Stalag 17 (1953) Review
Long before Hogan’s Heroes came to TV in 1965, there was Stalag 17. It's sitcom versus straight drama.
And Hogan’s Heroes was a much better production. While Stalag 17 attempted to portray prisoners of war as being just as involved in the war effort as the troops on the front lines, the producers of Hogan’s Heroes realized that was just plain silly. Hogan’s Heroes took the Stalag 17 concept to its ludicrous extreme and was a better show to boot.
In Stalag 17, the POW camp commandant was comical. He seemed more like a character straight out of Saturday Night Live than a real-life Nazi. His menacing, insinuating monotone was a parody of German commandants.
Also, the prisoners were rather more upbeat than might have been expected. Obviously, they had to keep their spirits up in order to survive, but they just didn’t seem very unhappy about being in a prison camp. This is a movie about wartime prisoners that treats being held by the Germans as being no different than being in a public school -- though with the slight possibility that the students might be shot during escape attempts. The characters simply lack depth.
Click the image to view movie stills
The whole idea that the Germans would put a “spy” inside an American POW camp comprised of sergeants is ludicrous. Even worse is the idea that the Germans would get one of their own to immigrate to America pre-war to enlist in the U.S. Army and get himself captured so that he could serve the Fatherland as a spy in a POW camp. This movie is stupid, not to mention very predictable.
My father was a World War II soldier, and while he was never in a POW camp, he knew many guys who were. My father thought Stalag 17 was absolute trash and an insult to all POWs. He liked Hogan’s Heroes as that flick made no pretense of being realistic about what prison camp was like.
What former POWs have said about what it was really like to be in a POW camp showed Stalag 17's utter lack of basis in reality. The reality of staying alive under hardship without proper food, clothing, or medical attention -- not to mention sadistic guards -- should have been material for a great movie.
Editor's Note: This review originally appeared on OMGN's former sister site FlickZone on Feb. 23, 2005.