Stalag 17 Review and Blu ray Features
10 Aug 1953
Behind the Scene and other Major Plot Points
Von Scherbach’s Ambitions
Von Scherbach was very short sighted in that he was hoping his report on Lt. Dunbar would get him noticed by Berlin. It seems that by Dec 1944 he would have realized that Germany had lost the war. By that time many commandants had changed their previous attitudes towards the POWs in hopes of better treatment by the Allies. Perhaps it would have been more believable it the movie had taken place much earlier than Dec 1944.
Maybe Von Scherbach was just your typical “old school” German officer who would be loyal to the Fuehrer to the end, & go down with the ship, if it came to that? Keep in mind, as well, that the action of the film occurs during the Battle of the Bulge & probably many Germans felt that if the offensive were successful, the tide of the war could be turned back in their favor.
Maybe Von Scherbach, even if he was certain that the war was lost, was looking to impress Berlin in hopes of being kept on in some important capacity in whatever small army the Allies might allow a defeated Germany to have, much as what happened at the end of World War I.
Schulz (nice guy despite being the enemy?)
I know Schulz is supposed to be a bad guy, but I couldn’t help but like him. He had a nice sense of humour, he wasn’t mean or arrogant to the POWs, and he kind of came off as simply a nice man loyal to a rotten cause.
Did anybody else kind of feel some affection for the guy?
He was probably one of the thousands of germans who didn’t agree with Hitler doctorine, but really didn’t have any choice but to be drafted and hope that they lived through the ordeal.
Schultz is probably a guy who was drafted like everyone else. He’s more or less just doing his job. He’s not cruel to the prisoners, either, even though he’s a middle man in the spy game and certainly can’t be trusted.
I’ve heard that it was not that uncommon for American POWs to keep in touch with some of their jailers after the war. Not everyone in Germany was a Nazi, and with Schultz, his line “One Mein Furher is enough!” reveals some of this sentiment.
I agree that Schulz is generally a good guy, but let’s not lose sight of some of the darker aspects of him. Particularly I’m thinking about his first appearance when he in a light attitude talks about “dose nice boys. Such nice boys.” He’s clearly proud that he succeeded in botching the escape plan and killing the prisoners. While this might be attributed to pride in a job well done, it seems to me to be unneccessarily joyful. So while I do feel some affection for him, I don’t think he’s as clean as he seems.
Why didn’t Sefton tell the others the identity of the traitor immediately when he found out?
Because he knew it could have heavy ramifications for all of them. Listen to his logic when he talks to Cookie about it at the Xmas Party: if they out the traitor, he’ll disappear immediately & resurface in another prison camp & continue his nefarious work. If they kill him, the commandant will have them punished, maybe even killed for murdering another prisoner. Sefton, being the crafty sort of man he is, waits until the most opportune moment to tell them & his plan works.
Is it really possible that the traitor would have returned to Germany when the war broke out despite being an American?
Indeed! The war broke out in Europe in 1939 when Nazi German invaded Poland. There were German families in the United States that would have felt the need to remain loyal to their homeland. The traitor in this film is one of those people and, like Sefton says, he left the United States & returned to Germany, renouncing his American citizenship. Because he already spoke English and probably spoke German, he was an ideal candidate to be placed in an American POW camp and inform on the prisoners there. Such people were called Volksdeutsche.
Price could have survived!
When they threw Price out as a decoy at the end – why didn’t he simply quickly roll back under the hut, instead of jumping about in the open shouting in German, which was drowned out by the Sentries gunfire? He could have then called out in German, when the sentries subsequently came to flush him out
He panicked. First rule for survival, don’t lose your head.
Price obviously panicked, yet as a trained spy he should have known better than to do so.
It seems to me that most of the guards had no idea there was a spy. It seemed to be a secret amongst the Commandant, Schultz and Price alone. Who’s to say that the other guards wouldn’t have thought Price was lying when he explained who he really was and shot him anyway?
How could the Germans NOT find Dunbar in the water tower? There wasn’t a cover on it & wouldn’t the inside be visible from one of the guard towers?
It does seem quite unlikely that Dunbar could hide there, especially during the day. It probably depends on the layout of the camp: that particular tower might not have been visible from any of the guard towers. Hoffy, being a pretty knowledgeable guy, would know that the tower, or at least the interior of it, would not be easily seen by the tower guards. The other towers in the camp might very have been.
It also requires a bit of disbelief suspension: the Germans might have believed that no one would be crazy enough to stash someone in the water tower tank itself and risk their death due to frostbite & hypothermia: this story takes place in winter where it can get very cold in Germany. Dunbar only has to be in the tower for a few hours until that night when his rescuer can get him out.
RT/Meta Critic Review
Interesting depiction with a pretty decent performance from Holden and supported by a credible cast.(Click here to see)
When escape is the only option, you do whatever you can to make it happen. This is one exciting escape drama.(Click here to see)
Wilder was famously contemptuous of films that called attention to their style, but he always used good cinematographers. Stalag 17 was shot by Ernest Laszlo, who would later win an Oscar for the delicate black-and-white imagery of Ship of Fools (1965) and also created the widescreen comic mayhem of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World(1963). Laszlo’s imagery for Stalag 17 gave Paramount executives heartburn, because it showed every speck of muck and grime on the prison camp POWs, which is exactly what Wilder wanted. It’s all visible on Warner’s 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray of this Paramount catalog title, where the depth and detail of Laszlo’s precise lighting is truly impressive. Wilder maintained a sense of the camp’s crowded conditions by staging scenes in group tableaus, with multiple activities happening at once, and Laszlo’s clear focus, deep blacks and finely delineated shades of grade provide depth and clarity throughout. The Blu-ray’s image brings this effect to home video with a finely grained image, superb detail and only an occasional (very occasional) soft shot to suggest any generational loss.
The source material either is in pristine condition or has been expertly restored, and there is no indication of any untoward digital tampering to slant the look of the film toward modern video tastes. Stalag 17 looks like a classic B&W film from the Fifties, except that Wilder’s films are timeless.
The average bitrate of 18.97 Mbps might appear low, but it should be remembered that the film is B&W with solid black windowbox bars. The lower average bitrate is appropriate, and compression issues were not in evidence.
The film’s original mono soundtrack has been presented as lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0, with identical front left and right channels. It sounds quite good for a film of this vintage. The dialogue is exceptionally clear, which always essential for a Wilder film, and the sound effects of machine guns, trucks, pounding on doors, etc. have decent dynamic range. The minimal score by an uncredited Franz Waxman (Sunset Blvd.) achieves exactly the right effect.
Paramount first released Stalag 17 on DVD in 1999 with no features. In 2006, Paramount released a “Special Collector’s Edition” with an array of extras that have been ported over to this Blu-ray. The only extra not included is a photo gallery.
- Commentary with Actors Richard Erdman and Gil Stratton and Co-Playwright Donald Bevan: By the time anyone got around to recording a commentary, many of the principals had passed away and those who remained were well into their 80s. Although Bevan co-wrote the play, his involvement with filming was minimal, and he admits that he didn’t much care for the film when he first saw it. Erdman played compound chief Hoffy, and Stratton played Sefton’s gofer and the film’s narrator, Cookie. They share their recollections, but it’s clearly an effort, and there are long pauses, especially in the latter half of the film. Many of the actors’ stories are repeated in the “From Reality to Screen” featurette, but Bevan adds several intriguing anecdotes from his own time as a POW.
- Stalag 17: From Reality to Screen (480i; 1.33:1; 22:01): This mini-documentary on the making of Stalag 17has to rely largely on secondary sources, because most of the participants were no longer alive when it was made in 2006. Erdman, Stratton and Bevan are interviewed, but the other interviewees are all scholars and fans. They include writer/director Nicholas Meyer, Rob Thomas (Holden’s biographer) and Ed Sikov (Wilder’s biographer).
- The Real Heroes of Stalag XVII B (480i; 1.33:1; 24:49): Bevan and other real-world POWs relate their experiences. They are joined by several military experts, including USMC Capt. Dale Dye, now an actor and military advisor to the movies.