The One That Got Away (1957) Poster

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Westy-410 January 1999
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 search scenes.

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!
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They don't make 'em like this anymore
robert-turner-16 December 2004
"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.
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Cult Movies 26
TYLERdurden748 November 1998
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."
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Good German in English Film
Liedzeit9 February 2005
Warning: 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.
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an excellent accurate film on German Pilot Von Werra
kbrust21 September 2008
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.
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Giving the enemy his due
Oct25 August 2007
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.
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Background info on actor Hardy Krüger
christoph6330 May 2006
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 documentary-like style.

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.
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Grit And Determination
bkoganbing29 May 2008
Warning: 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 here.

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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THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY (Roy Ward Baker, 1957) ***
Bunuel197613 February 2007
Warning: 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 [1953], THE COLDITZ STORY [1954], THE DAM BUSTERS [1954] and ICE COLD IN ALEX [1958], 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.
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I first saw this movie as a child
Id-323 May 2000
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
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Don't let this one get away
JohnSeal29 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
A thoroughly entertaining (and true!) feature about a World War II German prisoner-of-war with a knack for escaping his British captors, The One That Got Away stars Hardy Kruger as Franz von Werra, a Luftwaffe officer shot down during the Battle of Britain. Unwilling to spend the next few years peeling potatoes or cracking rocks, von Werra immediately began plotting his return to Germany, and after a few misfires miraculously pulled off the feat after taking a detour to a remote POW camp in Canada. The film defies convention by actually allowing the Bad Guy to outfox the Good Guys and contrasts neatly with more traditional tales of Stalag-bound heroism such as The Colditz Story (1955) and even The Great Escape (1963). It also offered Kruger the opportunity to deliver the performance of a lifetime, highlighted by the final St. Lawrence Seaway sequence in which he brings a lumbering, Frankenstein's Monster demeanour to his character. Additionally, the film benefits immensely from tremendous location footage shot during the dead of winter, as well as the very wise decision to almost entirely fore go incidental music, which lends the film additional realism and allows the viewer to concentrate on the action at hand without being manipulated by the score. Quite simply, this is an excellent film that will stick with you.
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Solid gold chase movie - where you cheer for a Nazi pilot!
Pedro_H11 March 2004
Warning: Spoilers
A member of the Luftwaffe crashes and is captured in England, but is determined to get away. How can you use the word "spoiler" with a title like this (a reference to the fact that the British only lost one prisoner of war during World War II - why I'll return to), so this a film about "how" rather than "if."

What a solid little film this is: Intriguing, well acted and good down-to-earth action. Star - Hardy Kruger - is not actually German, but Dutch and to make it even more confusing that he claims to be Dutch in the movie proper!

No real fireworks, but this a film that is so well controlled and logical. The mission is simple (in telling not doing), but it is a good ride with plenty of ups and downs along the road. While only shot on a modest budget and in black and white there is enough going on to get you hooked until the end. Entertainment all the way.

One of the reasons that only one prisoner escaped from British prisoner of war camps is the German accent. No matter how much they tried no German can speak British English and the top pilots were treated so well that they didn't really want to go back! I have not only seen the film, but I also read the book which is just as good. Doubt it is still in print though, but worth picking up at your second hand book store.
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Great film! Kruger is brilliant
Morning Star30 August 1999
What a great little film this is, an quite unique. Hardy Kruger is wonderful in this role (even better than he was in Flight of the Phoenix)and the story is unusual and fast paced. The best part is this is a *true* story too so it's very intriguing to know this von Werra guy was really in the German army...he was hardly a conformist like we always think "Nazi" soldiers would be.
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Surprisingly suspenseful escape movie.
rmax30482329 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
POW escape movies form almost a genre of their own and there were quite a few released in the late 1950s and in the 1960s. They mostly dealt with Allied POWs, naturally, and the drama was partly masked by expression of camaraderie and rough humor. This one, in simple black and white, has little of that. It's about Franz von Werra (Hardy Kruger), a German pilot who managed to escape from the grasp of the UK after his BF 109 was shot down in England in 1940.

In his first escape attempt, Kruger simply rolls over a stone wall and hides from his guards during an exercise period. He drives himself to exhaustion and is recaptured, half-dead, during a freezing downpour.

In his second attempt, he tunnels out of a prison camp and makes his way to a British training airfield, posing as a downed Dutch aviator. He bluffs his way into the cockpit of a British Hurricane and is about to take off before being prevented at the last minute at gunpoint.

Kruger is then sent to Canada where he throws himself unobserved out the window of a speeding train into a very effectively portrayed Canadian winter. He manages to make his way to the St. Lawrence River, mostly frozen, steals a boat to cross the open section of the river, and collapses on American soil -- America being a neutral country at the time.

Though the movie is over, Kruger is not yet finished and he crosses the border into Mexico, thence to South America where he finagles his way back to Germany. He crashes into the sea during a patrol and is never seen again.

The role of Franz von Werra stretches Kruger's acting talents to the limits. He must scheme, impersonate others, and suffer. And he does much of it in too obvious a fashion. The most difficult scenes involve his imposture as a Dutch pilot, making up details of his identity and experiences to suit his changing circumstances. He must be happy-go-lucky in a British manner. Tut tut, old boy. Spot of trouble with the old Wellington, don't you know. The British he meets along the way, both civilian and military, mostly buy his story -- but you and I wouldn't.

The most amusing scenes have Kruger demonstrating determination in the face of effusively polite RAF interrogators. The most gripping show Kruger crossing the miles-wide St. Lawrence, half frozen, pushing and pulling his stolen boat up and down heaps of ice, his body threatened with momentary implosion. It's a positive relief when he staggers into Ogdensberg.

The movie has an unexpected tension. Not just because of the story itself but because this is a British movie made only eleven or twelve years after the war, and it has a likable, if still wildly nationalistic, German protagonist. Britain suffered abominably during the war. When this was released, some neighborhoods in the docks were still burned out shells left over from the Blitz, and they'd remain that way for a couple more years. The war cost England a great deal in terms of lives and money, so in a sense this is a courageous movie. Twelve years between lethal enmity and the disinterest on display in this film. Should there be a statute of limitations on international hatreds? It's only a rhetorical question but it's raised by the nature of this film.
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Gordon-112 August 2009
This film is about a German prisoner of war in the World War II, who strives to escape back to Germany.

Despite being made fifty years ago, "The One That Got Away" is very watchable and suspenseful even in modern day standards. The plot is well written, despite giving away what happens in the movie title, it is still thrilling and suspenseful throughout the movie. I admire Franz's determination and courage to escape, and I am surprised by the other prisoners of war's cooperation in his plans even though they are not escaping. Humanity through harsh times is well depicted in here, touching one's soul and inspiring others to treasure life.
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A little "dry" but highly watchable for WWII history lovers
MartinHafer29 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is the true story of the only German POW to successfully escape from British custody during World War II. Since it is a true story and those who made it had a great regard for the facts, it was not only very watchable but compelling because this German actually went through such extreme lengths to escape. During the film, he actually escapes three times. The final time was successful and is amazing when you consider that many men would have died during his insane trek through Canada during the winter!! An amazing story of human endurance and dedication--even if he did fight for the bad guys!!

As a history teacher and lover of old films, this film was a natural choice for me. The story is odd but true and highly watchable--if this is the sort of film you are inclined to watch. Unfortunately, while I liked it and many others will, it's exactly the sort of film I have a hard time believing teens or young adults would generally enjoy. There are no special effect--just some tense moments as you follow the First Lieutennant on his journey to freedom. However, a patient person will be amply rewarded by an excellent and very unusual film and I can't think of another quite like it.
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Well done, straight forward, harrowing story, a bit two-dimensional
secondtake15 July 2012
The One that Got Away (1957)

Not quite documentary in form, this is still a true life story told in a dry and sometimes rather funny British way about the one known P.O.W. who escaped from the British and returned to Germany in WWII. They tell you this in the opening titles, so in a way you know the whole plot.

And this changes the way you look at it all, wondering, okay, now how is he going to escape. And then he does. Yes. But it's how it happens, and the incredible chutzpah and cleverness that let it follow through. It's the kind of part Brad Pitt would play, with a terrible German accent of course, but this one is 1957 and Hardy Kruger, who is German (he's still alive in his 80s), is played with dash and compassion. I liked him despite the ingrained sentiment we have (here in the U.S. at least) that Nazis in the movies are terrible people.

This is Kruger's first significant film role, and he actually served in the German army as a teenager in the war. His character is so likable and cunning, you gradually come to admire and almost root for him, even though the British and later the Canadians are all doing a pretty decent job overall, however lax it might seem to us. This is set in 1940, and the U.S. isn't yet in the war and so represents neutral territory even for a Nazi (always a weird thing to swallow in retrospect) and this plays a role in the latter half the movie.

The drawback of the film is its inevitability. And its linear quality, following the increasingly outrageous and difficult escape. But it's smartly done, with understatement, and if you like the bravery and adventure of a man on his own against the odds, this might just resonate. And of course WWII buffs will get it at least from the periphery. It's got some good glimpses of planes and flying, and a decent sense of life on the ground in this period.
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British film doing what it did best
richard-meredith2711 December 2006
'The One That Got Away' is the story of the only German to escape allied captivity. That much is evident from the title, but the main interest for me is the accurate portrayal of the British interrogation centres for enemy offices in, and around, London. Even in the 1950's when this film was made, much of this side of wartime intelligence work was concealed.

I like the film- but I admit I always enjoy POW films- but I question the way we are manipulated to think of Von Werra as 'a good German'. It was necessary as we were rehabilitating West Germnay into a democratic Europe and NATO at the time the film was released, however, the the scriptwriter has erased most references to Nazi Germany, which obviously helped form the central character's personality and belief system. To say that Von Werra believed in nothing but himself is a cop-out.

And of course, as a historian, I suspect the whole premise of 'The One...' surely others escaped, especially from temporary 'cages' in battle zones?
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First movie where you are rooting for the enemy!
cynthiazimmerman26 August 2013
This movie is brilliantly done,providing a high level of intensity, drama and even comedy not equaled in most movies made today. What makes this movie so appealing is the fact that it is a true story. Though realizing that the events were dramatized for effect, the viewer doesn't care. It is entertaining and provides a viewpoint that we don't often see, from the side of the enemy. We WANT him to succeed! Though doing so would ultimately cause more ally deaths. As humans we cheer for the human spirit, for creativity and improvisation under pressure. This movie has it all. I wish they would remake it for the younger crowd as this is a great historical account as well.
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" The surest way to spot a hero is to trace his exploits "
thinker16916 August 2013
Kendal Burt based his exciting action novel " The One That Got Away " on the real-life exploits of German Hero Franz Von Werra. Roy Ward Baker directs (Hardy Krüger) to a the role of a life time. Although many other British actors passed on the chance, they did so to their regret. Having acted on other top tier movies, Kruger displays the rugged, top notch acting ability which has garnered him a great deal of fulsome praise and awards from Hollywood's elite. This story is based on a true life story tells of Franz Werra a German fighter pilot who was shot down by the English and soon finds himself in a British Prisoner of War camp. However, with sheer skill, guts and dogged determination he takes the English to task and escapes. Despite the enormous physical challenges, Werra proves his metal and wins the admiration of both his jailers and the audiences. Hardy offer a sterling performance and one which marks this movie for greatness and a sure bet to win him a nomination to become a true Classic. Excellent fare for the collector. ****
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Fine film-making and a great performance lift this to another level
intelearts7 August 2009
The film I would compare this to is The Colditz Story - like Colditz here we have real film-making.

Excellent performances all round - Hardy Kruger gives an outstanding performance as the boyishly confident von Werra - and the film is more than capably directed by Roy Ward Baker, who was an assistant director for Hitchcock and directed Marilyn Monroe in Don't Bother to Knock, and has an obvious eye for how to tell a good story.

The final 30 minutes are simply brilliant - if you haven't seen this (And even if you haven't seen it for a while) I would definitely recommend it - a human tale about effort and there are some classic stiff upper lip moments - all in all an excellent example of 50s movie making.

Highly recommended.
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A fine WWII prisoner-of-war escape film...even if we're rooting for the German this time
Terrell-429 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of the better WWII movies about an escape from a prisoner-of-war camp. The story is taut and suspenseful. The odds against success are high but we wind up rooting for the man anyway. The guy is handsome, competent, resourceful and self-confident to the point of smugness. No, the guy isn't played by Steve McQueen. There is no ball-bouncing in a prison cell. The man is Oberleutnant Franz von Werra, played by the German actor Hardy Kruger. Von Werra's Messerschmitt is shot down over England on September 5, 1940. He is captured, interrogated and sent to a prisoner of war camp for officers. He turned out to be the only German captured on British soil who ever escaped and made it back to Germany.

Von Werra turns out to be a committed German officer, determined to escape, and with enough drive, ingenuity and luck to escape from British camps three times. The first time sees him staggering for five days through mud and freezing rain to try to reach a British port and a neutral ship. When he's finally recaptured he's half dead. The British send him to a much tougher camp in the north. This time he organizes a tunnel dig, figures out how to make fake identity discs and how to convert rag-tag clothing into something passably civilian. On this break von Werra manages to talk himself onto a RAF base posing as a Dutch pilot. He's captured while seated in the cockpit of a Hurricane trying to get it started. He planned to fly back to Germany. Now the British ship him off to a prisoner-of-war camp in Canada. They figure that'll take the starch out of his determination to return to Germany. They didn't figure that von Werra would realize the significance of the United States being a neutral country and how close the train taking him to the camp would be to the Saint Lawrence River border. Sure enough, in the dead cold of a Canadian winter (January, 1941), he escapes from the train, works his way through the snow and freezing drizzle to the mostly frozen river. He finds a boat and finally is picked up on the American side. Our movie ends here, with a big smile on von Werra's frozen face and mumbled "thank yous" to the American border guard who found him.

Through all of this the escapes are carefully shown with a lot of dramatic tension. You can't help but wind up hoping von Werra's persistence will pay off. Knowing he's an enthusiastic German pilot, a fighter ace, who is eager to get back to the battles takes a little of the edge off, but still...

The One That Got Away is filmed in black and white. There are no sweeping, beautiful shots of the countryside. We're talking late fall and winter in Britain and Canada. It's cold and grey. If it's not snowing, it's raining. If it's not raining, it's drizzling. If it's not drizzling it's still so cold you'll want a fire going during the day. The acting is as cool and competent as the movie.

And what about von Werra after he made it to America? The Canadians tried to get him back. The Americans wanted to send him back. While everyone was arguing his status, von Werra slipped across the U. S. border into Mexico, then made his way back to Germany by way of Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Spain. He arrived in Berlin on April 18, 1941. He was assigned to fly on the Eastern front, became an ace again, then was sent with his unit to the Netherlands for rest and refitting. On October 21, 1941, his plane malfunctioned during a training flight and went down in the sea. His body was never recovered. Franz von Werra's luck had finally run out.
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Best WW2 Escape Film Ever Made - The One That Got Away
arthur_tafero30 August 2018
I enjoyed the Great Escape, and several other WW 2 escape films, with Schindler's List being among the best. However, for a pure WW2 escape film, The One That Got Away is the best shot for shot film ever made in that genre. Hardy Kruger gives a charming performance as an iron-willed young man bent on escape at any cost. His story is almost unbelievable, if it hadnt been thoroughly documented. If you WIKI Von Werra, you will get his real life exploits, which did not end with this film. He was truly a German ace, with 27 confirmed kills. And his premature demise at 27 in 1941 from a plane that had engine failure was only a rumor; his body was never found. There are those that think he took a rubber raft to land, and had planned his own escape from the German Air Force. A man with his DNA was reported to have lived to 94 and died in 2008 in the Netherlands. This film covers his escape attempts, but only the early ones; we do not see his escape to Mexico, and then to South America, and then to Spain, before getting back to Germany and getting a medal from Adolph Hitler. To say the least, this man led an unusual life. Highly recommended.
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A rather mediocre and pedestrian World War II film
GusF16 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Based on the 1956 book of the same name by Kendal Burt and James Leasor, this is a rather mediocre and pedestrian World War II film. It tells the story of Oberleutnant Franz von Werra, a Luftwaffe pilot who was shot down during the Battle of Britain and secured himself a place in history by becoming the only German POW captured by the British who escaped to Germany. After his first three escapes failed, he was sent to Canada and from there managed to cross the American border before making his way to Mexico. He eventually returned to his native country in April 1941 but did not live to see the end of the war or even the year as he was killed in a plane crash the following October. Von Werra's escape is a great story with which I was somewhat familiar before watching the film. However, the script by Howard Clewes does not do it justice even though I think that it is generally historically accurate. The various escape attempts should be very exciting but they aren't, in large part because the script is not very well structured. Roy Ward Baker is a very talented director and does the best that it can with the material but it's not his best work, I'm afraid.

The film stars Hardy Krüger in a great performance as the supremely self-confident von Werra. He brings a great deal of intelligence and charisma to the role but von Werra comes across as rather two- dimensional. He doesn't have much of a personality beyond being clever and self-confident. The only things that we learn about his personal life is that he owns a lion cub named Simba and he seemingly has a girlfriend or fiancée since he carries a photograph of a young women with him. This is nevertheless the closest thing that anyone gets to character development in the film. Otherwise, I would think that Clewes was worried about presenting a German pilot in too positive a light a mere 12 years after the war ended. There is certainly a sense of mutual respect between von Werra and some of the British officers but this is a something that I have seen done much more effectively in other films.

Krüger himself could probably relate to von Werra quite a bit. In December 1944, he was drafted into the Wehrmacht at the age of 16 before being drafted into the 38th SS Division Nibelungen the following March. He was captured by the American forces at the end of the war and made three escape attempts himself. On the last occasion, his efforts met with success. However, Krüger always hated the Nazis. During the filming of "A Bridge Too Far", he wore a top coat over his SS costume between takes so as not to remind himself of either his childhood or his experiences in the war. As such, I imagine that it was a source of frustration to him that he was typically cast as Nazis in the English speaking film world. The fact that he was tall and handsome with blond hair and blue eyes was perhaps more of a hindrance rather than a help in this respect.

The film is not without its problems but it has a very good supporting cast (in roles of varying size) including Michael Goodliffe, Colin Gordon, Jack Gwillim, the future Labour MP Andrew Faulds, Colin Gordon, Alec McCowen, Terence Alexander, John Van Eyssen, Glyn Houston, Stratford Johns, Cyril Chamberlain and Hammer stalwart Michael Ripper.

Overall, this is by no means a bad film but it is a pretty forgettable and disappointing one. Krüger's performance is certainly the best thing about it.
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Hugely enjoyable POW movie
MOscarbradley22 March 2016
Hardy Kruger is excellent as Lieutenant Franz Von Werra, the only German POW to escape and make his way back to Germany in Roy Ward Baker's exciting, funny and very enjoyable war film "The One that Got Away". The formula isn't that much different from war movies where it was British POWs who were planning their escape but it was unusual to have a German as the hero particularly as the war had only ended some 12 years before. Baker, who the following year, gave us the superb "A Night to Remember" about the sinking of the Titanic, handles the material beautifully, (you really want Kruger to make it), while the splendidly crisp black and white cinematography is courtesy of Eric Cross.
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