Saturday, December 17, 2011

STALAG 17 (1953)

On the twenty-third Lynchian day of Christmas, we present Billy Wilder's World War II P.O.W. comedy Stalag 17 (1953). The second Wilder film to make this list—the first being The Apartment (1960)—Stalag 17 centers around a group of American G.I.s being held in a Nazi prison camp in the days leading up to Christmas. When two Americans are killed by prison guards immediately upon exiting a secret tunnel constructed for the small scale escape attempt, the Americans begin to suspect a German infiltrator is in their midst feeding information to the Nazis. Everyone's suspicions become drawn to each other as a second escape attempt is planned.
Billy Wilder found a successful leading man in William Holden on their first collaboration Sunset Blvd. (1950), and they would go on to make three more films together: Stalag 17 (1953), Sabrina (1954), and Fedora (1978). And although nominated for Best Actor in Sunset Blvd., William Holden did not win the award until his charismatic performance as Sgt. Sefton in Stalag 17. Sefton keeps the other prisoners-of-war sane and calm through their paranoia-inducing ordeal. And although not a direct adaptation of Stalag 17, the beloved TV series Hogan's Heroes (1965-71) was lightly based on Billy Wilder's tense yet lighthearted Nazi prison camp and resonates strongly in America's cultural psyche to this day.

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