"There are two people in this barracks who know I didn't do it. Me and the guy that did do it."
Stalag 17 is a 1953 war movie set in a World War II German POW camp, starring William Holden, Otto Preminger, Don Taylor, Robert Strauss, Neville Brand, Harvey Lembeck, Sig Rumann, and Peter Graves, and directed by Billy Wilder. Based on the Broadway play of the same name which in turn was based on the real-life POW experiences of the play authors Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski.The movie opens the narrator, Cookie (Gil Stratton), recalling the attempted escape of two prisoners, Manfredi and Johnson, whose capture and death cause the American POWs to suspect that a traitor in their midst had tipped off the Germans. The primary suspect is Cookie's friend, the cynical and somewhat antisocial Sefton.The film is built on a double allegory: the same paranoia that causes the POWs to target Sefton had 1) enabled the Nazis easily to scapegoat the Jews and 2) induced Hollywood shortly before the movie's release to institute the Blacklist scapegoating left-leaning scriptwriters, performers, and others.
This movie contains examples of:
Affably Evil: Colonel von Scherbach makes light-hearted speeches to the prisoners:
All right then, gentlemen, we are all friends again. And with Christmas coming on I have a special treat for you. I'll have you all deloused for the holidays and I'll have a little Christmas tree for every barrack. You will like that.
And he says this while the bodies of Manfredi and Johnson lie in the mud in front of him.
Sergeant Schulz may claim to be your friend. But he's not.
Blatant Lies: After the other prisoners beat Sefton up thinking he was a traitor Sefton explains the bruises to the Geneva Representative that he was playing Pinochle. The Representative knows it is a lie but without Sefton saying anything else he cannot do a thing about it.
Bodyguard Betrayal: Price is the designated security guy who greenlights all of the POWs secret projects. And he's the mole.
Book Ends: A prison break opens and closes the film.
Bowdlerize: Billy Wilder made no other film for Paramount after this because they wanted to change the mole from a German to a Pole in the German-dubbed version so as not to cause offense among ex-Nazis.
Clear My Name: All of Sefton's wheeling and dealings with the Germans comes back to bite him as it makes him the perfect guy for the mole to put all the blame on.
Critical Research Failure: Invoked: What ultimately does The Mole in. He got the date when the Pearl Harbor attack occurred right, but failed to take into account the time zone.
Sefton: Six o'clock in Berlin. They were having lunch in Cleveland.
Cut Himself Shaving: The wonderful, "Nobody beat me. We were playing pinochle. It's a rough game."
Deadpan Snarker: A good chunk of the cast, including Sefton, Shapiro, Animal, and Marco.
Death by Irony: Once the identity of the mole is revealed once and for all, Sefton uses him to act as a diversion so he and Dunbar can escape. The POWs tie tin cans to Price, and throw him out of the barracks in the loudest manner possible thus drawing the attention of every guard, watchdog and machine gun tower in the camp which proves to be very lethal.
In another Hogan's Heroes episode, Newkirk sets off a book of matches, and tosses it into the back of a German truck, causing the truck to blow up... in this movie, Dunbar explains how he made a time bomb to blow up the German amunition train: light a cigarette, slip it into a book of matches, tossing it into a car full of straw, three minutes later, the fire would spread, eventually blowing up the amunition train.
That volleyball scene shows up in one episode of Hogan's Heroes, almost to the letter.
Additionally, some camera angles and scenes in The Great Escape are very similar to this movie.
The original pilot of Hogan's Heroes uses the same basic plot (simplified for the shorter format and reworked for comedy).
Foreshadowing: In the scene where Sefton is lying back in his bunk while the other POW's are gathered around ready to pounce on him and beat the tar out of him— note which one of them gives the signal to start the beating. It's The Mole.
Freudian Excuse: Schulz is convinced that Joey is "fooling us with that crazy business", though in Joey's defense, Hoffy retorts with, "Oh yeah, how would YOU like to see the guts of nine pals splattered all over YOUR plane?"
Genre Savvy: After Sefton is accused of being the spy, he lets the other POWs think such while he figures things out, knowing Scherbach will either move the mole or kill the whole barracks if he says anything before then.
Bagradian: Czechoslovakia und Poland - kaput! Und der Fräulein mit der Glockenspiel und der Bustenhalter - verboten! Und der Apfelstrudel mit der Liederkranz - Gesundheit! Everything is Gesundheit, kaput und verboten!
Hilarity Ensues: Pretty much any scene involving the dynamic duo of Shapiro and Animal.
I Am Spartacus: At one point Animal splashes mud on von Scherbach's boots. Not seeing who did it, von Scherbach demands that the guilty party step forward, which Animal does...followed by the rest of the POWs.
Jerk Ass: Sgt. J.J. Sefton. With the exceptions of Cookie and Joey, he sees everyone in the compound as simply an opportunity to get resources to trade for goods. This comes to bite him in the ass in the beginning of the story; when he barters with the Nazi guards using the cigarettes he won from a bet involving a botched escape attempt, he is suspected of being an agent planted by the Germans. He eventually becomes a Jerk With A Heart Of Gold when he decides to help save Dunbar and gives what's left of his stash to Cookie.
Justified in Sefton's view because his first week in a prison camp netted him lost clothes, and bruises when he tried to do something about it. Being out for himself did him better...
Large Ham: Scherbach. The colonel goes through great effort to put on his shiny boots just to make a phone call. (so he can click the heels together, ach so...)
Animal is also one of the largest members of the prisoners.
The Mole: Film's plot in a nutshell. Revealed to be Price.
Mole In Charge: And he's Security for the whole bunker, allowing him open access to most any plots or information the men might have.
Mood Whiplash: The constant tonal shifts between broad comedy and deadly serious drama may put people off.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Schulz. He acts as though he's trying for an over-the-top Wacky Nazi trying to be pseudo-friends with the Americans. Actually, it's an effective cover so they don't realize he's running a spy inside the American barracks.
Oh Crap: The moment Price realizes that Sefton has proven to rest of the POWs that he's the double agent.
The Reveal: When Sefton tricks Price into revealing when and where he heard about Pearl Harbor. "6:00. I was eating dinner," Price answers. Sefton points out that he'd only be able to do that if he lived in Central Europe, and not Cleveland like he said.
Selective Obliviousness: One of the POWs gets a letter from home from his wife, who writes to tell him about this beautiful baby just left on her doorstep. The guy wants to totally buy his wife's story, while the other POW he's reading the letter to just stares at the camera with an "I can't believe he's buying this" expression.
[reading] "...and you'll never believe this, but she has just my eyes and my nose!" Why does she keep saying I'll never believe it? I believe it. I believe it!