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Black comedy and suspenseful action inside a German POW camp during World War II--a setting that was later borrowed for the TV sitcom Hogan's Heroes. The great director Billy Wilder adapted the hit stage play, applying his own wicked sense of humor to the apparently bleak subject matter. William Holden plays an antisocial grouse amid a gang of wisecracking though indomitable American prisoners. Because of his bitter cynicism, Holden is suspected by the others of being an informer to the Germans, an accusation he must deal with in his own crafty way. Holden, who had delivered a brilliant performance for Wilder in Sunset Boulevard, won the 1953 Best Actor Oscar for Stalag 17. Very much his equal, however, is Otto Preminger, an accomplished director himself, who plays the strict, sneering camp commandant. --Robert Horton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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As the opening voiceover says (and I'm paraphrasing), there have been a lot of war movies about submarines, flying leathernecks, tank commandos, etc. but none about the P.O.W. camps. Leave it to the late great Billy Wilder to rectify that. Certainly there's no glory of war here, or at least not the kind we're accustomed to. Wilder creates an insular world of desperate and downtrodden men thrown together in confinement and heaps on the stark reality of war's "other side".
Holden is the barracks' con man/horse trader and, thanks to the already poor relationship with his fellows, the immediate suspect when they determine someone on the inside is spying on them for the Germans. It's a testament to how well the film has held up over the years that even after seeing it long ago (and thus knowing who the spy is) that I was still riveted in anticipation of how he would be found out.
The Germans are a combination of menace and comedy, the former exemplified by Otto Preminger as the camp commander and the latter by the great character actor Sig Rumann as Sgt. Schulz. This film was the inspiration for Hogan's Heroes, but it's best to separate them in your mind if you can and appreciate the complexities of the situations and the characters.
This was the first of the great prison camp movies to be made in the U.S., and arguably the best ever made. The story revolves around the attempt to discover which soldier in the camp is a stoolie for the Germans. Suspicion falls upon the profoundly and justifiably hated Sgt. Sefton, played by William Holden in a performance that gained him an Oscar (his acceptance speech was the shortest in the history of the awards: "Thank you"). Gradually all the soldiers turn against him, but in the end he is able to prove who the real fink is. Not an especially great plot, but the setting was completely unique at the time, and Wilder does a great job of building the suspense over who the real informant is.
The all-male cast (tough to talk the studio into at the time, since studio heads were convinced you had to have love interests in the film to interest both sexes) is memorable, filled with a bevy of great character performances. A couple of the performers are a bit on the annoying side, especially as they try to strike a note of gaiety despite their confinement, but by and large the cast is rock solid.Read more ›
Academy Award® winner William Holden and OSCAR® winning director Billy Wilder reunite for the gripping World War II drama 'STALAG 17.' William Holden portrays jaded, scheming Sergeant J.J. Sefton, a prisoner at the notorious German prison camp, who spends his days dreaming up rackets and trading with the Germans for special privileges. When two prisoners are killed in an escape attempt, it becomes obvious that there is a spy among the prisoners. Is it Sefton?
FILM FACT: Awards and Nominations: Academy Awards®: Won: Best Actor in a Leading Role for William Holden. Nominated: Best Director for Billy Wilder. Nominated: Best Supporting Actor for Richard Strauss. William Holden's acceptance speech is one of the shortest on record "thank you;" and the TV broadcast had a strict cut-off time which forced Holden's quick remarks. The frustrated Holden personally paid for advertisements in the Hollywood trade publications to thank everyone he wanted to on Oscar night. He also remarked that he felt that either Burt Lancaster or Montgomery Clift should have won the Best Actor Oscar for From Here to Eternity instead of him. The prison camp set was built on the John Show Ranch in Woodland Hills, on the southwestern edge of the San Fernando Valley. The shoot began in February, the rainy season in California, providing plenty of mud for the camp compound. It is now the location of a meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
A good account of POW's during WWII in a german prison camp, their survival and their escapes. William Holden is excellent in
his portrayal of the character who figures... Read more
Good movie and subtitled...been wanting to watch it for a long time. Good buy for fans and collectorsPublished 3 months ago by P.E.B.
William Holden does a pretty good job or portraying a prisoner in a stalag during World War II.
Unlike the TV program "Hogan's Heroes" this movie is more serious yet it... Read more
I received this item in good time and in good condition. If there are any othee items that I need from this person, I would not hesitate to order. Thank youPublished on July 23 2010 by Robert W. Johnson
Studio: Paramount Studio
Video Release Date: August 21, 2001
William Holden ... Sgt. J.J. Sefton
Don Taylor ... Lt. Read more
I can't even think of words to describe how much I love this film; it's one of those rarities that combine suspense with humor in a way that is incredibly rare in films, and when... Read morePublished on May 26 2004 by chrisbean
There was surprisingly enough a lot of humor in the American attitude toward the Nazis and the Germans during World War II. Read morePublished on Feb. 7 2004 by Dennis Littrell
Stalag 17 is an excellent war movie that belongs with The Great Escape and Bridge over the River Kwai as one of the best POW movies ever made. Read morePublished on Jan. 17 2004 by T O'Brien