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Stalag 17 (1953) William Holden, Don Taylor, Otto Preminger |War, Comedy Drama

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Review by 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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