Project 400 In 365 # 4: Stalag 17

In Movie Reviews on October 13, 2011 at 3:59 am

This was a suggestion of my dad the first time I tried to do Project 400 in 365.  He knew I was starting to get into older films at the time, so I got this one and is has been lingering on my shelf since.

I went into this viewing not knowing anything about the movie.  I was expecting a POW camp break out picture, in the vein of The Great Escape or Bridge On The River Kwai (both of which will be reviewed at some point).  It wasn’t until I saw “Written and Directed by Billy Wilder” that I knew I was not going to get what I was expecting.  I am a big fan of Wilder, and have always admired his film making ability.  I consider him to up there with Orson Wells and John Houston as one of the greatest directors in Hollywood history. He has a style of writing and directing that is unique to just himself. And that is exactly what you get here.

Unlike the mentioned escape movies, this film concentrates not on the breaking out of a camp, but instead on the daily lives of the prisoners in the camp.  Yes, there is a thin plot line of an escape at the beginning and towards the end of the film, but mainly what you get as a viewer is study in human behavior.  Wilder is asking a basic question in this movie: what happens when a seed of doubt is planted in the minds of group.  Once that questioned is ask, just sit back and enjoy the masterfulness in which Wilder tells the story.  The director weaves a who-done-it of Agatha Christie like proportions, then, once culprit is revealed, you are led down the path of “what do you do now?”

This would be a hard film for many people today to watch.  There are no grand explosions, really not much “action” at all.  The movie is a study in nuance and subtlety film making at it’s best.  Every character is there for a reason, every action is put onscreen for a purpose, and every line of dialog is delivered to make a point.

On a side note, this is the movie which inspired Hogans Heros.

A very enjoyable 4.5 out of 5 stars.


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