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
On the first day of shooting, Billy Wilder made it clear that the script was to be delivered exactly as written with no deviation. He addressed this to the entire cast but with particular focus on William Holden, who wanted lines changed or added to make the character of Sefton more likeable, and Otto Preminger. The latter had a tendency to ham it up and, as a seasoned director himself, was used to calling the shots. See more »
At the very end of the film, as Hoffy blows out the table candle, an overhead stage light can be seen and heard shutting off in the background of the barracks set. See more »
In defense of this great film "Stalag 17", I would like to say a few things. First of all, William Holden's performance in this film gives this film a very big lead against many other films like it. Holden is a very good actor given a very good role here as Sefton, a soldier that uniquely accepts his situation. The other supporting, and even prominent roles are good but seems "intentionally" underdeveloped for the benefit of not complicating viewers with unnecessary information. The story, consisting of a "whodunit" plot, wartime ordeals, and amusing dialogue between the characters is superb for it's time. All in all, watching "Stalag 17" is at least a fine way to spend your time.
I've read many reviews that say that they were disappointed with this film. Some were annoyed because it wasn't as realistically gritty and tense like "Saving Private Ryan". Well, that's the effect of the Hays Offices (censorship officials of American produced movies during the past). I have to say that although it may have lacked the grittiness of Spielberg's film, it still surpasses "Saving Private Ryan" for it's honest approach to it's characters such as the POW that responds to his wife's letter ("I believe it.") with a certain kind of feeling that can truly be described as honest and the German "Wake up caller" Scherbach's constant joking around with POWs while remaining true to his kommandant's wishes. The 'Animal' and Shapiro characters were obviously created for comic relief but it should only be taken as that, comic relief (Hell, everyone's a comedian and at least they tried). Most anybody that was disappointed with this film were probably disappointed for it's strange association with the TV show "Hogan's Heroes". I must say that I don't care much for that certain show but I do like this film.
I really don't think that any film should ever be compared with another film or a TV show (unless it's a spinoff, then they're just asking for it) no matter how related they are. A movie is a movie on it's own and never with the help of another, no matter the similarities. This is a classic film, worthy of it's praise yet unworthy of it's negative critique. Nobody should let personal opinions be considered flaws. Just watch it, when you have the chance, with an open mind.
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