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Mother Night

4.4 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

The third movie from director Keith Gordon ("The Chocolate War", "A Midnight Clear"). The 35-year-old director who started as an actor ("Christine") has turned into one of the more assured directors working today. His films are ambitious in plot and tone. With "Mother Night" he works with his first major star, Nick Nolte. n In 1961, the fictitious Howard W. Campbell Jr., an American by birth, shares the same deserted prison with Adolph Eichmann. As he prepares to stand trial for war crimes, the former playwright scribes his memoirs. Now this is the same Howard W. Campbell Jr. who was a notorious voice on German radio during the war, tearing into American policy and spreading Nazi propaganda. Was he a willful participant or an American spy? Campbell, who romanticizes at the drop of a hat, tells his story of indifference, morality, and love. His days of notoriety in Berlin give way to anonymity back in the States. He purrs about his true love (Sheryl Lee) and tells truths with his sh

Special Features

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Commentary
  • Conversation with Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and Nick Nolte

Product Details

  • Actors: Nick Nolte, Sheryl Lee, Alan Arkin, Bernard Behrens, Anna Berger
  • Directors: Keith Gordon
  • Writers: Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Robert B. Weide
  • Producers: Keith Gordon, Josette Perrotta, Leon Dudevoir, Linda Reisman, Mark Ordesky
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, Letterboxed, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
    Restricted
  • Studio: New Line Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: August 22, 2000
  • Run Time: 114 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00004RFAJ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,265 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Mother Night" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on July 30, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
So far there have been three movies made from Kurt Vonnegut works. "Slaughtehouse Five", "Mother Night", and "Harrison Burgeron." "Harrison Burgeron" was really an amalgam of numerous Vonnegut themes and ideas, but based on the very short story of the same name. "Slaughterhouse Five" required that you read the book to get a full appreciation of the story in the film. "Mother Night" followed the book by the same title with precision, clarity and intensity.
Wonderfully cast and acted, this is a dark tale of cause and effect on people's lives. To paraphrase the moral of the book "be careful what you pretend to be."
Nolte is perfect as the lead with surprising and excellent roles by Arkin, Sheryl Lee, and John Goodman. If you are a Vonnegut fan you will not be disappointed with this interpretation of his book.
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Format: VHS Tape
Throughout his acting career, Nick Nolte has never particularly inspired my admiration. Until MOTHER NIGHT, that is.
In a film adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's novel of the same title, Howard Campbell is an American playwright who grows to manhood in Germany before World War II. He marries Helga, a German actress. During the war, he elects to broadcast anti-Semitic speeches for the Reich Propaganda Ministry. Unknown to his Nazi bosses, he was recruited as an agent by the U.S. Defense Department shortly before the outbreak of the conflict, and Howard's radio sermons pass along coded messages to the Allies. Only three other Americans know of his role: his mysterious recruiter Frank (John Goodman), FDR, and the head of the OSS. Frank tells Campbell that the American government will eternally disavow his heroic actions as the Soviets would twist the story into some sort of anticommunist German-American plot.
By the war's end, Helga is dead. (Or is she?) Campbell is captured by the U.S. Third Army, but then released, apparently on the intercession of Frank, who also manages to spirit him to New York to restart his life. After 15 years living there unnoticed, Howard's role as Hitler's tame American is revealed to the public by an admiring neo-Nazi organization. Both the Israelis and Soviets clamor for his repatriation to stand trial.
MOTHER NIGHT plays more like a live stage production. It begins with Campbell being escorted to an Israeli prison to the song of Bing Crosby's "White Christmas". The film is a series of long flashbacks. At one point, Howard observes in a voice-over to the viewer that one must be careful what one pretends to be for that is what one truly becomes.
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Format: DVD
This is the best adaptation of a Vonnegut novel to film yet. I would even say that the movie had more of an impact on me than the book.
Howard Campbell, Jr., "The Last Free American," is an allied spy who broadcasts Nazi propaganda from Berlin during WWII, but his copy has been marked up by Allied intelligence in such a way that coughs, pauses, emphasis in his delivery are sending out intelligence to the west. The question is should he be condemned for who he is pretending to be and for the overt message of hate that he sends out on the airwave; or should he be absolved because his covert (unconscious) communication is providing vital information to the Allies and thereby freeing concentration camp prisoners and defeating the Nazis?
Campbell is a character who really doesn't know what he's saying. He spews hate and believes he is sending out useful hidden information, but he can't be sure. He doesn't believe in the propaganda -- it's a useful cover for speaking the deeper truths in a society that will only hear what it can hear. Ironies and ambiguities compound on one another until Campbell loses sight of who he is or where he belongs or where he can go. He comes to a dead stop. He has no reason to move in any direction.
Vonnegut is a moral writer -- funny, but moral. There is a small bit of humor here, e.g. an African-American Nazi! Irony taken to absurdity. And as a GE-brat myself, I can always count on Vonnegut to work GE (Schenectady in particular -- his old employer)into the storyline somewhere.
The moral of this story seems to be two: "You must be careful what you pretend to be, because in the end, you are who you pretend to be." On this basis, Campbell would be condemned. And so he is.
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it's a well established fact that practicioners of comedy are more likely to be capable of the transition to drama than those of drama are to humor. for my money it's not often worth it, because the comedic gifts being suppressed tend to be more unique, but that's hardly a hard-and-fast rule. Kurt Vonnegut, first instance, made his most perceptible mark as a social satarist, but he turned out to have at least one quite rivetting thriller in him. (the title MOTHER NIGHT, taken from FAUST by Wolfgang Goethe, doesn't have a great deal to do with this story, but it's still a cool title, so so what if he couldn't think of a more relevant one?)
this is the story of one Howard W. Campbell, Jr., an American playwright living in Berlin just as the Nazi menace was beginning to build up steam. inspired no doubt by the odious radio progagandist known as "Lord Haw-Haw," Campbell finds himself with a weekly radio series where he spouts Nazi rhetoric. only, it's been set up for him by the Allied Forces, and what he's actually doing is sending information to the agents of democracy, through a code of inflections, throat clearing, that sort of thing. only a few people are in on this - even Campbell never knows for sure just what vital data he is transmitting - so the world at large comes to know him as a tyrant, a champion of evil.
the story cheifly concerns the aftermath. in the early '60s, years after his heyday as a despot, Campbell falls in with sincere white supremecists, gets caught up in their schemes, and finds himself in Israel to stand trial for his "war crimes." because security dictated his true activities be hush-hush, only a few ever really know what he was doing, and there is therefore no one to come to his defense now.
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