Stalag 17 (1953)

As Billy Wilder is among my favorite filmmakers, I’m currently trying to complete his filmography, making Stalag 17 a necessary stop on this trip.  I am a sucker for William Holden, well-made war movies, and whodunnit films, so needless to say I was excited to watch this one.

This film takes place in a German POW camp, and follows the antics and daily routines of one barrack building, the titular Stalag 17.  The prisoners spend their days planning escapes and messing with the guards, and it’s not long before the inhabitants suspect they have an informer in their midst. So who can they trust?

While I enjoyed the movie, Stalag 17 somehow fell just a little short of greatness for me.  It’s really difficult for a Billy Wilder film to disappoint me, but I found some of the comedic antics to be a bit distracting. This didn’t detract from William Holden though, who despite hating his role as Sgt. JJ Sefton gave us an Oscar-winning performance as a slimy gambling addict stuck in a barrack with a bunch of allies who hate and mistrust him.  Wilder gives us a pretty great and shocking reveal to the mystery that was much different in execution from the stage play it was based on.  This big reveal and Holden’s performance redeemed the movie for me, at a time it was so close to falling off of the tracks. I’m curious about how I will feel about it after a rewatch.

Even though Stalag 17 suffered from unrealistic expectations on my part, I still found it to be a great entry in Wilder’s filmography and a great war movie in general. It’s definitely worth your time.

The stats:

Stalag 17 landed at #227 out of 1408 movies on my Flickchart.  That converts to a rating of 4 out of 5 stars or 84%.  Stalag 17 is ranked #5 of 9 movies I have seen from Billy Wilder.  It is ranked #21 out of 66 films I have seen from the 1950s, and it is ranked #12 out of 22 movies I have seen so far in this challenge.

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