Stalag 17

Stalag 17

4.8 5
Director: Billy Wilder

Cast: Billy Wilder, William Holden, Don Taylor, Otto Preminger


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The scene is a German POW camp, sometime during the mid-1940s. Stalag 17, exclusively populated by American sergeants, is overseen by sadistic commandant Oberst Von Schernbach (Otto Preminger) and the deceptively avuncular sergeant Schultz (Sig Ruman). The inmates spend their waking hours circumventing the…  See more details below


The scene is a German POW camp, sometime during the mid-1940s. Stalag 17, exclusively populated by American sergeants, is overseen by sadistic commandant Oberst Von Schernbach (Otto Preminger) and the deceptively avuncular sergeant Schultz (Sig Ruman). The inmates spend their waking hours circumventing the boredom of prison life; at night, they attempt to arrange escapes. When two of the escapees, Johnson and Manfredi, are shot down like dogs by the Nazi guards, Stalag 17's resident wiseguy Sefton (William Holden) callously collects the bets he'd placed concerning the fugitives' success. No doubt about it: there's a security leak in the barracks, and everybody suspects the enterprising Sefton -- who manages to obtain all the creature comforts he wants -- of being a Nazi infiltrator. Things get particularly dicey when Lt. Dunbar (Don Taylor), temporarily billetted in Stalag 17 before being transferred to an officer's camp, tells his new bunkmates that he was responsible for the destruction of a German ammunition train. Sure enough, this information is leaked to the Commandant, and Dunbar is subjected to a brutal interrogation. Certain by now that Sefton is the "mole," the other inmates beat him to a pulp. But Sefton soon learns who the real spy is, and reveals that information on the night of Dunbar's planned escape. Despite the seriousness of the situation, Stalag 17 is as much comedy as wartime melodrama, with most of the laughs provided by Robert Strauss as the Betty Grable-obsessed "Animal" and Harvey Lembeck as Stosh's best buddy Harry. Other standouts in the all-male cast include Richard Erdman as prisoner spokesman Hoffy, Neville Brand as the scruffy Duke, Peter Graves as blonde-haired, blue-eyed "all American boy" Price, Gil Stratton as Sefton's sidekick Cookie (who also narrates the film) and Robinson Stone as the catatonic, shell-shocked Joey. Writer/producer/director Billy Wilder and coscenarist Edmund Blum remained faithful to the plot and mood the Donald Bevan/Edmund Trzcinski stage play Stalag 17, while changing virtually every line of dialogue-all to the better, as it turned out (Trzcinski, who like Bevan based the play on his own experiences as a POW, appears in the film as the ingenuous prisoner who "really believes" his wife's story about the baby abandoned on her doorstep). William Holden won an Academy Award for his hard-bitten portrayal of Sefton, which despite a hokey "I'm really a swell guy after all" gesture near the end of the film still retains its bite today.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Gregory Baird
Billy Wilder finds surprisingly frothy humor in the darkest of settings in Stalag 17, a World War II film that moves freely between comedy and drama. The eponymous prisoner-of-war camp somewhere on the Danube houses 600 captured American airmen, and the film paints a slice-of-life portrait of their day-to-day lives, focusing on jaded wheeler-dealer William Holden, who is suspected by his fellow prisoners of spying for the Nazi wardens. Holden won an Oscar for his hard-boiled yet multifaceted performance as the wily sergeant who makes a fortune in cigarettes (the prisoners' main currency), runs a distillery, and stages mouse races for his fellow inmates. But it’s the film’s array of colorful characters that really make it come alive. Notable here is famed director Otto Preminger as the camp's commandant -- a turn that recalls Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion, a clear precursor to Stalag 17, in which director Erich von Stroheim starred as a WWI POW camp commandant. Many viewers will also recognize Stalag 17 as the template for the beloved '60s TV series Hogan's Heroes. Although the film does darken toward the end, as a mysterious spy is unmasked, Stalag 17 is a POW camp, not a concentration camp. Eschewing heart- and gut-wrenching moments, Wilder moves deftly through territory where the Geneva Convention still holds, with just enough heroism and patriotism to make Stalag 17 a WWII genre classic.
All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Billy Wilder's Stalag 17 was a new kind of war movie in 1953, a more realistic look at POW camp life than earlier POW movies (often British) had offered, featuring vivid depictions of larceny, betrayal, sadism, gallows humor, and a near-lynching of an innocent (though hardly guiltless) man. Wilder and his actors -- even though several are trapped in stock war-movie characterizations -- create a level of tension that forces the viewer to suspend disbelief, even as the movie seldom moves outside the confines of a single barrack. Stalag 17 helped William Holden establish his cynical, macho persona, a more hard-bitten descendant of the characters that Humphrey Bogart played in such 1940s movies as Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon; (ironically, Holden and Bogart would play brothers in Wilder's next movie, Sabrina). The success of Wilder's movie paved the way for more explorations of this subject and provided the blueprint for the TV series Hogan's Heroes, which emphasized the humorous elements first explored in Wilder's film.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Paramount Catalog
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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
William Holden Sefton
Don Taylor Lieutenant Dunbar
Otto Preminger Von Scherbach
Robert Strauss "Animal" Stosh
Harvey Lembeck Harry Shapiro
Peter Graves Price
Sig Rumann Schulz
Neville Brand Duke
Richard Erdman Hoffy
Michael Moore Manfredi
Peter Baldwin Johnson
Robinson Stone Joey
Robert Shawley Blondie
William Pierson Marko
Gil Stratton Cookie/Narrator
Jay Lawrence Bagradian
Erwin Kalser Geneva Man
Ross Bagdasarian Actor
Mike Bush Dancer
Donald Cameron Actor
Janice Carroll Actor
Jerry Gerber Actor
Peter Leeds Barracks No. 1 POW
Harald Maresch Actor
William McLean Actor
John Mitchum Actor
Robin Morse Actor
Joe Ploski German Guard Volley
Paul Salata Prisoners with Beards
James R. Scott Actor
Billy Sheehan Actor
John Patrick Veitch Actor
Alexander J. Wells Actor
Max Willenz German Lieutenant Supervisor
Bob Templeton Actor
Richard P. Beedle Actor
Tommy Cook Prisoners of War

Technical Credits
Billy Wilder Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Franz Bachelin Art Director
Edwin Blum Screenwriter
Sam Comer Set Decoration/Design
Gene Garvin Sound/Sound Designer
Doane Harrison Editor
Gordon Jennings Special Effects
Ernest Laszlo Cinematographer
Harold Lewis Sound/Sound Designer
Ray Moyer Set Decoration/Design
Hal Pereira Art Director
George Tomasini Editor
Franz Waxman Score Composer
Wally Westmore Makeup

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Stalag 17 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie is an excellent blockbuster. It switches from comedy to drama frequently, but it isn't hard to understand. It can be a family film or a film for any average Joe or others. If you want a historicaly correct movie I do not reccomend it but if you are sick of war movies with peoples guts spilling out this is perfect. It is an original, interesting plot with great names in the cast.
tbhofmeister More than 1 year ago
Stalag 17, borrows many plot elements from Renoir's classic The Grand Illusion, but from there the great Billy Wilder takes hold of the material and takes it into a new exciting direction. The film deals with many issues that are unfunny and situations where actual men have died in, but even so Wilder does one of the best jobs to date seamlessly blending comedy and drama to create one of the best films to date. With great acting from principle and secondary actors Stalag 17 is filled with drama, tension, humor, and the great director Otto Preminger as the prison camps Commandant. This is a must see for a few reasons; first for Billy Wilder who is arguably the best writer/director in Hollywood history and seeing any of his films is a treat; secondly because it is hard to find a film that jumps from serious drama to comedy without missing a beat as this does; and lastly because of the performances of all actors involved. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Billy Wilder really knows how to get the best out of his actors and manages the material like a true professional.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago