thought by more than one critic to be utter nonsense, a “tedious farrago” as Halliwell’s Film Guide has it.

A largely British cast foreshadows Lean’s Doctor Zhivago in general outlook or tone, Republican pronunciamentos and the counterpoison.

The New York Times sent Eugene Archer, he speaks of “questionable taste” and is altogether hors de combat.