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The Blockhouse (1973)

R | | Drama, War | January 1974 (USA)
During D-day several people become trapped while hiding in a bunker, when heavy shelling collapses it. They have plenty of food and water so they decide to wait for rescuers. And so they wait year, after year, after year.

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(based on the book "Le Blockhaus" by) (as Jean-Paul Clebert), (created for the screen by) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Rouquet
...
Visconti
...
Grabinski
...
Lund
...
Aufret
...
Kramer
...
Khozek
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Storyline

During D-day several people become trapped while hiding in a bunker, when heavy shelling collapses it. They have plenty of food and water so they decide to wait for rescuers. And so they wait year, after year, after year.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The story of seven years solitary confinement. See more »

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »
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Release Date:

January 1974 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Bunker  »

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Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Trivia

One of the films producers (Edgar Bronfman Jr.) was only 18 years old when the film was released. See more »

Connections

Edited from Wet Asphalt (1958) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Bleak House
29 April 2012 | by (Greenwich, CT United States) – See all my reviews

A film that seems intended to drive its audience to mass suicide, "The Blockhouse" is more likely to inspire tedium and finally relief when it limps to its unsatisfying conclusion.

The film features seven slave laborers in World War II France who find themselves trapped deep in an underground chamber when their German position is bombed and shelled in preparation for D-Day. There is no escape for these men; they must bide their time eating and drinking from the ample provisions left by the German Army, do their best not to get on each other's nerves, and hope for a miracle.

The film stars Peter Sellers, though he is only a first among equals here and certainly not to be watched for his comic prowess. Playing a teacher named Rouquet, he has a light moment trying to teach dominos to the others, but for the most part stares bleakly at the walls as a heavy beard grows on his face. Sellers is completely convincing in his part, but it is less a character than a construct. Rouquet is the voice of hope whose point in the story is being stilled.

The other main character, and the only one that catches your notice, is Jeremy Kemp's Grabinski, a rational man who realizes before anyone else the hopelessness of the situation but who tries to make things bearable for his comrades. His exchanges with Rouquet playing games reflects the hope/no hope dichotomy.

"I think you'll lose," Grabinski tells Roquet during the dominos demonstration.

"How can you possibly tell I'll lose when I'm teaching you this game?" Roquet replies.

"Never mind," Grabinski shrugs.

The whole movie is like that, unconnected vignettes between the trapped men that strive at some greater purpose without advancing anything resembling a plot. Director/co-writer Clive Rees seems to be trying to go for a Pinder or Beckett thing with the sparse dialogue and hopeless situation. But too much bleakness keeps us distant from the characters and their situation.

As calamities pile up, like the suicide of one of the men and the arrival of winter, it's all you can do to register their pain. You don't have any sense of who these people might be, however good a job Kemp, Sellers, and the other actors do. And they do good work all around, including the legendary French singer Charles Aznavour as a tough scrapper named Visconti and Swedish notable Per Oscarsson as the brooding Lund. With their beards and grimy faces, and their believable, seemingly improvised acting, they pull you into their horrible situation easily enough. But the film lets them down in terms of having anything more to say than life is hell.

Don't be fooled by the 90-minute running time: This is a long movie to sit through, tough to follow with choppy editing that seems to kill off one character twice while two others disappear without explanation. Characters say little to one another, and when they do speak it is often pitched so low one can barely hear it. The visual design leans heavily on the dark surroundings to the point where the only print available today screens like an oil spill.

This is a movie I wouldn't watch once if it wasn't for Sellers, and can't recommend even to his fans. If you like bleak movies, you may feel otherwise, but whatever your mindset I doubt you will have any more success figuring out what is happening than I did.


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