Stalag Luft is a made-for-TV BBC comedy, first shown in 1993. The film parodies the usual clichés of the prison escape plots, set at an undisclosed Stalag Luft camp. They’re led by the RAF Captain James Forrester (Stephen Fry), who is aided by the “Champ” Cosgrove (Nicholas Lyndhurst), in an ambitious, 24th escape bid to break out all 300+ prisoners at once. However, nothing is at it seems as it becomes apparent that German guards and their Kommandant (Geoffrey Palmer), might not be all that intent on keeping them in. Hilarity Ensues as the plot twists and turns all the way throughout its brief running time.
This film contains examples of the following tropes:
- Affectionate Parody: Of the traditional “POW Escape” films. The DVD cover even says: “You’ll never look at The Great Escape in the same way again.”
- Becoming the Mask: A hundred or so of inmates really enjoy it when they got the guard roles after evicting Germans, but none more so than Forrester. He initially tries to be good to others, but after the SS officer becomes suspicious of the routine, he becomes worse than the German commander, to the point that he’s awarded an Iron Cross.
- First-Name Basis: Parodied in the early discussions with Forrester and Kommandant: as Forrester respects him more, he asks him to call him Big F, like the prisoners, and later just F.
- Gratuitous German: Seems to be averted in the film, as there are many subtitled conversations in German that sound grammatically correct.
- The Guards Must Be Crazy: Parodied when the SS inspects the camp, now run by Forrester and his inmates dressed as guards, most of whom know little to no English.SS Officer: Are your men idiots?Forrester: "Yes."SS Officer: "What?"Forrester: "All the best men go to the SS."SS Officer: "Ah yes, it must be bad for you."
- Innocent Bigot: Forrester appears to be this towards homosexuality. He isn’t seen to dwell on the finding or hold much of a grudge towards the gay prisoners, but finds it a consequence of deteriorating morale and even considers leaving them behind at one point.
- Instant Messenger Pigeon: Played for laughs and ultimately averted. This film has the former German Kommandant’s parrot used as a carrier bird. The prisoners don’t even bother to tie the message to him, instead getting him to memorise it. Ultimately a mistake, as he forgets the message upon reaching British tank crew and gets strangled.
- Ironic Echo: A priceless one is given near the end to Forrester for all the crap he’s been giving to other prisoners, when they refuse to accept him as their own. The best one is saved for last:"We don’t need men like this in post-war Britain." (same line said by Forrester when he considers abandoning the two gay prisoners in their escape attempt.)
- No, You Go First: The escapees say this to the Germans after they volunteer to escape with them. Ironically, it is ultimately them who are untrustworthy, deciding to stay and evicting Germans from the camp.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: So Cosgrove and most of the prisoners worked hard towards the escape, determinedly digging tunnels through the night to leave, all for Forrester and minority of prisoners to take over as guards and become worse than the Germans.
- Transparent Closet: Virtually everyone knows the two people in the camp who are gay and in a relationship. Everyone, that is, besides Forrester, who is genuinely surprised when he’s finally told by Cosgrove:"Him?! But he’s Scottish!"