le 17 septembre 2015
STALAG 17  [Blu-ray] [US Import] The Star-Spangled, Laugh-Loaded Salute to Our P.W. Heroes! William Holden in his Great Academy Award Performance!
Academy Award® winner William Holden and OSCAR® winning director Billy Wilder reunite for the gripping World War II drama 'STALAG 17.' William Holden portrays jaded, scheming Sergeant J.J. Sefton, a prisoner at the notorious German prison camp, who spends his days dreaming up rackets and trading with the Germans for special privileges. When two prisoners are killed in an escape attempt, it becomes obvious that there is a spy among the prisoners. Is it Sefton?
FILM FACT: Awards and Nominations: Academy Awards®: Won: Best Actor in a Leading Role for William Holden. Nominated: Best Director for Billy Wilder. Nominated: Best Supporting Actor for Richard Strauss. William Holden's acceptance speech is one of the shortest on record "thank you;" and the TV broadcast had a strict cut-off time which forced Holden's quick remarks. The frustrated Holden personally paid for advertisements in the Hollywood trade publications to thank everyone he wanted to on Oscar night. He also remarked that he felt that either Burt Lancaster or Montgomery Clift should have won the Best Actor Oscar for From Here to Eternity instead of him. The prison camp set was built on the John Show Ranch in Woodland Hills, on the southwestern edge of the San Fernando Valley. The shoot began in February, the rainy season in California, providing plenty of mud for the camp compound. It is now the location of a meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Cast: William Holden, Don Taylor, Otto Preminger, Robert Strauss, Harvey Lembeck, Richard Erdman, Peter Graves, Neville Brand, Sig Ruman, Michael Moore, Peter Baldwin, Robinson Stone, Robert Shawley, William Pierson, Gil Stratton, Jay Lawrence, Erwin Kalser, Edmund Trzcinski, Ross Bagdasarian (uncredited), Rodric Beckham (uncredited), Richard P. Beedle (uncredited), Mike Bush (uncredited), Don Cameron (uncredited), Jarvis Caston (uncredited), Tommy Cook (uncredited), Carl Forcht (uncredited), Ralph Gaston (uncredited), Jerry Gerber (uncredited), Ross Gould (uncredited), Russell Grower (uncredited), William Hoehne Jr. (uncredited), Willy Kaufman (uncredited), William LaChasse (uncredited), Forrest Lederer (uncredited), Peter Leeds (uncredited), Wesley Ling (uncredited), Harald Maresch (uncredited), Maurice Marks (uncredited), Bill McLean (uncredited), John Mitchum (uncredited), Robin Morse (uncredited), William Mulcahy (uncredited), Joe Ploski (uncredited), Harry Reardon (uncredited), Paul Salata (uncredited), William Schramm (uncredited), James R. Scott (uncredited), Bill Sheehan (uncredited), A. Gerald Singer (uncredited), Warren Sortomme (uncredited), Fred Spitz (uncredited), Robert R. Stephenson (uncredited), Herbert Street (uncredited), Bob Templeton (uncredited), John Veitch (uncredited), Steve Wayne (uncredited), Alexander J. Wells (uncredited), Max Willenz (uncredited) and William Yetter Jr. (uncredited)
Director: Billy Wilder
Producers: Billy Wilder and William Schorr
Screenplay: Billy Wilder, Edwin Blum, Donald Bevan (based on the play) and Edmund Trzcinski (based on the play)
Composer: Franz Waxman
Cinematography: Ernest Laszlo
Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White]
Aspect Ratio: 1.35:1
Audio: English: 2.0 DTS-HD Master Stereo Audio, English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo, French: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo and Spanish: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish
Running Time: 120 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: Billy Wilder was an Austrian born filmmaker/writer/director and an all-around cinema genius. Born Samuel Wilder on June 22, 1906 in Sucha, Austria, Wilder went from being a Viennese reporter to a free-lance writer in Berlin where he started working on film scripts in 1929. As Hitler rose to power, Billy Wilder moved to Paris to direct his first film, as he feared his Jewish ancestry would threaten his existence in Nazi occupied Germany. Via his film connections including friend Peter Lorre, he made a new home the United States. Once in the U.S.A he found great success in writing and directing films. But it became a very personal film for Billy Wilder when he made ''STALAG 17'' .
The scene is a German POW camp, sometime during the mid-1940s. 'STALAG 17' exclusively populated by American sergeants, is overseen by sadistic commandant Oberst Von Schernbach [Otto Preminger] and the deceptively avuncular sergeant Schultz [Sig Ruman]. The inmates spend their waking hours circumventing the boredom of prison life; at night, they attempt to arrange escapes. When two of the escapees, Sgt. Johnson [Michael Moore] and Sgt. Manfredi [Peter Baldwin], are shot down by the German guards, Stalag 17's resident wise guy J.J. Sefton [William Holden] callously collects the bets he'd placed concerning the fugitives' success. No doubt about it: there's a security leak in the barracks, and everybody suspects the enterprising J.J. Sefton, who manages to obtain all the creature comforts he wants, of being a Nazi infiltrator.
Things get particularly dicey when Lt. James Dunbar [Don Taylor], temporarily billeted in Stalag 17 before being transferred to an officer's camp, tells his new bunkmates that he was responsible for the destruction of a German ammunition train. Sure enough, this information is leaked to the Commandant, and Lt. James Dunbar is subjected to a brutal interrogation. Certain by now that J.J. Sefton is the "mole," the other inmates beat him to a pulp. But Sefton soon learns who the real spy is, and reveals that information on the night of Dunbar's planned escape.
Despite the seriousness of the situation, 'STALAG 17' is as much comedy as wartime melodrama, with most of the laughs provided by Sgt. Stanislaus 'Animal' Kuzawa [Robert Strauss] as the Betty Grable-obsessed "Animal" and Sgt. Harry Shapiro [Harvey Lembeck] as Stosh's best buddy. Other standouts in the all-male cast include Richard Erdman as prisoner spokesman Sgt. 'Hoffy' Hoffman [Richard Erdman], Neville Brand as the scruffy Duke, Peter Graves as blonde-haired, blue-eyed "all American boy" Sgt. Frank Price, Gil Stratton as J.J. Sefton's sidekick Sgt. Clarence Harvey 'Cookie' Cook (who also narrates the film) and Robinson Stone as the catatonic, shell-shocked Joey.
Writer/producer/director Billy Wilder and co-screenwriter Edmund Blum remained faithful to the plot and mood the Donald Bevan/Edmund Trzcinski stage play 'Stalag 17,' while changing virtually every line of dialogue-all to the better, as it turned out Edmund Trzcinski, who like Bevan based the play on his own experiences as a POW, appears in the film as the ingenuous prisoner who "really believes" his wife's story about the baby abandoned on her doorstep). William Holden won an Academy Award for his hard-bitten portrayal of J.J. Sefton, which despite a hokey "I'm really a swell guy after all" gesture near the end of the film still retains its bite today.
This story is based on reflections of the real experiences from the real Stalag XVII B in a POW camp in Austria. The big screen version begins with a voice-over narrative, as several Billy Wilder films did. At the POW camp where the entire story takes place, we are introduced to a cast of characters from one of the barracks and the Nazi guards. As a wittily-scripted mystery swirls around them both, Wilder expertly brings his plot and sparring characters ever closer to the boil. While 'STALAG 17' is undoubtedly an intimate war picture (no massive explosions or trench scenes here), it still captures a buoyant energy seldom seen in the genre except in the likes of 'Von Ryan's Express' or The Great Escape.' It's easy to see where M*A*S*H* got its tonal ideas from. With a cracking print an insightful interview on the disc, this is a solid package for a truly essential viewing picture.
Blu-ray Video Quality ' Billy Wilder was famously contemptuous of films that called attention to their style, but he always used good cinematographers. Paramount Pictures brings us a stunning 1080p encoded black-and-white images, where the depth and detail of Ernest Laszlo's precise lighting is truly impressive. The Blu-ray's image brings this effect to home video with a finely grained image, superb detail and only an occasional soft shot to suggest any generational loss. The source material either is in pristine condition or has been expertly restored, and there is no indication of any untoward digital tampering to slant the look of the film toward modern video tastes. 'STALAG 17' looks like a classic Black-and-White Second World War film from the Fifties, except that Billy Wilder's films are timeless and a joy to watch time after time.
Blu-ray Audio Quality ' The film's original mono soundtrack has been presented as 2.0 DTS-HD Master Stereo Audio, with identical front left and right channels and the sounds are very good for a film of this vintage. On top of all that the dialogue is exceptionally clear, which always essential for a Billy Wilder film, and the sound effects of machine guns, trucks, pounding on doors, etc. have decent dynamic range effect, despite it only being a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Stereo Audio soundtrack. The minimal score by an uncredited Franz Waxman achieves exactly the right effect, so giving this Billy Wilder film the right presentation for your viewing enjoyment.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary with Actors Richard Erdman, Gil Stratton and Co-Playwright Donald Bevan: With the start of this informative commentary, we hear from Gil Stratton, who introduces himself and informs us he was Sgt. Clarence Harvey 'Cookie' Cook in 'STALAG 17;' next up we are introduced by Donald Bevan [Stalag XVII B Veteran/Playwright] and last but not least is Richard Erdman who was Sgt. 'Hoffy' Hoffman the leader in 'STALAG 17.' But out of their comments, they all say they are pleased to be here commentating on the film 'STALAG 17' they are all viewing. They talk about Billy Wilder the director and the use of voice [narrator] overs in his films, but they also mention the film was originally going to start in a barber shop, and not in Stalag 17. Richard Erdman comments on the first close up of him and says, 'what a wonderful actor I am,' he jokes and they all talk about certain actors in the film, who are sadly no longer with us and they also mention that at the time of this audio commentary, the film was 50 years old. They also talk about all the outdoor filming of the compound where the huts were and was built at The Paramount Ranch which was off Cornell Road, which was and located in the hills just a few miles northwest of Los Angeles, and for ages is stayed empty and now is built up with loads of house, churches, schools and one of the contributors says that you would not recognise the place and people today would never know it was used in the film 'STALAG 17.' They talk about good old Otto Preminger and how good an actor he was, especially his scenes in 'STALAG 17' and on the set he was sometimes a bit of a bully, but socially he was a very nice friendly guy. They also talk fondly about the actor William Holden and what a really nice person he was, but while filming 'STALAG 17' they heard rumours about his drinking problem, but Richard Erdman personally never witness this situation, but one of the other contributors speaks while on the set in the mornings would see Willian Holden call for his personal vale called 'Sugar' and would see the vale bring a glass, that they thought was water, but in fact was neat vodka, and of course in later years died an alcoholic, especially the fact they found Willian Holden had hit his head on a coffee table, that caused his fatal injuries and was of course a very sad ending to his career, as he was a very talented actor, who everyone enjoyed his company. Ross Bagdasarian [1919 ' 1972], who was the 'Singing Prisoner of War' in the film eventually became a Composer, prolific songwriter and composed "Come On-a My House", "Witch Doctor" and "The Chipmunk Song," and of course became very wealthy, but sadly passed away in 1972. One nice snippet of information we hear is that Billy Wilder kept all the actors in the dark and up to the last minute who was the German spy in the barrack, and the commentators on the part of the film when this is revealed. The commentators also mentions that a longer ending was filmed, but have no idea why it was not included in the film. All in all they all enjoyed making a film that has become a cult classic Second World War film and this was a fascinating view, but a lot of time the two contributors that were actually in the Stalag XVII B prison camp talk endless about their experiences, which is quite interesting sometime, but overall it is well worth a view.
Special Feature: Behind the Scenes: Stalag 17: From Reality to Screen  [480i] [1.35:1] [22:00] Here we get contributors from the likes of Bob Thomas [William Holden Biographer]; Richard Erdman [Sgt. 'Hoffy' Hoffman]; Ed Sikov [Billy Wilder Biographer]; Edmund Trzcinski [Playwright/ 'Triz' Trzcinski]; Donald Bevan [Playwright]; Nicholas Meyer [Writer/Director] and Gil Stratton [Sgt. Clarence Harvey 'Cookie' Cook] talk extensively about the film 'STALAG 17' and their involvement. They talk about the prison camp exteriors that were shot on the John Show Ranch in Woodland Hills, on the southwestern edge of the San Fernando Valley and that the interior shots were done at the Paramount Studios Sound Stage Lot No.5. They all also mention that both Charlton Heston and Kirk Douglas were considered for their role of J.J. Sefton, but with Charlton Heston he had loads of other commitments and other projects. The Paramount Executives hated the film, especially having all the actors looking grubby, dirty and dishevelled, but Billy Wilder in the end got his way and carried on filming. One interesting information they revealed, is that Billy Wilder invited Marlene Dietrich to the set and had a lot of fun with the actors, especially with the Richard Erdman [Sgt. 'Hoffy' Hoffman]; where Marlene whispered in his ear when doing a bit of filming, to kiss her even when Billy Wilder says, 'cut,' well they still kept kissing and Billy kept shouting 'cut,' eventually Billy shouts out 'lunch' and Richard Erdman and Marlene Dietrich suddenly stopped kissing and all had a good laugh. We eventually we see several images of the Beverley Hills Warner Bros. Cinema Premiere of 'STALAG 17' and all the guests arriving, which mainly consists of the direct, actors and their wives. After the Premier we are informed that the film was a great success and $10 million in worldwide markets on its initial release, but of course eventually became a Hollywood Cult Classic film, plus at the Academy Awards® it got a couple of awards. All the people involved with the film respected Billy Wilder the director and knew he would come up trumps with the film, and especially a big hit. This is a very fascinating special feature and well worth a view. This was a Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment Production in Association with SPARKSHILL.
Special Feature: Behind the Scenes: The Real Heroes of Stalag XVII B  [480i] [1.35:1] [24:48] With the start of this special documentary, you get to view loads of black-and-white images of the Second World War. Contributors to the special feature are: Capt. Dale Adam Dye, Jr. [USMC Ret. American Author, Actor and Technical Advisor for Film & Television]; Donald Bevan [Stalag XVII B Veteran/Playwright]; Edward McKenie [Stalag XVII B Veteran]; Ned Handy [Stalag XVII B Veteran] and Philip Kaplan [Military Historian/Author]. We are informed that Stalag XVII B as established on the 26th October, 1939 and was located near Krems in Austria. It contained 29,794 POWs from several nations, plus there was 4,000 American POWs who were kept separate, and eventually all the POWs were evacuated out of Stalag XVII B prison camp on the 8th April, 1945. To keep themselves occupied they had a lot of Group activities, specialising in for example, learning how to become a mechanic, farmers and also learning about photography and for readers there was an extensive library with loads of books. For any actors, producers and carpenters, there was a theatre and when the shows of course needed female parts, certain men were willing to dress up in drag for the female parts, plus the German Officers would always attend the performances. Whenever the Red Cross packages arrived, the Germans would take out all the good stuff, like the American cigarettes and the American POWs would do a lot of trading with the Germans. When the Germans knew the war was ending, all the POWs were let of out of the Stalag XVII B prison camp and eventually all the POWs ended up in the forest, at the same time the Allied Forces and the Russian soldiers were getting closer, and there were a lot of shelling. Eventually we are informed that the Second World War ended and all the POWs were informed that they were all free to go home and of course a lot of celebrations went on, and eventually everyone was evacuated home. Once again this was a very fascinating special feature and well worth a view. This was a Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment Production in Association with SPARKSHILL.
Finally, 'STALAG 17' deserves to be viewed, for its excellent performances, magnificent direction and historical relevance, especially with it being released on a Paramount Pictures Blu-ray disc, but stay away from the ghastly The Masters of Cinema Blu-ray release, as the sounds on the film is all out of sync and I had to send my Blu-ray copy back, so again there has never been a better time to check the Paramount Pictures Blu-ray disc, as it is so much better value and has far better extras. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller ' Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom