During his long and storied career, Billy Wilder had a knack for making films that were not only considered film classics but were also model examples of their genre. Wilder defined the film noir with Double Indemnity. With Sunset Boulevard he made what is considered to be the best film ever made on Hollywood. Stalag 17, a film which was released in 1953, is considered by many to be the greatest Prisoner of War (POW) film ever made, and one of the greatest war films ever made, right up there with The Bridge on the River Kwai and The Great Escape.
The film was adapted from the Broadway play by Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski who based the play on their experiences as prisoners in Stalag 17B in Austria. Trzcinski also appears in the film as a prisoner. Pay attention to the scene where the soldier is reading mail from his wife back home. This sets the comedic tone for the film and it is pretty funny.
The film is set in 1944 and focuses on a POW camp where captured American sergeants reside alongside Polish, Czech and Russian captives. It is narrated by one of the soldiers reminiscing on their time in the camp.
With a tight plot, sharp dialogue, superb direction, great characters, excellent performances by the whole cast which includes lead actor William Holden and a unique blend of cynicism, comedy, suspense and drama, it is no surprise that Stalag 17 is one of the finest films of all time.