Night Crossing (film)

Night Crossing (film) Peter Strelzyk and Günter Wetzel hope to escape with their families from East Germany to the freedom of the West. Realizing that a balloon might be the answer, Peter and Günter buy materials and begin building one in secret. The first flight, with just Peter’s family—Günter’s wife had convinced him to abandon the project—crashes just short of the border. With the police closing in rapidly, the Strelzyks, once more joined by the Wetzels, make a final attempt to fly to freedom and this time achieve success. Released on February 5, 1982. Directed by Delbert Mann. 107 min. Stars John Hurt (Peter Strelzyk), Jane Alexander (Doris), Glynnis O’Connor (Petra), Doug McKeon (Frank), Beau Bridges (Günter Wetzel), Ian Bannen (Josef), Klaus Löwitsch (Schmalk), Anne Stallybrass (Magda Keller), Kay Walsh (Doris’s mother). Moved by newspaper accounts of the daring escape, Disney executive Ron Miller and producer Tom Leetch contacted European story editor Eva Redfern with instructions to pursue the film rights. Impressed by the Disney television shows that were beamed from West to East Germany, the two couples accepted Disney’s offer. The families flew to California to provide background material with the added inducement of a grand tour of Disneyland. To assure authenticity, the producers decided to film the entire production in West Germany in Landsberg, Muhltal, Harthausen, and Munich. Near the town of Eulenschwang production designer Rolf Zehetbauer and art director Herbert Strabel spent $300,000 to re-create a half-mile section of the border that separated East and West Germany, authentic down to the wire mesh fencing, concrete posts, automated shrapnel guns, leashed guard dogs, and impregnable cast iron barricades. One of the large exhibition halls at the I.B.O. fairgrounds, in Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance, was turned into the world’s largest “green set” for filming scenes under controlled conditions. Within the 5,000-square-yard area, 300 pine trees were transplanted for the forest, and to shut out the light from the glass-walled structure, 6,000 square yards of black plastic covered the walls. The final cost for the set was $150,000. At the Bavaria Film Studio, interior filming was done on four sound stages. Gary Cerveny of Balloon Ventures, Inc. of Glendale, California, made and flew a total of seven hot-air balloons for the production. The balloons were re-created as closely as possible to the original. The only changes were in the material used and certain technical improvements to comply with FAA standards. What made the real-life flight all the more miraculous was that the experts say their balloon shouldn’t have flown at all. With all the proper equipment, sophisticated electronic devices and human expertise, Cerveny had extreme difficulty getting the exact reproductions airborne. Released on video in 1982.