1950s Stalag 17 (1953)

Published on June 3rd, 2007 | by Chris

3

Stalag 17 (1953)

Review of: Stalag 17 (1953)

Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On June 3, 2007
Last modified:October 8, 2012

Summary:

once you surrender yourself to the humor, it really is funny. But damn is it uncomfortable. Knowing that somewhere there were guys who actually went through this, and knowing that they weren't laughing one bit.

Stalag 17 (1953)If the environment of Stalag 17 looks vaguely familiar, its because it was the inspiration for the television series "Hogan's Heroes," the irreverent adventures of a group of Allied POW's held by the Germans in World War II.   Based on Billy Wilder's Play of the same name, it gained William Holden an Oscar for his part.

The story goes something like this:  After a pair of would-be escapees are shot, it's deduced that there is a snitch, a "stoolie" in the inmate's midst.  The remainder of the film involves the wrongful accusation and punishment of one inmate, Sefton (William Holden), and more generally the hijinks of the others, most notably the two clowns, "Animal" (Robert Strauss) and Shapiro (Harvey Lembeck.)  Also starring is Otto Preminger as the Camp Commandant, a very young Peter Graves as "Security" Price, and Sig Ruman as the stereotypical "Schuuullllz!!!"

The identity of the "stoolie" is finally revealed, and a swift and just punishment is dealt, as the redeemed Sefton uses the opportunity to escape with the recently arrived pilot, Lt. Dunbar (Don Taylor.)

The film is a strangely funny yet dark and introspective look into the lives of one barracks' inmates.  It's funny in a kind of way where you laugh, and then stop yourself and wonder if you really should be laughing.   "The Great Escape" a few years later would visit this territory again, but it at least provides a bit more serious counterpoint where its needed.  I suppose you could look at it in a "microcosm" sort of way, if you think about it.

Don't get me wrong, once you surrender yourself to the humor, it really is funny.  But damn is it uncomfortable.  Knowing that somewhere there were guys who actually went through this, and knowing that they weren't laughing one bit.  I can't even begin to imagine what that situation was *actually* like, and your mind keeps going there.  Not to mention some very, well, awkward moments between Animal and Shapiro....

Honestly I hadn't done my homework going in, and really all I knew was it was about a group of POW's in a Nazi prison camp.  Little did I realize!

Stalag 17 (Special Collector's Edition) Stalag 17 (Special Collector's Edition)
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Description

Two worthy Academy Award® nominees from 1950's Sunset Boulevard – actor William Holden and director Billy Wilder – reteamed three years later for the gripping World War II drama, Stalag 17. The result was another Best Director nomination for Wilder (his fourth), and the elusive Best Actor Oscar® for Holden...

DVD Information

Binding: DVD
Aspect Ratio:
Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Brand: HOLDEN,WILLIAM
Manufacturer: Paramount
Original Release Date:
Actors:
  • William Holden
  • Don Taylor
  • Otto Preminger
  • Robert Strauss
  • Harvey Lembeck

Reviews

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Average Customer Review

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great movie; a review of the audio commentary on the special collector's disc, June 15, 2014
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This review is from: Stalag 17 (Special Collector's Edition) (DVD)
The audio commentary will only appeal to those who favor the personal commentaries with stories and anecdotes rather than those with film-class type of analysis. Usually, I don't care that much about those personal stories, unless the film is an older one, like this one where most of the participants have died. All of the commentators here are in their 80s, and they have many interesting stories to tell about Billy Wilder, William Holden, and the shooting of the movie. Ideally, Paramount should have gotten Wilder biographer Ed Sikov to do a separate commentary on interpretive aspects of the film itself (Sikov appears in the documentary on the DVD), which would have balanced this mostly anecdotal commentary really well. The actors who participate are the two who played Hoffy (a really humorless role in the film--but intentionally so, as the commentary explains) and Cookie. I thought all in all it brought to life the period of the film. Richard Erdman indicates at one point when some... Read more
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best P.O.W. Movies Ever, January 20, 2016
By 
WATCHER (LOS ANGELES) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stalag 17 (1953) (DVD)
Quite possibly the best Prisoner of War movie ever made, and that includes "the Great Escape", and "Bridge on the River Kwai", which curiously enough also starred William Holden. There is Drama, Comedy, Action, Betrayal and Redemption all in one complete package. Look at the actors closely, many were just getting their start in movies at that time and then went on to major stardom.
If you watch this movie once, you will become hooked on it and get it out every so often to relive the feelings this movie engenders in all of us.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You'll laugh...you'll cry...you'll cheer!, November 21, 2014
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This review is from: Stalag 17 (Special Collector's Edition) (DVD)
Tagline: "Hilarious, heart-tugging! You'll laugh...you'll cry...you'll cheer! William Holden in his great Academy Award role!" This outstanding WW II movie is considered, along with "The Great Escape" and "The Bridge on the River Kwai" (also starring William Holden), among the greatest World War II Prisoner of War films. Holden, who actually turned down this role, but was forced to take it because he was under contract to Paramount, stars as Sgt J.J. Sefton, whose amoral cynicism and gift for the cheap hustle allow him to feather his nest even while a prisoner of war. As the story opens, It is a dreary Christmas 1944 for the American POWs in Stalag 17. The men in Barracks 4, all sergeants, have to deal with a grave problem - there seems to be a security leak. The Germans always seem to be forewarned about escapes and in the most recent attempt, two POWs walked straight into a trap and were killed. For some in Barracks 4, the leaker is obviously Sefton, But is... Read more
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Stalag 17 (1953) Chris

Summary: once you surrender yourself to the humor, it really is funny. But damn is it uncomfortable. Knowing that somewhere there were guys who actually went through this, and knowing that they weren't laughing one bit.

3.5


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About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.



3 Responses to Stalag 17 (1953)

  1. I almost hate to say this, but The Great Escape is actuallly a fun movie.  It’s loosely based on a series of real events from the Paul Brickhill book of the same name.   The story follows a band of Allied POW’s who have a nasty habit of esc

  2. Rescue Dawn is a based on the true story of Navy pilot Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale), a Navy pilot who gets shot down over Laos during the early part of the Vietnam War on his first combat mission.  He’s taken prisoner, and eventually escapes.&nbsp

  3. As is usually the case for a Memorial Day Weekend, several cable/satellite networks will be chock full of classic war movies this coming weekend. Namely Turner Classic Movies, Fox Movie Channel, and AMC. I’m sure there are many more but these are “The B

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