Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Stalag 17

A group of airmen are in a German Prisoner of War camp. Each escape attempt has resulted in failure and a spy is suspected. When the materially successful operator comes under suspicion, he becomes an outcast. When a new arrival is accused of being a spy and saboteur, the camp unites to hide him as the operator looks for the real plant.The Movie was adapted from a Broadway play.

Produced and directed by Billy Wilder, it starred William Holden, Don Taylor, Robert Strauss, Neville Brand, Harvey Lembeck, and Peter Graves (Strauss and Lembeck both appeared in the original Broadway production); Wilder also cast Otto Preminger in the role of the evil camp commander.

The movie was adapted by Wilder and Edwin Blum from the Broadway play by Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski who were both prisoners in Stalag XVII-B. (Trzcinski appears in the film as a prisoner.) The play was directed by José Ferrer and was the Broadway debut of John Ericson as Sefton. It began its run in May 1951, continued for 472 performances and was based on the experiences of its authors, both of whom were POWs in Stalag 17B in Austria.

Stalag 17 begins on "the longest night of the year" in 1944 in a Luftwaffe prisoner-of-war camp located somewhere along the Danube River. The story of a Nazi spy in Barracks Four is narrated by Clarence Harvey "Cookie" Cook (Gil Stratton).

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Prisoners Manfredi and Johnson try to escape through a tunnel the inmates have dug under the barbed wire. They are immediately shot by waiting prison guards when they emerge outside the fence. The other prisoners conclude that one of their own must have informed the Germans of the escape attempt, and suspicion falls on Sefton (William Holden), a cynical and somewhat antisocial prisoner who barters openly with the German guards for eggs, silk stockings, blankets and other luxuries. He also organizes mouse races and various other profitable enterprises that net him his hoard of "luxuries." The other prisoners are suspicious of his fraternization with the enemy, though envious of his dealmaking success — for instance, he wins a large number of cigarettes from the other prisoners by betting against Manfredi and Johnson's successful escape, then trades the cigarettes to the Germans for an egg the next morning.

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The lives of the prisoners are depicted in a somewhat sanitized way. They receive mail, eat terrible food, wash in the latrine sinks, and collectively do their best to keep sane and defy the camp's cruel and ruthless commandant, Oberst von Scherbach (Otto Preminger). They use a clandestine radio, smuggled from barracks to barracks throughout the entire camp, to pick up the BBC and the war news. (The antenna is their volleyball net.) Their German guard, Sergeant Schulz (Sig Ruman), confiscates the radio, another success for the "stoolie," whoever he is.

Sefton bribes the guards to let him spend the day in the women's barracks in the Russian section of the camp. The other prisoners spot him through Sefton's own telescope and conclude that this is his reward for having informed the Germans about the radio. When he returns, he is accused of being a spy. At that moment, von Scherbach pays a visit to the barracks to apprehend new prisoner Lieutenant James Dunbar (Don Taylor), who had previously told the other prisoners that he had blown up a German ammunition train while he was being transported to the camp. The men are convinced that Sefton divulged Dunbar's act of sabotage to the Germans, and they viciously beat Sefton, after which he is ostracized. His considerable property is taken and redistributed to the rest of the prisoners. Sefton then decides to investigate and uncover the identity of the spy in order to clear his name. Eventually he remains in the barracks during a fake air raid and successfully discovers the identity of the spy: the barracks security chief, Price (Peter Graves), who Sefton overhears conversing with Schulz in German and divulging the means by which Dunbar destroyed the ammunition train.

Sefton divulges the theory to his only friend in the camp, Cookie. He points out that the stoolie may not be an American traitor at all but a German spy posing as an American to ferret out information. However if he reveals and proves Price is the stoolie the Germans would simply remove him and put him in another camp.

On Christmas Day, the men find out that SS men are coming to take Dunbar to Berlin for interrogation. The entire camp creates a distraction and Dunbar is freed and hidden. Nobody but the compound chief Hoffy (Richard Erdman) knows of Dunbar's whereabouts, and he refuses to divulge the information to anybody, even the supposedly trustworthy Price. Dunbar is thus successfully kept from the Germans despite extensive search efforts. After von Scherbach threatens to raze the camp to find Dunbar, the men decide one of them must help Dunbar escape. Price volunteers for the job, and when he appears to have convinced the other prisoners to let him do it, Sefton reveals him as the spy. After accusing Price, Sefton asks him "When was Pearl Harbor?" Price knows the date, but Sefton traps him by quickly asking what time he heard the news. Without thinking, Price betrays himself by answering 6 p.m. — the correct time of the attack in Berlin, Germany, and not Cleveland, where he claims to have come from. After that, Sefton reaches into Price's jacket pocket and extracts the "mailbox" used to exchange messages with the Germans, a hollowed-out black chess queen.

With his fellow POWs convinced of Price's guilt, Sefton decides to take Dunbar out of the camp himself, first because he likes the odds of escape and second due to the reward he can expect from Dunbar's wealthy family. The men give Sefton enough time to get Dunbar out of his hiding place (the water tower above one of the camp latrines) then throw Price out into the yard with tin cans tied to his legs. The ruse works: Price is killed in a hail of bullets (to the later consternation of von Scherbach and Schulz) by camp guards who believe him to be Dunbar or one of the other prisoners, creating a distraction that allows Sefton and Dunbar to cut through the barbed wire and make their escape.

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The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954)

The Bridges at Toko Ri is Set during the Korean War, a Navy fighter pilot must come to terms with with his own ambivalence towards the war and the fear of having to bomb a set of highly defended bridges. The ending of this grim war drama is all tension.

The Bridges at Toko-Ri is a 1954 film based on a novel by James Michener about a naval aviator assigned to bomb a group of heavily defended bridges during the Korean War. It was made into a motion picture by Paramount Pictures and won the Special Effects Oscar at the 28th Academy Awards. It follows the book of the same title emphasizing the lives of the pilots and crew in the context of a war that seems remote to all except those who fight in it. The goal of the mission is set above everything else and the heroes perish as victims of fate. The novel and film are a composite of actual missions flown against bridges at Majon-ni and Changnim-Ni, North Korea, in the winter of 1951–1952, when Michener was a correspondent aboard the aircraft carriers Essex and Valley Forge, and with a pair of rescue missions on February 8, 1952, one of which involved the shoot-down of a plane off the Valley Forge. However, in the rescue incident referenced the downed airmen survived the crash and rescue attempt but were captured by North Korean soldiers. (At the time Michener believed the men to have been killed.)

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U.S. Navy Lieutenant Harry Brubaker (William Holden) is a pilot who previously fought during World War 2, went back to his civilian job as an attorney, and is now a recalled naval reservist further engaged in the Korean War flying jets from carriers. The film starts with him returning from a mission where his jet sustained battle damage and he has to ditch it into the bone chilling cold of the Sea of Japan.

Brubaker is about to freeze to death when a Navy rescue helicopter appears. The rescue helicopter that saves Brubaker is flown by an enlisted Naval Aviation Pilot (NAP), the eccentric Green top hat & green scarf wearing Chief Petty Officer Mike Forney (Mickey Rooney), with Forney's crewman AD2 Nestor Gamidge (Earl Holliman) jumping into the freezing water to hook Brubaker to the rescue harness.

Rear Admiral Tarrant (Fredric March), the carrier task force commander, lost his own son at the Battle of Midway during World War II and Brubaker’s manner and bearing brings back memories of his lost son. The admiral finds the pilot is tired of war and just wants to return to civilian life to be with his family and the legal career he left behind. Nevertheless, they both agree to the necessity of seeing this conflict through to its conclusion.

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A new mission is set. The target is a group of bridges used by Communist forces. Commander Wayne Lee, the Commander of the Carrier Air Group ("CAG"), is dedicated to his men, but Tarrant would rather see him dedicated to his mission. He decides not to recommend promoting Lee to the rank of Captain for this reason.

Brubaker is told that his wife Nancy (Grace Kelly) and children arrived in Tokyo on an unexpected visit and he is given a three-day pass during a port visit. Their reunion is interrupted when Nestor shows up at their hotel asking Brubaker's help in bailing Forney out of the guardhouse after a brawl with another sailor. Nancy, anxious to have her husband back home, is terrified to discover the signs of a man ready to crack from combat fatigue. Nancy is deep into thoughts of being left a widow. Tarrant will try to support her, although he, too, remembers how his own daughter-in-law had almost turned insane after losing her husband, Tarrant's son.

Back to the carrier, Lee presents to his pilots the air photos taken from a low pass over Toko-Ri. The flak is extremely dense and the pilots have to fly very low into the banks of the river while receiving fire from all sides. Brubaker gets sick after this briefing and believes his days are numbered. He is ready to write a letter to Nancy predicting his own death. Lee tries to boost the pilot's morale by asking him to stay behind if he feels he cannot accomplish his mission. Brubaker vows to do his duty.

The initial attack is on a series of bridges. Lee organizes two formations, the second one to be led by Brubaker. The results from the first attack are incomplete, so he orders the second group led by Brubaker to attack. Brubaker's team dashes in low and completes the destruction of the last bridge. Lee then directs the air group to attack a secondary target, an ammunition dump. As Brubaker completes the run, his plane receives a hit that creates a fuel leak. Lee escorts Brubaker, guiding him back to the carrier, but the fuel loss will not allow Brubaker to overcome the last hill before the sea. He belly-lands onto a relatively flat area. The rescue helicopter and his faithful friends Mike and Nestor land close by to pick him up, but Chinese ground troops arrive and machine gun the helicopter, killing Nestor. Brubaker and Forney try to hide in a small ditch to defend themselves with carbines and pistols, but eventually are outnumbered and both are killed.

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After getting confirmation from the US Army that the three Americans are killed, Admiral Tarrant is shattered by the news and demands an explanation. Lee retorts that despite the losses, the mission was a success. Tarrant sorrowfully must accept that Lee has "matured", recommending him for promotion. The film ends with Tarrant alone, wondering where Brubaker and all the others under his command could have found the bravery to do what is asked from them. The movie ends with a famous quote: "Where do we get such men?"

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