Stalag 17 [Masters of Cinema] (Blu-ray) [1953]

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William Holden and Don Taylor star in this classic Second World War drama directed by Billy Wilder. After two American prisoners are killed trying to escape from the notorious German camp Stalag 17, the blame for their betrayal falls upon the cynical, self-serving Sergeant Sefton (Holden), whose dealings with the enemy isolate him from his fellow inmates. But does Sefton's disinterest in team bonding and group morale necessarily mean he is the traitor in their midst?

Black comedy and suspenseful action inside a German POW camp during World War II--a setting that was later borrowed for the American TV sitcom Hogan's Heroes. The great director Billy Wilder adapted the hit stage play, applying his own wicked sense of humour to the apparently bleak subject matter. William Holden plays an antisocial grouse amid a gang of wisecracking though indomitable American prisoners. Because of his bitter cynicism, Holden is suspected by the others of being an informer to the Germans, an accusation he must deal with in his own crafty way. Holden, who had delivered a brilliant performance for Wilder in Sunset Blvd., won the 1953 Best Actor Oscar for Stalag 17. Very much his equal, however, is Otto Preminger, an accomplished director himself, who plays the strict, sneering camp commandant. --Robert Horton

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