It's a dreary Christmas 1944 for the American POWs in Stalag 17. For 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 the two men, Manfredi and Johnson, walked straight into a trap and were killed. For some in Barracks 4, especially the loud-mouthed Duke, the leaker is obvious: J.J. Sefton, a wheeler-dealer who doesn't hesitate to trade with the guards and who has acquired goods and privileges that no other prisoner seems to have. Sefton denies giving the Germans any information and makes it quite clear that he has no intention of ever trying to escape. He plans to ride out the war in what little comfort he can arrange, but it doesn't extend to spying for the Germans. As tensions mount and a mob mentality takes root, it becomes obvious that Sefton will have to find the real snitch if he is to have any peace and avoid the beatings Duke and ... Written by
William Holden did not like the part of Sefton at all as written in the script, thinking him too selfish. He kept asking Billy Wilder to make Sefton nicer and Wilder refused. Holden actually refused the role but was forced to do it by the studio. See more »
Just before Sefton reveals the spy, he throws an open jackknife onto the table and says, "Here's the knife to do it with. Only make sure you got the right throat." The knife quivers and barely sticks in the table. Shortly after, the knife is stuck firmly in the table, more upright. See more »
Saw it for the first time in 2005- knew nothing about the director or the actors- and I couldn't turn away because I needed to know the answer to the mystery. The acting is superb, the dialogue quick, the plot unexpected. The film seems fresh and subtle compared to Hollywood films of now. Perhaps this is because the special effects are simple; the emphasis is on dialogue. We also watch for clues in the changing surroundings and the characters in the shadows.
I held my breath for the last few minutes. Even after the movie had ended, I wondered "What will happen now? Will the guards burst into the barrack? What will happen the next morning?" The last seconds of the film are peaceful, but the whistling at the end seems too hopeful...surely something will go still wrong!
42 of 58 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?