Billy Wilder has not disappointed me and rather has lifted my spirits. Whenever I feel low, or feel like bored, I get hold of a Wilder film and his films have each time surprised me, from "Major Or Minor" to "One,Two,Three" there is a charisma that I believe, only Wilder could bring to the film.
Stalag 17 is about a prison escapade and it's not a serious drama nor a suspenseful thriller, it's a plain fun-watch. It has many moments of wit and humour, especially for the good first part. Be it Animal (Robert Strauss) flirting with Russian women, or Shapiro (Harvery Lembeck) collecting letters, they are fun filled scenes and they did not seem to be cynical or mocking at the Nazis. They seemed just plain funny. Wilder, I must say is a master writer, who knows not just only the dialogue but also in which tone if it is said, brings out what emotion in an actor, and what reaction can be derived from a viewer. He deliberates acts in this film and they sync well with the script.
Not for once, I felt anything was out of place, in this escape drama. Though most of the film focuses on the acts of the prisoners and how they have fun with each other day in and day out, rather than the plan of escape and all, I felt it was all right there, and it helped me engage and even empathise with their characters.
Wilder, is one of the few master of the basic principle of writing, that is actions and motives make characters, a set of these characters make a plot and better their actions, better the plot. I am speaking more of the genius of Wilder I think than the film in itself.
Ok, the film touches all the right notes, in it's 2 hour length and fails to falter as per me. It's not a great Prisoners of War film like "Bridge on the River Kwai" or even "Shawshank Redemption" but this essentially a film where a set of people have a motive and they get their thing done. William Holden as Sergeant Sefton gives a delightful performance and there is a host of other actors who gave some wonderful performances too, like Robert Strauss as "Animal"
The sound design seemed perfect, considering that this is a 1953 film and it had to accommodate a landscape of War. The editing was fine too, and other aspects did a great job. Of all, I am impressed with the environment that Wilder brings with each of his films, be it "Lost Weekend" or "Some Like It Hot" or even "The Apartment". There is a sense of belonging such as being in that place, where the characters are, this is effectively done by right lighting and right art direction and even supreme cinematography.
But Wilder has proved yet again that he was one of the most original and most acceptable voices we had who used his pen to speak more effectively than most men do. I salute his dialogue, his scene writing and even his screenplay. Though the credit is shared by Edwin Blum, I suppose so that Wilder was behind the writing.
I am going with 4/5 for this. It's not the ideal nail biting stuff if such is the expectation, it's laid back fun-filled watch that mostly you will not regret watching. I am happy to have caught up with this.