Golden Oldies On the Big Screen Golden Oldies On the Big Screen

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For, Friday, July 26, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: An unjustly forgotten little Disney effort, ‘Night Crossing’ is getting a big-screen showing at the SCERA Center in Orem as part of the theater’s ‘Cinema Classics’ series. It will play at 10 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 9. Here’s is my review, published in the Deseret News on Feb. 10, 1982.

Walt Disney Productions is getting a little sneaky with age; the fact that “Night Crossing” is a Disney film is somewhat buried in its advertising, and when the final scene of the film passes and a title card goes up reading “A Walt Disney Production,” much of the audience is surprised.

The reason for that surprise is that “Night Crossing” is a darn good, very effective suspense film — probably the best live-action picture produced by the studio in a decade or two.

It’s not “Gone With the Wind,” but it’s a far cry from “The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark.”

On its own level, “Night Crossing” is a tight well-acted, nicely directed piece of entertainment that proves that gore and sex are not needed to make a film realistic, exciting and enormously appealing.

Based on the true story just a few years ago of two East German families who escaped to West Germany in a makeshift hot air balloon, the film realistically portrays the plight of the East Germans, the repression under which they live and the strong desire for freedom they possess.


John Hurt, left, Jane Alexander, Doug McKeon, 'Night Crossing' (1982)

John Hurt, who was “The Elephant Man” and the astronaut out of whose stomach the “Alien” burst, is excellent in a low-key portrayal of a man filled with frustrations and a desire to see his family living a full life; as his wife, Jane Alexander, best known as Dustin Hoffman’s neighbor in “Kramer vs. Kramer” and as Eleanor Roosevelt in the TV movies about “Eleanor and Franklin,” is also very good, lending a touch of class to her role.

Beau Bridges and Glynnis O’Connor as the second couple are equally fine, and you’ll recognize Doug McKeon from “On Golden Pond,” though here he plays a very different character – and very well.

In addition to a top-notch cast, Disney has employed Oscar-winning director Delbert Mann to helm the picture and his touch serves to strip away excesses, especially in the second half, and create a thrilling movement of events that show the families making the decision to escape and the devious means necessarily employed to obtain the materials to create the balloon.


The film is not without some problems. In the first half of “Night Crossing,” some of the dialogue is almost unintelligible (it is also little strange to have so many Germans speaking English with British accents), and the first half-hour or so is a bit draggy.

But once that first balloon is nearly complete, the action takes a giant leap forward and it’s almost non-stop suspense from then on.

Particularly involving is the tense situation that develops toward the end when East German police get wind of the balloon attempt and begin efforts to track the families down.

The people at Disney have taken great pains to make it known that “Night Crossing” marks the turnaround of Disney Productions from mindless idiocy to quality films — and I sincerely hope that’s true.