Saturday, April 12, 2014

STALAG 17 (1953)

Set in a prisoner-of-war camp in Nazi Germany STALAG 17 tells the story of a group of American soldiers who are constantly working on a way to escape.  The film opens with two soldiers making their way through a tunnel a bunch of the guys have been working on.  They get all the way to the other side of the fence only to find guards waiting on them...guns blazing.  How did the guards find out about the tunnel?  It was top secret.  There's gotta be a rat in the barracks.  But who could it be?  It's probably Sefton (William Holden).  That piece of shit is always making deals with the guards to look the other way on all of his schemes.  Motherfucker has more cigarettes than Philip Morris himself!  And so it begins.  The men turn on Holden, thinking he's to stooge, but he's not.  Now, under constant surveillance and ass-kickings, Holden has to figure out who the rat is himself.

STALAG 17 is nearly a great film.  The thing that holds it back from being a great film is the unneeded comedic elements.  I understand that Billy Wilder always enjoyed mixing genres, but watching this film now the comedic parts are so horribly dated(?) and unfunny that they're almost painful to watch. The tension's going along good when suddenly you got two morons singing, dancing and slapping a guard in the face with a wet paint brush.  I guess audiences liked it though since Robert Struss actually got a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his ridiculous performance!  Holden ended up winning the Oscar for Best Actor, but I think it should have gone to Montgomery Clift for FROM HERE TO ETERNITY instead.

Minus the "funny" parts STALAG 17 is an excellent film.  Strong cast, great looking sets, compelling story with lots of tension.  Definitely worth a watch.