Friday, December 11, 2009

Stalag 17 (1953)

IMDB Rating: 8.1/10 (11,708 votes)
Runtime: 120 min
Language: English / German
Country: USA
Color: Black and White
IMDb Link:

Director: Billy Wilder
William Holden ... Sefton
Don Taylor ... Lt. Dunbar
Otto Preminger ... Col. von Scherbach
Robert Strauss ... Stanislas Kasava
Harvey Lembeck ... Harry Shapiro
Richard Erdman ... Hoffy
Peter Graves ... Price
Neville Brand ... Duke
Sig Ruman ... Sgt. Schulz
Michael Moore ... Manfredi
Peter Baldwin ... Johnson
Robinson Stone ... Joey
Robert Shawley ... Blondie Peterson
William Pierson ... Marko the Mailman
Gil Stratton ... Clarence Harvey Cook (as Gil Stratton Jr.)

I recently got me the entire set of movie directed by Billy Wilder. Now I'll admit, I've never really bothered going after directors. I always went after the actors and then got as many of their movies as I could.
While chatting with my twitter pal @Suderbuzz (Sudhish Kamat), what he had to say, made me move into a slightly different direction a couple of weeks ago. I decided to go after all movies made by Billy Wilder. With the zeal of a TV evangelist, I went after them movies and soon, I had them all! 25 movies directed by Billy Wilder.

The first of those movies that I chose to watch was the 1953 classic, Stalag 17!
After finishing the movie I realized just why Mr.Wilder has as many fans as he does. Now I'll admit, I have no idea what it is exactly that a director does but from what I have gathered in my years as a movie lover, I'll assume that he's the main story teller so to say. He imagines what it is that we'll see on screen and he tells the cast exactly what they should do so that we see what we'll see on the screen.
Fairly accurate estimation of a director's role? I would hope so.

That being said, let me reiterate my comment. I totally get why Mr.Wilder has as many fans as he does.
The movie is astounding!

The movie is set in a German prisoner of war camp called Stalag 17. The story revolves primarily around the character "Sefton" played brilliantly by William Holden. (Incidentally he got an Oscar for his role in the film as well.)
Sefton is one of those guys who manages to get along...almost prosper no matter where he's put. You always meet people like him and almost always you'll also notice that others don't generally like them. Its pure and simple envy but such is the nature of human beings. So yes, Sefton is doing well for himself, dealing with the German guards, organizing rat races, a bar, a telescope to spy on the Russian ladies camp (Isn't that just great by the way! :) They make a telescope and use it to check out the chicks :) ) and a whole bunch of other things. He lives well, eats well and has the maximum cigarettes around (which is basically the camp currency.)
This does not go down well with the others in his barrack and they're constantly trying to find a way to find out if there's more to Sefton than meets the eye.
The situation becomes more than just "neighbour's envy" when secrets within the camp start reaching the Germans. An escape is foiled, a radio confiscated...its almost like the Krauts know everything that's going on in the barracks.
Obviously, the suspicion is directed towards Sefton and life becomes hell for him soon thereafter.
He has to figure out a way to prove his innocence and at the same time find out who the real traitor in the midst is.

While this story is kinda serious...the concept that is, the way it is dealt is fabulous. Its laugh out loud funny at times and not once do you think that the humour is over done or that the acting is over the top. All the characters big and small do their parts perfectly and everything fits beautifully to make it an absolutely memorable film.

I won't tell you the bad guy really is or how they get him. But as it is with movies, they do get him and its almost poetic, how they deal with him. Watch the movie and see it for yourself.

I loved this! Absolutely loved it. As if that wasn't evident so far eh? :)

So now...for the first time on this new blog.
The Moviemania Rating for this move : 9.5/10! (Why not 10/10. Nobody's perfect right :) but this is as close as it can get) :)
Definitely a collector's item! Go get it! :)

(Like I said in the very first post, DO comment and let me know what you think. I'm no expert. I want to share my love for movies with you. I'd like to know what you think as well :) Right then. Start commenting!) 


Anonymous,  December 11, 2009 at 10:26 AM  

Let me get the comments started as well!
Great start, now hope you can finish all 25 Wilder reviews! And then move on to another great filmmaker.
All the best man! Will stay tuned.

Vishal December 12, 2009 at 11:30 AM  

Hey Mihir,

Glad to see you've started a movie blog! I've always been a Billy Wilder fan, and though I've not seen Stalag 17, perhaps like you I must track down everything he did :)

Looking forward to your reviews of Some Like it Hot, The Seven Year Itch, and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, to name but three Wilder favourites of mine!

I review movies myself, over at

(allVishal on twitter)

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