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In January of 1962, 29 East Berliners escaped to West Berlin via a tunnel they had dug beneath the Berlin Wall, led by Erwin Becker, a chauffeur in the car pool of the East Germany Parliament, who served as technical adviser on this film. The film opens with Karl Schroeder (Don Murray), chauffeur to an East German Major, seeing a friend killed as he tried to drive his truck through the wall, He is persuaded by the friend's sister, Erika Jurgens (Christine Kaufmann), and his own family to engineer an attempt to make an escape to the Western sector of the city by digging a tunnel under the wall which is close to their home. Their efforts to evade the suspicions of the East German police, their fear of betrayal by inquisitive neighbors and the exhaustion of the digging are only a few of the difficulties faced by the group.Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Based on a true story and directed by Robert Siodmak, "Escape from East Berlin" is an uneven film about a real-life military chauffeur living in East Berlin (played by Don Murray) who, with the help of family and friends, digs a tunnel in order to escape to West Berlin.
It's probable that with several story changes, "Berlin Tunnel 21," made in 1981, is based on the same true story. I found that film far more suspenseful. However, since the Siodmak film was made around the time that the wall was erected, it captures the atmosphere better. The film begins with a little bit of history, too, which would be interesting to those new to the material.
It looks as if "Escape from East Berlin" was made on a shoestring budget, as some of it seems rushed, and the subplot of Christine Kaufman, as a young woman who hides in the Schroder household and wants to escape with them, seems to have been dropped. Unless I missed it, there is no follow-up as far as her family.
Don Murray heads a German cast that includes Werner Klemperer, and the film was done on location in Berlin. Murray smartly just hints at an accent. Of course one assumes all of these people are actually speaking German.
Certainly this film captures the claustrophobia of those trapped behind the wall and the poor conditions under which they had to live. Definitely worth seeing, though for a nail-biting version of the same story, check out "Berlin Tunnel 21."
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