Stalag 17 – 1955 – English – Comedy – Drama – War
Stalag 17 – 1955 – English
Film directed in 1955 by Billy Wilder, and starring William Holden, Don Taylor, Otto Preminger, Robert Strauss, Harvey Lembeck, Richard Erdman, Peter Graves, Neville Brand, Sig Ruman, Michael Moore, Peter Baldwin, Robinson Stone, Robert Shawley, William Pierson, Gil Stratton, Jay Lawrence, Erwin Kalser, Edmund Trzcinski…
Synopsis: During World War II, in a German prison camp, about 600 American sergeants share barrack 17. On Christmas Eve, two of them prepare to escape, but are discovered and executed by German soldiers who were on the prowl. The prisoners begin to suspect that in the barracks there is a traitor who informs the Nazis and they conclude that this traitor is Sergeant Sefton, a rather cynical and phlegmatic man, who lives quite well by exchanging supplies with the German soldiers.
Review: In his lengthy and eventful career, Billy Wilder created many films that have rightly attained classic status, but his WWII prisoner of war comedy-drama Stalag 17 is arguably one of his best. The scripting is a perfect example of how to marry a tight plot with sharp dialogue and great characters, and the acting is flawless on all counts. While William Holden‘s performance as the cynical American sergeant rightly won him an Oscar, it is the comic antics of Robert Strauss and Harvey Lembeck that steal the show. And if there was ever a more entertaining ensemble of previously unseen (and sadly subsequently unheard of) supporting players – with the possible exception of Casablanca – I would love to see it. This film predates the more famous WWII pow film The Great Escape by more than a decade, but had Wilder, Holden and company not caused havoc in Stalag 17, the world would never have seen Steve McQueen play the cooler king with such wry aplomb. Stalag 17 is easily one of the finest films of its time, if not of all time, and I would encourage anyone who has never experienced its unique blend of cynicism, comedy, suspense and drama to check it out at the earliest available opportunity.