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Stalag 17 (1953)

Cast: William Holden, William Holden, Don Taylor, more...
Director: Billy Wilder, Billy Wilder
    see all cast/crew...
Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Paramount
Genre: Classics, War
Running Time: 120 min.
Languages: English
    see additional details...

This title is currently out of print.

Recently Rented By LStokes

The scene is a German POW camp, sometime during the mid-1940s. Stalag 17, exclusively populated by American sergeants, is overseen by sadistic commandant Oberst Von Schernbach (Otto Preminger) and the deceptively avuncular sergeant Schultz (Sig Ruman). The inmates spend their waking hours circumventing the boredom of prison life; at night, they attempt to arrange escapes. When two of the escapees, Johnson and Manfredi, are shot down like dogs by the Nazi guards, Stalag 17's resident wiseguy Sefton (William Holden) callously collects the bets he'd placed concerning the fugitives' success. No doubt about it: there's a security leak in the barracks, and everybody suspects the enterprising Sefton -- who manages to obtain all the creature comforts he wants -- of being a Nazi infiltrator. Things get particularly dicey when Lt. Dunbar (Don Taylor), temporarily billetted in Stalag 17 before being transferred to an officer's camp, tells his new bunkmates that he was responsible for the destruction of a German ammunition train. Sure enough, this information is leaked to the Commandant, and Dunbar is subjected to a brutal interrogation. Certain by now that Sefton is the "mole", the other inmates beat him to a pulp. But Sefton soon learns who the real spy is, and reveals that information on the night of Dunbar's planned escape. Despite the seriousness of the situation, Stalag 17 is as much comedy as wartime melodrama, with most of the laughs provided by Robert Strauss as the Betty Grable-obsessed "Animal" and Harvey Lembeck as Stosh's best buddy Harry. Other standouts in the all-male cast include Richard Erdman as prisoner spokesman Hoffy, Neville Brand as the scruffy Duke, Peter Graves as blonde-haired, blue-eyed "all American boy" Price, Gil Stratton as Sefton's sidekick Cookie (who also narrates the film) and Robinson Stone as the catatonic, shell-shocked Joey. Writer/producer/director Billy Wilder and coscenarist Edmund Blum remained faithful to the plot and mood the Donald Bevan/Edmund Trzcinski stage play Stalag 17, while changing virtually every line of dialogue-all to the better, as it turned out (Trzcinski, who like Bevan based the play on his own experiences as a POW, appears in the film as the ingenuous prisoner who "really believes" his wife's story about the baby abandoned on her doorstep). William Holden won an Academy Award for his hard-bitten portrayal of Sefton, which despite a hokey "I'm really a swell guy after all" gesture near the end of the film still retains its bite today. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Source Material for Chicken Run, Animaniacs, et. al. by carolynsearches October 3, 2003 - 9:57 PM PDT
2 out of 4 members found this review helpful
Ok, I only saw a few scenes on cable yesterday. And I was intrigued enough to rent the film (yes, its in my queue). But, I have to say, "where have you been?!?" to the prior reviewer. Of course, Hogan's Heroes was based upon Stalag 17 -- everyone knows that (apparently NOT everyone). This is a classic. And from what little I've seen of it so far, for good reason. Dude (or dudette), there's a reason why you study great literature (and even sucky literature) in high school, so you're prepped to understand the references of all the post modern stuff. Same goes for film. Do your homework!!!

I'll post an updated review after I've seen it in its entirity.

Sorry Surprise by mcputnam August 2, 2003 - 6:30 AM PDT
1 out of 7 members found this review helpful
I don't get it. I've waited to see this film for a long time, I love Billy Wilder, Holden won an Oscar, Otto Preminger has an acting role as the Commandant. But anyone who has seen the '60s TV series Hogan's Heros will immediately recognize that it was "inspired" by this film, all the silly wrangling over the Geneva Convention, even Sargent Shultz appears, same name, same doofus character. Get it? This is NOT a serious film about Nazi POW camps.

I have to admit I didn't even watch the whole film, so maybe I should't be writing this, but let me tell you why. In the first 1/2 hour or so two prisoners attempt to escape one night and are killed. But that doesn't stop everyone in the barracks from having a grand old time yukkin' it up with Sargent Shultz as he comes in for roll call the next morning. What a laugh-riot that ol' war was, eh?

I found the film, what I watched of it anyway, trite, phoney, and the characters ridiculously caricatured. Maybe at that time the country needed to laugh at the war, at Nazis, and their POW camps, but it just doesn't ring true today.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.59)
80 Votes
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