Stalag 17 [VHS]
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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

Customer Reviews:

  • 3 packs of cigarettes say they never get out of the woods!
    I grew up with this movie & have seen it countless times, so my opinion on it may be a little biased at this point. Nonetheless, there seems to be an issue with this film that can't be easily ignored. It is precisely the same issue that dogged "Hogan's Heroes" (which, along with "Great Escape," was loosely based on this): how can you make fun of war, especially the Nazis? Does making fun of them, or the situation, diminish its historical importance somehow?

    First off, there are a number of well-respected people (philosopher & Holocaust survivor, Vicktor Frankl and even Mel Brooks come to mind) that believe that humor has the power to turn the greatest villians of this world in to the utter fools they are. Not to mention, humor is very theraputic and there are plenty of examples of people utilizing its value through the most horrendeous of circumstances (wartime being one of them). "Hogan's Heroes" was perhaps irresponsible because it didn't really portray the true villiany of the Nazis, and the motivations of the POW escapes are extremely questionable (Hogan would causually leave to attend a Nazi ball with a hot date & inexplicably, willingly return to the camp! What happened to duy?).

    Apart from showcasing perhaps Holden's finest performance, "Stalag 17" IS responsible for its depiction of Nazi terror (at least relative to its own, contained story about a Nazi mole amongst American prisoners). Watching this as a child, I never thought the POWs had it easy. Their living conditions are cramped, dirty, cold, uncomfortable & deprived (remember that this came out not too long after the war ended, and more than one veteran I've had the opportunity to meet was impressed by the accuracy of the conditions, uniforms & lingo. By the way, many of these actors had served themselves, such as the highly decorated Neville Brand). There are no showers, mattresses are stuffed only with straw, and the food is of the watered-down stew and bread variety. I could only hope to have a Harry & the Animal around to help me cope with such a situation!

    The commandant (Preminger) is somewhat cartoony, but never shown as anything but cruel (he leaves the two bodies of escapees laying on display in the mud for all of the soldiers to look at; he continually punishes the men by depriving them of luxaries such as a stove - their only source for heat - in the wintertime; he lies and manipulates Geneva representatives and has escapees killed on sight). For the type of movie this is, these details have always been enough to establish the underlying hardship for me without sacrificing the tone of the plot. This is a truly great film that functions well as a comedy, a mystery-thriller-actioner and drama. Highly recommended!...more info

    Classic 1953 movie gave Holden a well deserved Oscar.As director of all inside "resources" at Stalag 17, Holden controls gambling, cigarettes etc. and isn't the least bit shy about taking advantage of it. Many of his comrades hate him, others think he's a Nazi spy. There's a spy loose inside all right, but it isn't he. After nearly getting killed by his own men,Holden comes upon a secret communications device which exposes the traitor and "turns the tables". As Holden leads an escape party out of camp, the Nazi "plant" is struck down by his own men, at the feet of Preminger, a well cast commandant. Do not consider this film as being a forerunner to the comedic "Hogan's Heroes" of the 1960's, even though many ideas may have been borrowed from it. This is a first rate production from all star director, Wilder, from whom you usually got the best....more info
  • best prisoner of war movie ever made.
    The plot is good and kept me watching every second of the movie. Its a psychological drama and it doesn't get much better then this. ...more info
  • Holden's best
    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 you find it, stays with you. Every performance is a gem.

    One question--is the dvd widescreen, or available that way? Thanks....more info

  • Realistic?
    The basic story line was good. However, I think 2 or 3 of the characters were more suited for the old TV series "Hogan's Heroes". It was hard to believe that POWs would act so silly in a real situation. I suspect that 'The Great Escape' was more accurate in depicting how POWs were treated. ...more info
  • Another great Billy Wilder film. So what else is new?
    Stalag 17 (Billy Wilder, 1953)

    Billy Wilder was a great director no matter what decade you look at, but there's no argument that he was in his directorial prime during the fifties. He started out the decade with three of his greatest films-- universally acclaimed noir masterpiece Sunset Blvd., the underrated (but recently rediscovered) cynical drama Ace in the Hole, and then-- a comedy about a prison camp? Yep. Stalag 17 hit theaters in 1953, nine years after the fictional events of the movie took place. One would think that a little too close to history, but it worked; the film was nominated for three Oscars (William Holden, who won for Best Actor; Best Director; and Robert Strauss, who got robbed for Best Supporting Actor) and was, for its time, a box office smash, clearing ten million in 1950s dinero. (Remember, you could see a double feature for a quarter back then.)

    In case you never saw Hogan's Heroes (which, actually, was not based on the film; Paramount sued the creators of Hogan's for copyright defamation and lost), the plot: a barracks full of sergeants at the German prison camp Stalag 17 have a mole in their midst. Everyone thinks it's Sefton (Holden). Except Sefton, that is, who's trying to figure out who the real mole is. Things get more immediate when a Lieutenant (Don Taylor) is captured and brought in.

    While it's hard to deny that Holden and Strauss, who plays the lovable lug Animal, steal the show, this is a great ensemble cast, including director Otto Preminger as the head of the camp and, among others, the great Neville Brand as one of the other sergeants. (I am rapidly becoming convinced that Neville Brand was America's most underrated actor between WW2 and Vietnam.) There are a few false notes (it's pretty obvious Taylor was mandated by the studio, one of the many clashes between Paramount and Wilder over this film that caused him to head for fairer shores soon after its completion), but not many-- impressive in a movie where so many cast members are given so much screen time. Wilder's comic sense comes through here perhaps better than in any other film he made, ranging from the outlandish to the subtle, touches here and there that add to the film's overall air of affability. It is this air that makes the moments of suspense work as well as they do.

    A thoroughly satisfying movie in every respect. Well worth the time. ****
    ...more info
  • Entertaining story set over sixty years ago, in Germany

    Studio: Paramount Studio
    Video Release Date: August 21, 2001

    William Holden ... Sgt. J.J. Sefton
    Don Taylor ... Lt. James Skylar Dunbar
    Otto Preminger ... Col. von Scherbach
    Robert Strauss ... Stanislas 'Animal' Kasava
    Harvey Lembeck ... Harry 'Sugar Lips' Shapiro
    Richard Erdman ... Hoffy (chief, barracks #4)
    Peter Graves ... Price (security)
    Neville Brand ... Duke
    Sig Ruman ... Sgt. Johann Sebastian Schulz
    Michael Moore ... Manfredi
    Peter Baldwin ... Johnson
    Robinson Stone ... Joey (ocarina player)
    Robert Shawley ... Blondie Peterson
    William Pierson ... Marko the Mailman (At Ease)
    Gil Stratton ... Clarence Harvey 'Cookie' Cook (Narrator)
    Jay Lawrence ... Bagradian (cohort of Dunbar)
    Erwin Kalser ... Geneva man
    Edmund Trzcinski ... Triz' Trzcinski ('I believe it!')
    James Dabney Jr. ... Bit part
    Carl Forcht ... German lieutenant
    Ralph Gaston ... Bit part
    Jerry Gerber ... Bit part
    Ross Gould ... Von Scherbach's orderly
    Russell Grower ... Bit part
    Ross Bagdasarian ... Singing soldier
    Peter Leeds ... Barracks #1 POW getting distillery
    Wesley Ling ... POW
    Harald Maresch ... German lieutenant
    Bill McLean ... POW
    John Mitchum ... POW
    Robin Morse ... POW
    William Mulcahy ... Bit part
    Rodric Beckham ... Bit part
    Richard P. Beedle ... POW
    Joe Ploski ... German guard-volleyball player
    Harry Reardon ... POW
    Paul Salata ... Prisoner with beard
    James R. Scott ... Bit part
    Bill Sheehan ... POW
    A. Gerald Singer ... Steve (the crutch)
    Warren Sortomme ... POW
    Herbert Street ... Bit part
    Anthony M. Taylor ... Bit part
    Bob Templeton ... Prisoner with beard
    John Veitch ... POW
    Alex Wells ... Prisoner with beard
    Max Willenz ... German lieutenant (von Scherbach's aide)
    Mike Bush ... Dancer
    Don Cameron ... Bit part
    Jarvis Caston ... POW
    Tommy Cook ... POW
    Alla Gursky ... Russian woman prisoner
    Svetlana McLe ... Woman POW
    Mara Sondakoff ... Russian woman prisoner
    Audrey Strauss ... Woman POW
    Lyda Vashkulat ... Woman POW
    Janice Carroll ... Russian woman prisoner
    Yvette Eaton ... Russian woman prisoner

    A story set in a German prison camp in WWII. There is a snitch in the barracks: the lowest of the low, who is costing American prisoners their lives, as well as giving away escape plans, short wave radios, and espionage activities. Holden (Sgt. Sefton) is suspected because he is trading with the Germans (and everyone else in sight) to get what comforts are available. But the real traitor is another: a German posing as an American.

    This is a fine film. Not, perhaps, on a par with The Great Escape, but it is nevertheless entertaining and worthy of viewing. Not to be confused with the television series of the same name. The actors are all different. I thought Robert Strauss ("Animal") did a great job of providing laughs.

    Joseph (Joe) Pierre

    author of Handguns and Freedom...their care and maintenance

    and other books

    ...more info

  • A Top Ten All-Time Movie
    I saw the original big-screen version in 1953 when I was steady-dating the girl I would later marry. We would usually take in a movie on Friday night and pick the one we wanted to see from the newspaper listing. At that time theaters showed double features and many movies were still in black and white, with the most scenic and the epic movies in the new Technicolor process. On this particular Friday night there were no outstanding movies being shown (at least none with great reputations), so we picked the double feature with a Technicolor movie and another in black and white, and our main interest was in the Technicolor movie. The black and white feature was Stalag 17, which I have never forgotten even in many of the details, but to this day I cannot remember what the Technicolor movie was (the one that we really went to see). It was, and is, one of the great movies of all time. The DVD version was given to me a year or two ago, and I have enjoyed it all over again.

    Whereas Hogan's Heroes (spawned by Stalag 17) was a spoof, and a very good one at that, Stalag 17 was a serious drama, notwithstanding its lighthearted comedy scenes with "Animal" and "Harry", and even "Sgt. Schultz", which provided comic relief. Sgt. Sefton (William Holden) is the wheeler-dealer in the baracks who has not endeared himself to his fellow POWs, and in fact, has alienated himself from them by taking advantage of them in betting and trading schemes. He's an entrepreneur. As a result, when planned escapes result in disaster because the Germans were tipped off, cynical Sefton is the main suspect in the betrayal. He so angers the other POWs by his insistance that the next escape attempt will fail, and he's willing to take bets on it, that they beat him up. In order to vindicate himself and avoid future beatings, he must find out who the traitor is and how the information is transmitted. During one of the barracks-emptying drills he lags behind and has the opportunity to observe how it is done. The scene where he exposes the modus operandi and the traitor is filled with tension and suspense, because at this point, none of the men trust him, and we anxiously wonder how he will convince them about what he has discovered.

    The story has everything; drama, suspense, anxiety and laughter. For me, it is one of the most memorable movies I have ever seen and ranks with Casablanca as an all time great. ...more info
  • Stalag 17
    Unlike so many war films, Wilder's brilliant "Stalag" favors cynicism and satirical black humor over knee-jerk, good guy-bad guy patriotism. Coming on the heels of his success in Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard," Holden's Oscar-winning performance as a less-than-admirable army grunt helped establish the baseline for his enigmatic macho persona. And Preminger, working on the other side of the camera for once, plays sadistic Von Scherbach to sinister perfection. The barbed inspiration for "Hogan's Heroes," "Stalag 17" is the quintessential prisoner-of-war film, a seamless blending of gallows humor and gripping intrigue....more info
  • Excellent acting
    One of William Holden's best, though he seldom gave a poor performance anyway. The richness of the other actors and excellent camera angles and editing make this an excellent movie to enjoy over and over again. ...more info
  • I Like You Funny Americans
    A sentiment expressed by Feldwebel Schultz played by Sig Ruman. He is one of the many supporting cast members that etches a character that is dark but amusing in this movie. This movies popularity led to the TV series Hogan's Heroes. Of course the series was much lighter than the movie as was the Sgt. Schultz in the series. Even though the movie paints a foreboding picture of German P.O.W. camps, it still shows the enduring American spirit and optimism. Narrated by Cookie played by Gil Stratton, as though he is looking back on the events, it draws us into the story. William Holden as Sgt. Sefton is a cynic that scraps for everything he can lay his hands on. You sense he was put down by the rich and so he is making up for it in the prison camp by wheeling and dealing his way into a cushy position to the envy of his fellow prisoners. When he is accused of being a stoolie and is beaten he sets about to find the real infiltrator. It isn't all dark, one scene has two prisoners, Harry and Animal played by Harvey Lembeck and Robert Strauss, painting a false road line in order to get to the Russian womens bathhouse. If you enjoy WWII movies you will certainly want to see this. If you like P.O.W. movies like "Von Ryan's Express", "Escape from Sorbibor", "The Bridge over the River Kwai" and "The Great Escape" you will love this one....more info
  • Stallag 17
    Im not gonna write the whole plot to the movie in my review, What i will tell you is this movie is timeless, even though it was filmed in 53 it dosn't have that old movie feel to it, you don't have to force your self through it.
    if you like comedy or your a war movie buff, buy this and i promise you will not regret it....more info
  • Another Great Wilder Classic
    It's amazing how many great films Mr. Wilder made along his career. I'm more fond of his true comedies, sad comedies at times, romantic to the max, but his incursions into more serious themes leave also the mark of genius. From the very first scene one has pretty clear the idea that 'this one is art cinema'. His dexterity at finding the right pace and combining the subtle, but precise, ingredients to captivate his audience for 2 hours is such that very few film directors ever had. Such naturality.

    He combines a dramatic setting and subject with cartoonish characters, and Hitchcockian suspense. The music is excellent, the photography is great. And this is one of his minor films. Imagine how great are his other masterpieces!...more info
  • One of the two best WW II Prison camp movies..
    Stalag 17, the inspiration for Hogan's heroes, is a great adaptation of a stage play. Not quite as good as The Great Escape, a definite step up from Von Ryan's Express. The cast is strong, and William Holden is perfect in the role of the cynical sergeant who knows something's amiss in the sergeant's barracks of Stalag 17. I also feel like the movie captures some of the essentially mundane aspects of military life very well. Recommended to any WW II fan....more info
  • Stalag 17
    I loved this movie. I have seen it several times. I had a vcr of it and watched it many times....more info
  • William Holden is the world's most underappreciated actor
    I know he won an Oscar for his performance in this role, but has any great Hollywood star been shunted to the background of history as much as William Holden? The list of films in which the man made his character memorable runs the gamut from Sunset Boulevard to Picnic to The Wild Bunch to Network. And while I don't think it's his overall best role, Stalag 17 will be remembered not just as a great film but the one that got Holden his due.

    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....more info

  • thumbs up
    I love this's humorous, entertaining, dramatic, and a history lesson all in one. Keeps you watching every minute. And William Holden is a bonus in it all. Def. worth the price of the movie and the time invested to watch it--several times!...more info
  • Not Wilder's best by a long shot
    I really love some Wilder films; this ain't one of 'em. Stalag 17 is a comedy-drama that loses comedic impact with each over-played dramatic scene, and loses drama with each dumbass joke. There are indeed many good jokes and dramatic scenes, but the weak ones overwhelmed me after a while as I tired of how two-dimensional and moronic most of the characters are.
    Holden saves the film from pure farce with his measured portrayal of the anti-hero capitalist, but even that felt forced and wooden some of the time, along with a number of ham-handed pro-America "messages".
    I wanted to like this, but it's really just another decent WWII flick, raised only by the higher level of awareness that Wilder naturally brought to everything he did. I'd watch most of his other films before this, and can't imagine wanting to see this twice.
    ...more info
  • Quasi-realism and burlesque: a comedic drama
    There was surprisingly enough a lot of humor in the American attitude toward the Nazis and the Germans during World War II. Life goes on even under the conditions of being prisoners of war, and people need to laugh. In such circumstances, they especially need to laugh. We can see that in some of the songs from that time and in this play from Donald Bevant and Edmund Trzcinski that Billy Wilder made into an unusually good movie. It should be realized that the full extent of the horror that the Nazis had visited upon Europe was not known until after the war was over and we saw the films of the concentration camps.

    William Holden stars as Sgt J.J. Sefton whose amoral cynicism and gift for the cheap hustle allow him to feather his nest even while a prisoner of war. He's the guy who always had a storehouse of cigarettes, booze, silk stockings, candy, etc. under his bunk, the guy who always won at cards, whose proposition bets always gave him the edge. We had a guy like that when I was in the army. We called him "Slick."

    But William Holden's Sefton is more than Slick. He is outrageously cynical and uncommonly brave. He takes chances because he doesn't have the same kind of fear that others have. Most people would feel self-conscious (and nervous) eating a fried egg while everybody else in the barracks had watery-thin potato soup. Others might feel uncomfortable with bribing German guards for bottles of Riesling or tins of sardines. Not Sefton. He flaunts his store of goodies.

    Perhaps that is overdone. Perhaps the real hardships that prisoners went through are glossed over in this comedic drama--a comedy, incidentally, that plays very much like a Broadway musical without the music. Perhaps it is the case that from the distance of 1953 the deprivations of Stalag 17 have faded from memory and it is the "good times" that are recalled.

    At any rate, I think it is this kind of psychology that accounts for the success of this unusual blend of quasi-realism and burlesque. Certainly Stalag 17 has been widely imitated, most familiarly in the TV sit-com "Hogan's Heroes" and to some extent on Rowan and Martin's "Laugh-In." Roberto Benigni's Life Is Beautiful, on the other hand, which also finds humor in the horrific, is of a different genre. Like Ionesco's Rhinoceros, Benigni's movie is from the theater of the absurd, not the Broadway stage.

    Holden won an Oscar for his performance and Robert Strauss who played Animal was nominated in a supporting role. Otto Preminger, the legendary director and producer, was excellent as the two-faced Col Von Scherbach, the ex-calvary commander and camp commandant who can only take a phone call from the high command with his boots on so he can click his heels. I also liked Sig Rumann as Sgt Johann Sebastian Schulz ("always making with the jokes, you Americans") whose previous career as a wrestler in the US accounts for his English-language skills. Gil Stratton, who for years did the sports for CBS Channel 2 in Los Angeles, is interesting as Sefton's sidekick and flunky. Indeed, what is responsible for the success of this movie as much as anything is this fine cast playing well-defined character roles. By the way, Strauss and Harvey Lembeck ("Sugar Lips" Shapiro) were reprising their roles from Broadway.

    Important is the fine plot line in which Sefton is accused of being a spy for the Nazis while the real spy is exposed step by step. At first we don't know who it is, and then we do, and then the prisoners find out.

    This should be compared with Sunset Boulevard (1950). While very different movies they have similar elements which reveal part of the psyche and methods of director Billy Wilder. First there is the anti-hero as the protagonist, in both cases played by William Holden. Then there is a lot of the old Hollywood crowd appearing in both films including directors appearing as actors, Erich von Stroheim (not to mention Cecil B. DeMille in his memorable cameo as himself) in Sunset Boulevard, and Otto Preminger here. Sig Rumann has over a 100 credits going back to at least the early thirties. Finally there is the discordant mix of comedic and dramatic elements, a mix that works on our psyches because life is to some very real extent filled with tragedy in close congruence with the laughable.

    But see this for William Holden who was the kind of actor who was best playing a compromised character as here and as the failed writer/reluctant gigolo in Sunset Boulevard, an actor who drank too much and tended to the undistinguished, but when carefully directed could rise above his intentions and give a sterling performance....more info
  • A great film that set the pattern for all prison camp movies
    STALAG 17 was the film that revitalized Billy Wilder's career. His previous film, the highly underrated ACE IN THE HOLE (easily one of the most cynical movies ever to come out of Hollywood), was a bust at the box office. As a result, Paramount, the studio Wilder had worked for since breaking into the business as a writer in the 1930s, inserted a demand in his contract that he pay for any losses should this film fail at the box office. As it was, it was a smash both critically and financially. Wilder left Paramount in anger after finishing it.

    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. Especially memorable is famed director Otto Preminger, who despite being both anti-Nazi and a Jew, excelled at portraying Nazi officers in both the 1940s and this film. He steals every scene he is in. The great Sig Ruman, memorable from a host of films from DUCK SOUP to NINOTCHKA, is outstanding as Sgt. Schultz. Gravelly voiced Robert Strauss stands out among the soldiers, and received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Neville Brand was always utterly convincing as a tough guy (in WW II he was in fact one of America's most decorated soldiers, winning only slightly fewer medals than luminaries such as Audie Murphy and Footsie Britt), and he provides some menace in this film when needed. Peter Graves has had a long and unusual career as movie actor, television actor, and TV host, but he was never better than in this.

    The film, because of when it was made and Wilder's own political convictions, is one of the greater "stealth" political films made in the heyday of McCarthyism. Today it has become commonplace to speak of Hollywood as a bastion of political liberalism, but that was hardly the case in the early 1950s, where not only all studio heads but most directors and actors were riding a wave of reactionary conservativism (the writers were another matter). Wilder and John Huston were two directors who never gave up their leftist political convictions. For the most part, Wilder avoided politics in his movies, but in this one he presents a perfect parable of irrational persecution comparable to that produced by playwright Arthur Miller in THE CRUCIBLE, in which he portrays the McCarthy right-wing hysteria in terms of the Salem witch trials. Likewise, Wilder has Sgt. J. J. Sefton as the object of paranoia, a supposed enemy of the other soldiers, when in fact the real enemy was one of the "good guys," just as Wilder was suggesting that McCarthy was. In context, STALAG 17 has to be viewed as one of the finest political films ever made, though it can be viewed with thorough enjoyment by anyone either unaware or intentionally oblivious of the political structure of the film....more info

  • Stalag 17 (Special Collector's Edition)
    "Did they beat you?" asked the Red Cross Man.
    "I was playing Pinochle," Sefton replied. "It's a rough game."
    ESSENTIAL MOVIE!!! Stalag 17 stars William Holden & is directed by the great Billy Wilder (nominated for Best Director), who also produced & co-wrote the script. Nominated for three Academy Awards & winner of one, Stalag 17 tells the gripping story of a P.O.W. camp during late WWII. Though a drama, Stalag 17 offers many comedic moments that out does many so called comedies.

    Sefton (William Holden, winner of the Best Actor Academy Award) is a hustler extraordinaire, trading with the Germans for special favors. He's one of the most unpopular men (& a very unsympathetic character, no less) in Stalag 17. Everything has an angle & the bottom line is his profit. This so rules his life that only Cookie (Gil Stratton) will tolerate him. Cookie is Sefton's assistant & lackey in his profit making schemes.

    Stalag 17 is full of dynamic characters. Col. Von Scherbach (Otto Preminger) is the camp kommandant, ruthless & uncaring. His scenes are some of the highlights of the movie. His acting (remember, he was really a director) is so over the top that they become quite humorous. The scene where he is addressing the prisoners in the compound is classic, he eases his coat open with his arms, places his arms on his hips, all the while condescending. The scene where he calls his superiors in Berlin is classi, also. He's in full uniform except for his boots, pacing in white socks, finally, he sits, his servant assists him in putting on his jack-boots, he places the call to Berlin, clicks his heels together multiple times during the call, then when the call is completed Von Scherbach has his servant remove the boots. Classic Billy Wilder!

    The show stealer is Animal (Robert Strauss, nominated for Best Supporting Actor), a not-too-bright sergeant who's not very good looking either. He has a crush on Betty Grable that figures prominently in a scene later in the movie. Harry Shapiro (Harvey Lembeck) is his buddy, their scenes are some of the funniest in the movie. Near the end, when the Betty Grable angle comes in, has Animal & Shapiro dancing together (along with all the other men in the barracks), Animal is confessing his love to Shapiro, who Animal thinks is Grable. This was a very daring scene for 1950, a scene that Hollywood censors did not want in the movie.

    Hoffy (Richard Erdman) is the barracks chief for the Americans. Erdman had done mostly comedies up to this point in his career, this is a rare "straight" role for him.

    The story is basically this: Sefton is the hustler & trades too much with the Germans, the P.O.W.s don't like him. An escape attempt is made by two Americans & they are shot outside the compound. There's a stoolie in the barracks but no one knows who, since Sefton is so despicable he's the one that gets blamed. Of course they're wrong. In one of Hollywood's best scenes of retribution Sefton comes out on top & becomes a hero, albeit an unsavory one.

    The film has Neville Brand (Duke), Don Taylor (Lt. Dunbar), Peter Graves (Price, a pivotal role) & Sig Rugman as Sgt. Schulz (might have been Rugman's best role). If some of this sounds familiar it's very possible, the television sitcom, Hogan's Heroes, was based on this movie.

    The film is beautifully restored & there are bonus features; "Stalag 17: From Reality to Screen" & "The Real Heroes of Stalag XVIIB". The latter has interviews with veterans that had been imprisoned at Stalag 17. It's a very moving featurette. There's also a commentary soundtrack in the film, photo gallery * movie trailer. This is one of Hollywood's greatest efforts....more info
  • MNReview
    Good quality. A must for Holden fans. Seemed to be a true story of WW2 Prisoner of War camps. (Some fun moments.)...more info
  • Magnum PI's Favorite Movie
    Thomas Magnum said that this movie had everything, comedy -drama ... it was his favorite movie.

    That's good enough for me ! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA...more info
  • 3 stars out of 4
    The Bottom Line:

    Stalag 17 is comprised of two movies--a forgettable slapstick-happy forerunner to Hogan's Heroes and a terrifically cynical, hard-edged POW drama--wrestling for control; Wilder would have done better to focus on the latter, but the finished product is still worth a look....more info
  • Stalag 17 plus 17 plus 17...
    I saw Stalag 17 when it first came out, and have seen in countless times since. When I am channel surfing and I come upon it, I will sit and watch until the end if I have the time. I rate it as my third favorite movie of all time, just below the Godfather trilogy and West Side Story.

    I was about 10 years old when it came out. I think I responded to the comedy of tragedy and comedy. I may have gotten an unrealistically positive feeling of life in a POW camp. Of course, once you see something like this, you know the outcome and there is no surprise when you watch it again and again. But each time I watch now, I look for early hints as to what the outcome is going to be.

    I learned less than 20 years ago that the two top Nazis were played by Jews, not just regular ethnic Germans. Otto Preminger as Camp Commandant von Scherbach, Sig Ruman as Feldwebel (Sergeant) Schultz. Now I can appreciate how much they must have relished parodying Nazi officers.

    This film was inspiration for Hogan's Heroes, but it stands head and shoulders above the TV series. Somehow, it is easier to suspend disbelief with the film itself. True, there are episodes that are implausible. There are breaches of security in the camp that probably could not really have happened. But the whole thing is an enjoyable experience regardless. Hope I get to see it done on stage someday....more info

  • It's a Classic
    For you younger people that have never heard of this movie or have flipped by the thing because it's in black and white, boy, are you in for a treat! If you don't like this movie, then, you don't like movies. It is a classic that needs to be in everyone's collection. It is on the top 50 list of all time. If you liked "Independence Day" or other similar movies, you won't like this because this has a plot and character development.

    William Holden's character is in a German WWII prison camp that has someone else in the prison camp passing information to the Germans. Since Holden's character is a wheeler-dealer and openly trades with the Germans, the other prisoners put two and two together and get four only, as Holden's character says "it ain't four!"

    Even after all the times I've seen this film, once I start watching the thing I can't stop and always end up watching it until the end. This is one of those rare movies you can actually call a classic.

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  • Intelligent POW drama!
    Stalag 17 is a prison camp during World War II in Nazi-Germany. This story takes place during the weeks close to Christmas where the Allied prisoners seem to have an informer among them that discloses all the secrets among the soldiers in the prison camp to German camp officers. The main suspect is the resourceful Sergeant J.J. Sefton who has arranged many different ways of making profit within the camp using both the prisoners and the guards. When Lieutenant Dunbar arrives at the camp and is accused of sabotage by the Germans, the Allied soldiers can no longer hold back their resentment towards the suspicious Sefton. Stalag 17 is an excellent film that provides humor and suspense for the audience as well as a reason for reflection....more info
  • Stalag 17 Directors Cut Version

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  • An excellent blend of humor and drama...
    Stalag 17 is one of the best war movies ever, and it is probably the second best film ever made about prisoners of war (The Great Escape would be the best). Directed and co-written by the great Billy Wilder, Stalag 17 features an exciting plot, great performances, especially from William Holden, and many humorous moments. All in all - very entertaining!

    Essentially, as Cookie, the narrator, explains, the movie is about what happened in a certain barrack in Stalag 17, a German prisioners of war camp. Because of several failed escape attempts and their horrible luck in concealing secrets for the Germans, the inhabitants of the barrack conclude that there must be a traitor in their midst. Their suspicions turn towards the character played by William Holden, who is an extremely cynical loner who spends his time trading with the Germans and running projects to earn money from his fellow prisioners.

    In addition to the exciting plot about the traitor, Stalag 17 paints an accurate and often humorous, sometimes serious, portrait of the men in the camp and how they deal with their situation through joking around. Anyhow, Stalag 17 is a classic war movie and is very entertaining - highly recommended!...more info

  • POW Divide & Conquer:
    Sat. 9 May 09 I feel Stalag # 17 to be one of William Holdens very best films. This movie is equal to his {The Bridge on the River Kwi} movie. Both are classics!!!!! They both tell the tale of military injustice!!!!!!!!!. The great German/Jewish actor Otto Preminger is outstanding as the Commandant!!!!! The DVD shows how the positive attitude of one person {Holden} can change the outcome for everyone concerned for the better.!!!!!! Fellow POWS!!!!! I have always wanted to purchase this great movie & Amazon sold it to me @ a low price. Plz keep your prices low for we retirees!!!!!! $$$$$$$ I want to thank Amazon for great customer service. Best/Wishes Charles, an old retired Veteran in So California....more info