Stalag 17 on Blu-ray

Sunday, 26 July 2015 23:00 Written by 

Stalag 17 - out now on Blu-ray“Stalag 17” is a comedy-drama about American airmen held captive in Germany. Directed by Billy Wilder ("Some Like It Hot", "Sunset Boulevard"), the film stars William Holden ("The Bridge on the River Kwai") as an unpopular wheeler-dealer suspected by the other POWs of passing secrets to the Germans. Whilst many are going stir crazy and wilfully disrupt their captors wherever possible, Sgt. Sefton (Holden) leads a life of relative luxury and minimal resistance.

Holden won an Oscar for his performance, but the movie is really an ensemble piece with numerous bold characters on both sides of the prison fence. Robert Strauss ("The Seven Year Itch") is the aptly-named Animal, Sig Ruman ("A Night at the Opera") plays a very jovial German guard, Peter Graves (Jim Phelps in the classic series of Mission: Impossible) is Price, the Americans' 'security', and Don Taylor ("Escape from the Planet of the Apes") is a well-to-do lieutenant responsible for the bombing of a munitions train that the Germans are intently investigating.

Unlike "Ace in the Hole", Wilder's previous motion picture, “Stalag 17” is a less biting, more mainstream film where the comedy is heavily emphasised. Animal and his buddy Shapiro (Harvey Lembeck - Cpl Rocco Barbella in The Phil Silvers Show) goof around all of the time, dreaming of simple food they used to take for granted, the company of women and clean sheets. As mentioned in one of the extras, the tone of the movie often resembles a Mel Brooks film, where dark subject matter and authority figures are ridiculed and mined for humour.

This being a POW film, naturally there are a few moments of tension and suspense, including a couple of edgy escape attempts and the ongoing hunt for the spy in the captives' midst. Misdirection is cleverly used to keep us guessing as to the traitor's identity. Whilst the tone is generally soft, there is a shocking, early reminder that the soldiers could be shot if they stray too far out of line.

In summary, “Stalag 17” is a fun piece of cinema with great characterisation, quality acting and occasional, gripping action scenes to spice things up. Fans of "The Great Escape" will find it interesting to compare quite a different take on the prison camp genre.

Special features include:

  • New 1080p transfer of the film (black and white, 1.37:1 ratio)
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Feature-length commentary by actors Richard Erdman and Gil Stratton, and co-playwright Donald Bevan
  • “Stalag 17: From reality to screen” featurette (22 mins)
  • “The real heroes of Stalag 17” featurette (25 mins)
  • New video interview with film scholar Neil Sinyard
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • 36-page booklet containing an essay, interview material and rare archival imagery

It is another bumper crop from Eureka, with some fascinating interviews, behind the scenes information and real POW perspectives to help compare fact with fiction. The Blu-ray picture is clean and fairly sharp, with plenty of detail; the sound is clear with no problems picking out the dialogue.

“Stalag 17” (1953) is out now on Blu-ray, courtesy of Eureka. The main feature has a running time of 120 minutes approx, carries a 'PG' certificate and retails for £15.95, or less from www.culttvstore.com

 

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