It's a dreary Christmas 1944 for the American POWs in Stalag 17. For the men in Barracks 4, all sergeants, have to deal with a grave problem - there seems to be a security leak. The Germans always seem to be forewarned about escapes and in the most recent attempt the two men, Manfredi and Johnson, walked straight into a trap and were killed. For some in Barracks 4, especially the loud-mouthed Duke, the leaker is obvious: J.J. Sefton, a wheeler-dealer who doesn't hesitate to trade with the guards and who has acquired goods and privileges that no other prisoner seems to have. Sefton denies giving the Germans any information and makes it quite clear that he has no intention of ever trying to escape. He plans to ride out the war in what little comfort he can arrange, but it doesn't extend to spying for the Germans. As tensions mount and a mob mentality takes root, it becomes obvious that Sefton will have to find the real snitch if he is to have any peace and avoid the beatings Duke and ... Written by
The authors of Stalag 17 sued the creators of the TV series Hogan's Heroes (1965) for plagiarism, as they had submitted a proposal for a TV show based on their play in 1963 to CBS. The case was closed with an undisclosed settlement. See more »
When Dunbar climbs out of the water tank he nudges two icicles that move. If they were real icicles they would have broken. See more »
[a Red Cross official is inspecting the camp just after Sefton was beaten on suspicion being an enemy informant. The official sees his injuries]
What happened to you? Were you beaten?
[Sefton doesn't answer]
Why don't you answer?
[to the German officer escorting him]
What did you do to this man?
They didn't do nothing.
Who beat you?
Nobody beat me. We were playing pinochle. It's a rough game.
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In his lengthy and eventful career, Billy Wilder created many films that have rightly attained classic status, but his WWII prisoner of war comedy-drama Stalag 17 is arguably one of his best. The scripting is a perfect example of how to marry a tight plot with sharp dialogue and great characters, and the acting is flawless on all counts. While William Holden's performance as the cynical American sergeant rightly won him an Oscar, it is the comic antics of Robert Strauss and Harvey Lembeck that steal the show. And if there was ever a more entertaining ensemble of previously unseen (and sadly subsequently unheard of) supporting players - with the possible exception of Casablanca - I would love to see it. This film predates the more famous WWII pow film The Great Escape by more than a decade, but had Wilder, Holden and company not caused havoc in Stalag 17, the world would never have seen Steve McQueen play the cooler king with such wry aplomb. Stalag 17 is easily one of the finest films of its time, if not of all time, and I would encourage anyone who has never experienced its unique blend of cynicism, comedy, suspense and drama to check it out at the earliest available opportunity.
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