Stalag 17 (Blu-ray) (1953)

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Released 5-Mar-2014

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Drama Audio Commentary-Actors Richard Erdman, Gil Stratton, playwright Donald Bevan
Featurette-Stalag 17: From Reality to Screen
Featurette-The Real Heroes of Stalag XVIIB
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1953
Running Time 120:33
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Billy Wilder
Studio
Distributor

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring William Holden
Otto Preminger
Don Taylor
Robert Strauss
Peter Graves
Neville Brand
Sig Ruman
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 mono
French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Spanish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     December 1944: Stalag 17 is a German prisoner of war camp commanded by Oberst von Scherbach (Otto Preminger) housing, among others, American enlisted aircrew shot down in raids over Germany. When two prisoners are killed trying to escape it becomes apparent that there is an informer within the camp providing information to the guards. Suspicion falls upon Sergeant J.J. Sefton (William Holden), the barrack’s wheeler dealer and black marketeer who always seems to have extra comforts and is on good terms with the German guards. As Christmas approaches, it becomes imperative that the informer is exposed before more lives are lost.

     Stalag 17 was co-written, produced and directed by Billy Wilder and reteams Wilder with his star from Sunset Boulevard (1950), William Holden. Stalag 17 was nominated for three Oscars, including best director, but Wilder lost out to Fred Zinnemann for From Here to Eternity which won 8 Oscars. However, Holden did win the Best Actor Oscar; not that he was ecstatic with the award apparently still being unhappy about not winning three years earlier for Sunset Boulevard! It seems that Holden had not been the original choice for the role of Sefton (that was Charlton Heston) and after he was forced by the studio to play the role he kept fighting with Wilder to make the part more sympathetic; but this was certainly a case of the director knew best.

     Stalag 17 commences with a voice over by the actor who plays “Cookie” (Gil Stratton) commenting that all the war films show action and heroic deeds, but that there were no films about POWs - and he has a point as Stalag 17, as far as I know, was the first film to be set in a POW camp. The film was based upon a Broadway play that was written by two ex-POWs (Donald Bevan and Edmund Trycinski) and although Wilder rewrote most of the dialogue the film feels and looks authentic with its wintery, muddy setting and believable characters. Holden is simply superb, but the ensemble cast is universally good with characters such as “Animal” (Robert Strauss, who was nominated for best supporting actor but who lost out to Frank Sinatra in From Here to Eternity), Neville Brand as “Duke” and a very young looking Robert Graves as “Price”. And it seems clear that Preminger, as the up-tight camp commandant who has to put on his boots to make a telephone call to Berlin, and guard Sergeant Schulz (Sig Ruman) became models for the TV series Hogan’s Heroes, although this has been denied.

     Sixty years after its release Stalag 17 remains a wonderfully entertaining film. It is well acted, well made and tense but it is surprising just how much black humour Wilder managed to include in the film. The result is a film that is realistic and a mystery that is also very funny indeed. Stalag 17 is without question a classic.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Stalag 17 is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1, the original ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     This is a great print and the film does not look 60 years old. It has obviously been restored and marks and scratches are absent; although there is some softness the film looks crisp and detailed and the prison camp set looks wonderful. Blacks are solid, shades of grey great and shadow detail very good. Contrast and brightness are consistent.

     The print exhibits nice film grain. There is occasional motion blur but nothing serious. There are no other artefacts.

     Subtitles are available in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

     A beautiful black and white HD print of a 60 year old film.

Video Ratings Summary
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Audio

     The feature audio is English DTS-MA HD 2.0 mono and there are also French and Spanish Dolby Digital mono tracks available as well as the English audio commentary.

     The film was made with a mono audio track and this is presented here. Dialogue is always clear and easy to understand and the effects are reasonable. There is not much of a musical score as such, just the occasional tunes such as When Johnny Comes Marching Home and some percussion: the musical arrangement is credited to Franz Waxman. There is no hiss, pops or crackles in the audio.

     Lip synchronisation is fine except for Cookies’ whistle at the end.

     The audio is fine and reflects the original release.

Audio Ratings Summary
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Extras

     Despite not being listed on the Blu-ray packaging, our release of Stalag 17 contains all the extra features available on the US release.

Commentary

     This commentary is by actors Richard Erdman (Hoffy), Gil Stratton (Cookie) and play co-writer Donald Bevan. It was recorded over 50 years after filming and they say very little about the production and mostly chat about who has now died! Bevan does point out scenes he does not like and there are lots of silences, not very PC comments and only fragmentary information, but at least when they are not talking the film audio cuts in. Not one of the better commentaries.

Stalag 17: From Reality to Screen (22:01)

     This is an excellent introduction to the film. The featurette includes film excerpts, stills and interviews with a number of people including the biographers of William Holden and Billy Wilder, Donald Bevan (co-playwright of the original Broadway play) and Gil Stratton (who plays Cookie). Things discussed include the original Broadway play, the acquiring of the rights by Billy Wilder, his screenplay and shooting methods, casting, alternative endings, reaction to the film and on set anecdotes. Information includes the fact that Charlton Heston was originally going to play Sefton! Interesting, funny and well worth watching.

The Real Heroes of Stalag XVIIB (24:49)

     Using WW2 archive footage, stills and interviews with POWs who were in Stalag XVIIB plus Dale S Dye (military advisor for numerous films) this interesting featurette looks at what it was really like to be a POW in Stalag XVIIB.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Our release of Stalag 17 is identical to the US release, including the FBI anti-piracy warning.

Summary

     Stalag 17 is the father of all POW films and remains a classic 60 years after its release. The film feels authentic; it is also funny driven by some excellent performances including William Holden who won an Oscar for his performance as the unsympathetic barracks black marketeer Sefton.

     Stalag 17 is a classic that looks fabulous in this HD version. The extras are genuine and interesting, even if the commentary is a bit flat!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Friday, April 04, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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