Billy Wilder’s World War II comedy masterpiece, STALAG 17 is coming to Blu Ray from Paramount Home Video on October 8th.
Based on the stageplay by Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski (both real prisoners of Stalag 17B in Austria) the story takes place in a Luftwaffe prison camp somewhere on the Danube River. There we are introduced to a ragtag group of POWs all of which are from air crewmen (gunners, pilots, radiomen etc). Following the attempted escape and killings of two American soldiers, the camp begins to suspect that one of their own is a spy who is informing the Nazi guards about any secret plans. One of the prisoners, Sefton (William Holden) commonly barters with the Germans for different items such as cigarettes which he keeps in his foot locker. He also tends to keep to himself and openly regards his fellow prisoners as a bunch of stooges. This soon leads to him being targeted as the stooly. In the middle of this mystery, we get to know the colorful characters of the camp (played by Robert Strauss, Harvey Lembeck, Neville Brand among others) which is where much of the film’s humor comes from since the men are constantly joking and making light of their situation. Billy Wilder was able to brilliantly balance a level of comedy and tragedy making one of the best war movies ever filmed. TRIVIA: The film was shot in sequence so not even the actors would know the identity of the spy.