The Blockhouse (1973) Poster

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10/10
A rare hidden diamond !
dver1725 October 2001
Clive Rees has made a wonderful "dark" film based on Jean-Paul Clebert's book which describes a WWII story that one can hardly believe, yet true! The film was ahead of its time and the production suffered from financial problems and lack of faith in the film. This caused in cutting down scenes, and finally in never releasing the film, despite the great stars involved in it (Peter Sellers, Jeremy Kemp, Peter Vaughan, Charles Aznavour and others)! Since then, the film has appeared a handful of times in festivals & retrospectives and was released as a VHS in USA (1984). Yet, the VHS version is a vulgarly abridged one where entire scenes are missing... I was happy to help the film be part of a Peter Sellers retrospective in the annual Athens International Film festival (September 2000), held by Sinema magazine. Clive Rees attended the screenings and brought with him the directors' cut version of the film, which runs about 15 more minutes. The result is a totally different film, a poetic creation, a really great drama, with wonderful performances of the participating actors! The audience gave 95,3% positive votes for the film and gave a long, spontaneous applause, which I think was, at last some reward to Clive Rees' unlucky film. If only had the film been released nowadays, I am pretty sure it would have had a completely different chance. Now, at least it deserves a great DVD version and I hope it soon will (but of course it would have to be the director's cut and hopefully a making of documentary). Does anyone listen???
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8/10
Wow! Wow! True story? What a great movie anyway!
kulaboy26 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is an amazing film. Listen for the movie soundtrack... yes, what soundtrack? There is a little music at start and end, and then... the silence becomes the tomb that these men are trapped in. It's based on a book, and I don't know if it's a true story or not, but I'd love to find out. This isn't a flashy movie and it's darkly lit and the sound (on my video anyway) is poor. But wow! Men trapped in a tomb with no hope of escaping for SIX YEARS. What a story. There is enough food, water, liquor and candles to last them for most of the movie.. the only thing is, being trapped near the ocean without any hope of escape, the men face boredom. Interesting relationships bloom and ways of passing the time, such as games, are the men's only escape. When a bicycle is discovered, the men go crazy with delight.

This is a tough film to watch. It's scary to imagine it happening. And there are good, good performances by the crew involved. I saw it because of Peter Sellers- I came away realizing this movie is stolen by the whole cast and I wish it would be seen more and appreciated. This is a film I think Alec Guinness would have appreciated.
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9/10
The Blockhouse-director's cut : FANTASTIC !!!
num-num6 December 2000
Warning: Spoilers
Last September I had the chance in co-organising a retrospective for Peter Sellers for Athens' international film Festival("Sinema" magazine)and amongst the material selected, top of the list to be exact, was "The Blockhouse". Clive Rees, the film's director, flew to Greece to attend the screening and brought with him his own version of the film. Well, anyone who has seen the VHS version that was distributed in the early 80s in the US, should better forget it! The director's cut was fantastic and what seemed "strange" in the other version(where, even a death was missing, along with some of the film's most beautiful scenes), now was complete and absolutely wonderful. The film is a drama, based on a true story of seven men captured in a German blockhouse, where all the exits are destroyed. They find there food, candles and wine and two of them survive until their (accidental)rescue, six years later. All performances are great(Peter Sellers, Charles Aznavour, Jeremy Kemp, Nicholas Jones, Per Oscarrson, Leon Lissek, Peter Vaughan)and Clive Rees has given us a film of strong emotions and unforgettable atmosphere. I strongly hope the film will find its way on DVD (and I hope it is the director's cut that would be chosen)! A great movie! But beware, despite Sellers' involvement in it, the film is not a comedy! It's is a drama... A great one!
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9/10
The great lost performance
num-num12 October 1999
This film could have been a masterpiece as the cast was great and the story was moving.Peter Sellers gives an excellent performance, in one of his most dramatic roles, but the film was hampered by the bad sound (mostly).What's more, its direction didn't help much and it is sad that great performances of most of the actors, remained, for many years,lost and forgotten.

I guess its grade should be 3 stars.
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10/10
Finally Saw It, and it's fantastic!!!
carver7612 February 2003
I consider myself as big a Peter Sellers fan as there is in the world, but this one film had eluded me for years until now...It is one of my favorite of Sellers' performances, and is a very powerful film overall. Highly recommended!
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5/10
Over-rated, gloomy and depressing
LCShackley15 August 2010
All the actors in this film do a fine job. But honestly, I can't see why other reviewers are going ape over Peter Sellers - are they just surprised that he could be serious? The man was a good actor, not just a clown. But in this film, we don't really know his character - he's just one of seven sorry souls trapped underground in a large storeroom after an Allied raid on the camp where they were held prisoner.

The film has an interesting premise, but trying to cram six years of action into 90 minutes is beyond the ability of the director and writers. It becomes very episodic, starting with a decent amount of set-up, followed by what more or less amounts to a series of death scenes. The story is certainly tragic, but it feels like Cliff's Notes on celluloid. I'm going to try to find the book.

This was probably Stanley Myers's easiest film to score, since it only called for an opening and closing bit with only a couple of instruments. The lack of music throughout underscores the claustrophobic atmosphere of the "dungeon." The sound and picture quality of the DVD available from Netflix (in 2010) leave much to be desired. If you enjoy dark, depressing, hopeless stories, this should be in your top ten.
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5/10
Amazing Story, Amazingly Depressing
verbusen30 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I just watched the DVD version of this film which one would hope is the uncut version, but I don't know. This story of 7 men trapped alive and forgotten in a blockhouse during D Day is utterly depressing. It reminded me of men trapped in a submarine and the moments they would endure until their air would run out, except here there is plenty of air (God knows how fresh it would be), and food and water. The movie really glorifies an utterly depressing concept and even so it couldn't raise it to any kind of joyful ending for me as it does not show the eventual liberation of the survivors just a shocking credit saying they were freed after 6 years (and 4 without any light). The movie takes you through only their first year and these guys are using thousands of candles to light a raceway for a bicycle track. It doesn't go far past that point and into the the maddening darkness period. The movie, while it may be a true story, I'm not sure merited making a movie of. I think it was picked more to show what 7 men do when they are alone in the world and less a tale of escape from doom, thus homosexual elements are introduced in the film. It's a world war 2 story told through an artsy prism. I thought after viewing it that it was a very strange subject to have been picked to be filmed and also very, very depressing. 5 stars.
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3/10
Bleak House
Bill Slocum29 April 2012
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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3/10
Terminally depressing, terminally boring ................
merklekranz9 November 2011
The DVD box for "The Blockhouse" says "A true story of perseverance and survival". The same could be said for the audience. The constant darkness, illuminated only by candles, cannot shed enough light on this story of seven men, trapped underground for six years. As entertainment the film is a failure for three reasons. 1. The claustrophobic darkness is depressing. 2. The lack of any background or character development means a "so what" as far as differentiating who we like or dislike. 3. The abominable audio quality of the DVD makes understanding what is being said impossible. What you are left with is a dark, depressing, boring, and unintelligible movie. Not recommended. - MERK
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10/10
The truth is too unbelievable
jebel-318 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
The movie is true, but it is still unbelievable. Not that the portrayals are not to be believed, but just that what befalls the six men in the story is too horrible to imagine. Buried alive for six years, yet not knowing that six years is the duration of time that has passed or will pass before they are discovered. They must measure all by their own hearts, and face the fear. How each man reacts to their entombment, and holds on to sanity is masterfully told.

This is one of the best movies ever made, and should be shown every Memorial Day. The 88 minute masterpiece puts you there on D-Day, and leaves you there while men contemplate the nature and value of life. Those who survived to tell the tale must not be forgotten. As the credits roll, the viewer is reminded that it was a true story. The line between fictional cinema and reality melts away, and the viewer is left stunned by the realization that the story actually happened, and it was not some Stanley Kubrick fantasy.
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10/10
One Great Movie!!! One of Peter Sellers best....
wagbear47 August 2006
Took me 15 years to remember it, buy it, and view it once more. I'd love to see Directors-cut....and Hollywood should Definitely re-release this film as DVD. This IS a very haunting movie....dry dialogue, great performances by all...with words often unspoken. Dark, deep...but true story...Truly-deserves new or re-release. Sellers was brilliant in this movie.....great performance, as so many only regarded him for his comedic charm and abilities. I very HIGHLY recommend this film.

One must go back to War Films in general for a long long time just to discover such a unique film presentation. I consider this to be totally riveting...though my copy was "grainy" and soundtrack was not up to par by my standards. I have an original VHS copy only. BUT, this film shines like a diamond in the rough so to speak. The men portrayed must have had tons of fortitude...or a belief system that belies more than basic survival. Great Flick.
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1/10
Promising story line halts to a crawl
steevetoday12 July 2017
This film had so much promise.To be honest,I had never even heard of it but the story line was so promising. The element of person or persons trapped underground has been told in many films but The Blockhouse(1973),although starting off well enough just halted to a crawl.Peter Sellers is great but this film was so slow and painful to watch.I rated it 1 out of 10 because there wasn't a 0 out of ten rating.Shame,because I normally like films of this kind.
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3/10
A real missed chance
Leofwine_draca7 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
THE BLOCKHOUSE should, by all rights, be a very effective bit of cinema. It tells the true story is seven men trapped in a cellar at the tail-end of WW2 and who end up surviving below ground for the next six years. The story has something of the drama and urgency of the recent Chilean miner saga but this '70s film is anything but interesting. Instead it's overlong and poorly filmed, and suffers from really bad sound quality which sees people either whispering or shouting with nothing in between. Various notable actors are present but there's little characterisation, just people getting drunk and going crazy repetitively. I found it all rather nauseating before long.
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6/10
Some extra information about the true story this film is based on...
Sam20 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Contains spoilers.

Fantastic performances all round, but god, what a depressing movie. For those who get to the end of this film heartened by the strength of human endeavour as two men survive seven years of total isolation including three years of total darkness, please note that on discovery - the shock of the light killed one instantly, and the lone survivor died three days later. Depressing indeed.

For a really interesting perspective on Seller's appearance and performance in such a bleak movie, I'd like to recommend Roger Lewis' verbose yet illuminating biography "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers". By the time you have finished it you're easily persuaded that seven years solitary is far less than Sellers deserved!
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10/10
Peter Sellers' best role.
fishfly14 January 2003
A true story about a group of allied P.O.W.s who become accidentally entombed deep underground in an inescapable concrete bunker. The place is stocked with enough food and candles to last the men for years, if necessary. Charles Aznavour is unforgettable as an Italian chess master slowly driven to quiet desperation. A terrifying psychological drama.
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4/10
Well made, but life is too short...
MartinHafer27 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is well made, but who would want to watch films this dreadfully depressing and dull?! Well, I decided to see it even though I had no idea what the film was about--if I had, I might have skipped it. So why did I choose this film? Well, I really enjoy seeing Peter Sellers' films, though I will admit that his output varied tremendously--with quite a few inexplicable duds buried within some brilliant films. So, the idea that he would choose to be in a film like this didn't surprise me at all--I know that categorizing the projects he chose defies common-sense. He simply did what he wanted to do or what made him money when his cash flow was low.

The film starts off during D-Day. A group of laborers conscripted by the Nazis have taken shelter from the bombings in what turns out to be a German supply depot. Soon after, one of the bombs hits--sealing them in at about 100 feet below ground. To make things worse, the walls are seemingly impregnable. But, on the positive side, there are tons and tons of supplies--candles, foods and wine. And, because air inexplicably makes it inside the shelter (which, oddly, the men really did not investigate further for a very long time), they survive there for years AFTER the war has ended. In fact, almost the entirety of the film consists of watching the men coping with these claustrophobic subterranean conditions...and then, slowly dying off one after another!! Then, they continue in darkness for four more dreadful years--thankfully, though, this part is skipped in the film but explained in a super-depressing epilogue. It's supposed to be a true story about perseverance but the story seems completely made up--and I could find nothing on the internet to verify that this story ever actually occurred. Plus, I don't want to see such a story, thank you very much. It was just dreadful, depressing and awful. Sure, the acting was generally pretty good, but that alone is NOT enough reason to watch this film. Life is too short to watch films like this.

By the way, although I said I saw it because of Sellers, he was NOT the entire film--just one of several characters. Those who praise only his performance seem to be forgetting the work of the rest of these very capable actors.
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10/10
One of the Most Overlooked Great Films
Bunky Maidwallow6 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This is truly one of the most overlooked great films. Peter Sellers gives an outstanding performance of a person dealing with isolation, desperation, death, and lost loved ones. It moved me more than I have ever been moved by a single movie. The trapped men try to make the best of their enforced prison, but they also have to deal with the fact they may never get out.

I loved the way Seller's character towards the end of the film made the best use of the precious remaining lighting. Because they were in a underground bunker, there was no light except what they could burn, and they were eventually running out of things that would burn.

I saw this originally on local cable years ago, and have searched and searched to find a copy to buy or rent to no avail. If you ever have the chance to see this, do not pass it by.
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Before its time and due a DVD release
imdb-355027 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Having been fascinated with the life or Peter Sellers since the late seventies I had been on the look out for this film appearing on TV without luck.Recently I have been lucky enough to obtain a copy of the 1984 USA release video which whilst rather old held out long enough to appreciate that this is one very underrated film. The cast is full of familiar faces but Sellers performance is nothing short of brilliance and you really begin to feel the depth of dispair that the characters (and the actors apparently) must have felt in this true life story.

Imagine spending the last six years of your life underground - Now consider spending four years of those years in total, complete darkness.

Had this film been released now in the 21st Century it would have surely have received the appreciation it truly deserved.
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