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"Anybody here want to double their bet?",
This review is from: Stalag 17  [DVD]  (DVD)
Billy Wilder's "Stalag 17" is cinematic simplicity at its best. It is a good old fashioned piece of entertainment that effectively establishes a simple and specific situation and then spins an absorbing yarn around it. Throw in several great William Holden moments and you have got yourself a winner of a film.
After a failed escape from the prison camp designated Stalag 17, the imprisoned soldiers start to suspect Sergeant J.J. Sefton (William Holden) of being a snitch. Sefton's reputation as an antisocial cynic certainly has not endeared him to his barrack-mates and they have no qualms over dishing out their own brand of justice on him. Sefton's guilt or innocence is eventually determined shortly before a crucial attempt to smuggle Lieutenant James Dunbar (Don Taylor) out of the prison camp is scheduled to begin.
"Stalag 17" does not have the complex discourse of "Sunset Boulevard" (1950) or the belly-laughs of "Some Like It Hot" (1959) but it is still a notable entry on Billy Wilder's directorial resume. His ability to fuse drama and black comedy results in a prison camp tale that holds up better than all of the best episodes of "Hogan's Heroes" combined. Holden is splendid in his Oscar-winning performance. Watching him here reminds you of just how fine an actor he was and why he is still remembered fondly as one of the legends of the silver screen. The fact that "Stalag 17" is as fresh and absorbing today as it was when it first came out is a testament to both Wilder and Holden and their ability to make truly timeless films.