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I'm somewhat biased about this film - which really is a great piece of story
telling - because my Dad was in it! He was doing his National Service at the
time the film was made, and the Army provided squaddies as extras in the
When Von Werra is captured in a boggy patch my Dad is the corporal who provides a spare poncho to keep the German officer warm. He even has a line... "Yes, I've got one Sir." or something to that effect. Last time the film was shown in the U.K. his speech was rather badly edited out, much to the dismay of his loyal following.
I think the film works really well at putting you on the side of the captive, so that even watching from a partisan British perspective it is hard not to want him to succeed in outwitting his gaolers.
The only flaw for me is the slightly romanticised crossing of The St. Lawrence. By this stage the director is going for such a sympathetic depiction of Von Werra that he seems almost childlike. I think Von Werra was a sufficiently capable media manipulator for his version of events to have percolated down into the film. He wanted to be seen as a romantic, chivalrous hero but maybe he was tougher and more ruthless than he would have us believe?
Overall a great story, based on real events and characters, with some wonderful film making. Watch it, and watch out for my Dad!
"The One that got away" is an outstanding World War Two adventure,
based on the legendary exploits of Franz Von Werra - the only Luftwaffe
Officer to escape from Allied captivity.
The film is now considered by many to be something of a minor classic, and it really isn't difficult to see why.
What particularly impressed me, was how Roy Ward Baker managed to create a genuine empathy between Von Werra (brilliantly portrayed here by Hardy Kruger) and the audience without resorting to cliché or racial stereotyping. Accepted, Von Werra may be representing one of the most vile regimes in history but you desperately want him to succeed, and it's real edge of the seat stuff to see if he can pull it off.
Head and shoulders above most other British war movies produced during this era, it just gets better and better every time I see it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was lucky to find a DVD of this film. In my memory the film was excellent and seeing it again after 30 years or so I was not disappointed. As an escape film it works beautifully. Someone tries - and in the end succeeds, as the title suggests - to escape from prison camp. What makes this film special is that it is a German who is portrayed as the hero. As a child it was the first time that I ever saw a war movie with a Good German in it (or at the very least not a bad and/or stupid one). Hardy Krüger was of course brilliant and he later did a similar job in Flight of the Phoenix where he played an arrogant but in the end sympathetic German. And the film does not even make the soldier a secret enemy of the Nazi regime. He is portrayed as a loyal German soldier who sees it as his duty to escape and to continue fighting the allies. For me to see that English film makers where able to make a film like this made me very optimistic. They avoid using clichés. And funny enough, they confirm the cliché about the English, namely that they are fair and good sportsmen, because that's what we have here. A game where the object is to escape from prison. A German wins and this is what we see. Thank you.
26. THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY (war, 1958) During air raids on Britain
during WW2 German Lt. Von Warren's (Hardy Kruger) plane is shot down.
He's captured and made a P.O.W. He repeatedly tries to escape but to no
avail. Undaunted in his efforts he finally succeeds but has to survive
the long and dangerous trek back to Germany.
Critique: Although the title is a bit of a giveaway, this is one of the most intriguing of war films, a substitute to the countless Americanized versions of P.O.Ws. The picture is perfectly paced adding to the excitement and suspense. Based on a true story of the only German to escape from an allied camp, it has beautiful crisp black and white photography. What makes it a standout in film history though is the fact that a German soldier is made the hero here.
Actor Hardy Krugers' portrayal is an unusual mix of boyish charm, and cockiness. The film is virtually flawless except for the screenwriter's depiction of Von Warren. They make him so much likable and appealing (funnier) than the Brits that one walks out rooting for him. I mean isn't he the enemy? One of Hitler's tools of war?
Furthermore, it's disturbing to learn that Von Warren returns home but goes back to the front and dies fighting the Allies. This little known film is hard to get on video (though I've seen a re-released copy), so your best shot is to catch it on TV.
QUOTE: Von Warren: "It's the duty of an officer to try and escape."
I occasionally found this movie in a DVD-sold-out for just 1,99 Euro -
not a big risk to buy it, I thought. The movie is more or less unknown
in Germany. Used to the British/American stereotype "The Ugly
Nazi-Kraut"-productions of that area I was surprised to watch an movie
which tells its story in a "neutral", adventurous and partly
The film makes a difference between "Nazi" and "German soldier" (that is something many people from Britain or the US doesn't realise until today) - but of course one should not forget that many German soldiers were Nazis indeed. On the other hand, have all allied soldiers been "democratic heroes", fighters against racism or defenders of the Genevea Convention? Unfortunaltey not.
Other commentators have pointed out the pros and cons of the story so I'd like to write something more on the main actor Hardy Krüger and why he was the - so to say - ideal cast for the role of OLt. Fritz von Werra. Krüger himself belongs to a generation of "normal people" which more or less automatically became involved in the NS-system.
Hardy Krüger, born in Berlin 1928 (he is not Dutch!) grew up in Nazi-Germany. He seemed to be a typical boy of that area and surely he was intelligent and had outstandingly talents. 1941 he entered the Adolf-Hitler-School in Sonthofen, an elite school to be prepared for a leading position in the Nazi-regime.
1943/44, at the age of 15, he got his very first role in the UFA-production "Junge Adler" (Young Eagles), a NS-propaganda movie to inspire the youth for service in the Wehrmacht/Luftwaffe. During the making of this movie he met other UFA-actors who had helped Jews to escape and which opened him the eyes for the real intentions of the Nazi regime.
The end of the war 1945 Hardy Krüger survived as a soldier of the German mechanized infantry division "Brandenburg" and became POW of the Americans.
After the war Krüger started his career as an actor. In many films he represented the type of the charming, boyish and a little bit gruff young man. Later he was one of the very few German actors in the 60/70ies who worked in international productions, eg Un Taxi pour Tobrouk (Taxi to Tobruk with Lino Ventura), Hatari (with John Wayne), Flight of the Phoenix (w. James Steward), The Wild Geese, Barry Lyndon, A Bridge too Far and many more.
After the Cold War broke out, it was necessary to reconcile the newly
democratic, Nazi-free West Germany to its former enemies. Hollywood did
its bit with a sympathetic account of Erwin Rommel in "The Desert Fox".
After "Frieda", the British movie business followed a spate of PoW
escape films with one about a Luftwaffe pilot who had been as hard to
hold as the heroes of "Albert RN" and "The Wooden Horse".
Early in the Second World War most Germans captured while bombing Britain did not try to escape: they thought the Wehrmacht would soon arrive to free them. "Baron" Franz von Werra was an exception. No Nazi, he was a Swiss boy who had been brought up by aristocratic German relations and felt he owed his adopted country his services; he was also a show-off who idolised von Richthofen and relished the glamour of being a flying ace.
Roy Baker (thus billed on screen) said he wished to get away from "beer-swilling krauts or homosexual Prussians". He saw von Werra as a maverick, and shot him moving from right to left across the screen whenever possible because typically film characters move in the other direction.
The film is pretty faithful to his story, as was established years later by a documentary called "Von Werra" (Werner Schweizer, 2002) which his impersonator, Hardy Kruger, presented. Kruger's own past was more Nazi than Franz's: he was at Sonthofen, the Party's "order castle" school for the future elite, and his blond good looks are said to have been admired by Dr Goebbels, fuhrer of the German film business.
Pitted against a string of barely differentiated British officer-class character actors, Kruger has a whale of a time in what is virtually a one-man show. It lets him display charm, cunning and endurance in buckets. First he outwits his interrogators, then he twice goes on the run in England (the second time almost taking off in a stolen Hurricane) and finally he flees from a Canadian train in below-zero temperatures. He zigzags 30 miles to the St Lawrence River and paddles through floes in pitch darkness into the neutral USA, arriving with badly frostbitten ears.
Concentrating on his time in captivity, the script neither pleads for sympathy for an enemy nor arraigns him, It does not give us any background on the man, and his second epic escape-- from the US extradition authorities, via Central and South America, the Atlantic and Italy back to the Reich-- is not covered either. True to his gentlemanly self-image, von Werra used his brief fame to compare conditions for the British in German camps unfavourably with those he had experienced-- even the primitive Grizedale Hall-- and got them improved. (The Canadian camp he avoided was luxurious.) He flew on the Eastern Front in the early days of 'Barbarossa', downing obsolete Soviet aircraft, but disappeared on a routine flight later in 1941.
Baker would soon make 'A Night to Remember', the film all true 'Titanic' buffs prefer to James Cameron's version. Here too the virtues of understatement are evident-- crisp monochrome photography, short scenes which always drive the story on, thrifty but credible art direction. Von Werra's ordeals in the rain-soaked Lake District and the icy Canada/USA border are gruelling, and the doughtiest British spectator will not begrudge him his cheeky postcard after completing his home run. Baker used a documentary cameraman, Eric Cross, and shot the St Lawrence scenes in Sweden.
I first saw this movie as a child in my small local cinema. It had a profound effect on my (and my friends) attitude to the German people, (remember that this was only 12 years after the war) Our whole concept of Germans as 'nasty baddies' was turned on its head. It was probably the first step (I was six years old) in my realisation that things are not black or white. The scene with Hardy Kruger hiding from his pursuers behind a stone wall wearing flying boots is still etched in my mind more than forty years later
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of several classic British war films made during the 1950s,
but which I never had the opportunity to watch before: in retrospect,
it has survived better than some of the others because the central
character is not English and, therefore, such stiff-upper-lip
sentiments are kept largely at bay throughout; the fact that he's
actually a German who's portrayed as a resourceful - even charming -
scoundrel rather than the stereotypical Nazi villain, makes the film
all the more interesting when viewed today!
It details the exciting true-life escape story of ace pilot Franz von Werra (an ideally cast Hardy Kruger in his first international role) from several British prison camps in 1940; ironically, he was lost at sea not long after having reached Germany and resumed his war duty! The plot is basically split into three sections: the first establishes von Werra's defiance of authority and his resolve to break free from confinement - culminating with his initial escape attempt; transferred to a new camp, we immediately see him at work on building a tunnel - this time, he's part of a mass breakout and, by impersonating a Dutch flyer, almost manages to take off with a plane belonging to the R.A.F.!; finally, he leaps off a train transporting him to a Canadian prison and, bravely enduring the freezing weather, makes it across the border by boat into the still neutral U.S.A.
Absorbing and suspenseful, this is an excellent example of its type and period, with all the care that professional handling could bestow; above all, the quality of Eric Cross's black-and-white cinematography is most evident during the scenes of hardship in von Werra's various getaways. While this is Hardy Kruger's show all the way, the supporting cast highlights numerous minor staples of British cinema from this era, namely Michael Goodliffe, Alec McCowen, Terence Alexander and John Van Eyssen.
Ultimately, the best compliment I can pay to the film is perhaps that it makes for a worthy companion piece to Robert Bresson's inspirational A MAN ESCAPED (1956; one of the greatest of all films) and Andrew L. Stone's very funny THE PASSWORD IS COURAGE (1962) - both also dealing with the story of true-life P.O.W. escapees - although THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY is, in hindsight, neither as introspectively solemn as the former nor as gently humorous as the latter. In any case, I've watched and thoroughly enjoyed a good many contemporaneous British war films (THE CRUEL SEA , THE COLDITZ STORY , THE DAM BUSTERS  and ICE COLD IN ALEX , to name but a few); there are, however, quite a few more I need to catch up with - THE WOODEN HORSE (1950), ALBERT R.N. (1953), DUNKIRK (1958), I WAS MONTY'S DOUBLE (1958), DANGER WITHIN (1959), etc.
Had this film on VHS tape, and it's quality was so-so. Just bought the new MGM DVD of The One That Got Away and it's a great improvement. The opening scene of Von Werra crashing his Me-109 was re-created real well. The side marking are just like in the old war photos. One small blooper on the full size crash mock-up of the Me-109: Von Werra opens the canopy and gets out...on the right side. All Me-109 canopies were hinged on the right side, forcing the pilot to get out on the left side. On a historical note, the British wanted Von Werra back because he knew too much of the British methods of De-briefing German pilots, and that the British had broken the Luftwaffe fighter codes. On returning to Germany, with Von Werra's help, the Luftwaffe changed their codes, and set up and copied the same methods the British used for De-briefing shot down aircrews. A special camp was set up at Oberusel(just outside Frankfurt). All Allied aircrew were first sent there before they went to a air force POW camp.Von Werra died shortly after taking off, and flying over the North Sea. His wingman noted sudden smoke, and the plane went straight into the sea. There was a problem with the engines on the new Me-109G models, and a number of German pilots lost there lives as a result.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
About forty years after The One That Got Away came out, another film
involving the escape of a German national from Allied hands with
another fair haired lead became my favorite film with Brad Pitt. Seven
Years in Tibet was done with a much larger budget, but involves the
same test of human endurance and escape that Hardy Kruger goes through
Probably for the first time in British cinema a German during World War II was made a three dimensional human being. We don't get any hint of Kruger's politics, even so I think it would have been irrelevant to the story.
This incident in fact is a true one, taking place in 1940 during the first days of the Luftwaffe attacks on the United Kingdom. Kruger is determined to get back to the fight at all costs. He proves a charismatic and inspirational leader to his comrades.
Kruger makes two attempts to escape while in British custody, but it's only over in Canada where he's being sent to a prison near Lake Superior that he makes his most daring try. Jumping from a train taking him to internment, he walks across to America.
This is where I can appreciate the film the most. The last twenty minutes of the film are almost without dialog as Kruger is alone. What he does is reach the St. Lawrence River and it being in the middle of winter finds it frozen over. Seeing that he walks over and makes it to upstate New York.
Living as I do on one of the Great Lakes I can appreciate what that entails more than others. I've lived through eleven winters in Buffalo by now and some of them have been pretty bad. Lake Erie does in fact freeze over as does the St. Lawrence. I certainly wouldn't want to try to walk across Lake Erie even if I was a 20 something as Kruger is in The One That Got Away.
No matter what you feel about the politics of World War II, you've got to admire this man's grit and determination. Hardy Kruger's impressive performance puts that over for you.
By all means see this film when TCM has it on again.
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