“There are two people in this barracks who know I didn’t do it: me and the guy that did do it.”
After two men attempting escape die in a German prisoner-of-war camp, a cynical wheeler-dealer (William Holden) is falsely accused of being an informant to the barrack’s Kommandant (Otto Preminger). Someone is sending secret messages to their presiding guard (Sig Rumann) — but who could it be?
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Billy Wilder Films
- Falsely Accused
- Neville Brand Films
- Otto Preminger Films
- Mistaken or Hidden Identities
- Play Adaptation
- Prisoners of War
- William Holden Films
- World War Two
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this wartime spy flick — directed by Billy Wilder, and based on a Broadway play by Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski — “stumbles along at the beginning, as we try to adjust to the rowdy comedy that plays a major part in the film” (he asserts that “these men need laughter in their lives”), but argues that “it really gets exciting once we viewers are let in on the spy’s identity”, at which point we “can’t wait till Holden traps the culprit”. I essentially agree with Peary’s assessment, though I feel more strongly that the “rowdy comedy” detracts from an otherwise powerful drama — I’ve learned that the presence of character actor Harvey Lembeck automatically makes me think of awful Beach Party flicks and brings to mind terms like “annoying” and “obnoxious”. Regardless, Holden’s performance is excellent, and the spy storyline is quite compelling: despite guessing the spy’s identity fairly early on, this didn’t detract from my enjoyment, instead allowing for a creepy “close-read” of a man so easily able to fool so many people under such high stakes. The moral of the story is: beware of false accusations and crowd mentality.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- William Holden as Sefton
- Creative direction
Yes, once, for Holden’s Oscar-winning performance.