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Release Date: November 21st, 2023 Movie Release Year: 1953

Stalag 17 - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Overview -

Before there was Hogan’s Heroes, there was Stalag 17, writer-director Billy Wilder’s hugely entertaining comedy-drama about a motley group of American GIs trying to make the best of life in a German POW camp during World War II. William Holden won a Best Actor Oscar for his cynical, acerbic portrayal of a suspected snitch and a stellar ensemble cast provides top-notch support. The brand new Dolby Vision HDR master struck from a 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative is sublime, while robust audio and a hefty supplemental package add to the appeal of this essential release. Highly Recommended.

The legendary star and director of 1950’s Sunset Boulevard—William Holden and Billy Wilder—re-teamed three years later for the gripping World War II drama, Stalag 17. The result was a 1953 Best Director Oscar® nomination for Wilder, and the elusive Best Actor Oscar® for Holden. The iconic star of The Bridges at Toko-Ri and The Bridge on the River Kwai portrays the jaded, scheming Sergeant J.J. Sefton, a P.O.W. at the notorious German prison camp, who spends his days dreaming up rackets and trading with the Germans for special privileges. But when two prisoners are killed in an escape attempt, it becomes obvious that there is a spy among them. Is it Sefton? Famed filmmaker Otto Preminger (Rosebud) tackles a rare acting role as the camp’s commandant; Robert Strauss (The Seven Year Itch) earned the film’s third Oscar® nomination (Best Supporting Actor) for his role as “Animal.” Here’s “the granddaddy of all World War II P.O.W. films” (Leonard Maltin), a powerful antiwar classic from the brilliant creator of Five Graves to Cairo, A Foreign Affair, Sabrina, Some Like It Hot and The Apartment.


STALAG 17 (1953) 70th Anniversary
• Brand New HDR/Dolby Vision Master – From a 4K Scan of the 35mm Original Camera Negative
• NEW Audio Commentary by Filmmaker/Historian Steve Mitchell and Combat Films: American Realism Author Steven Jay Rubin
• NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historian Joseph McBride, Author of Billy Wilder: Dancing on the Edge
• Audio Commentary by Actors Richard Erdman and Gil Stratton with Co-Playwright Donald Bevan
• Triple-Layered UHD100 Disc
• Optional English Subtitles
• Brand New HD Master – From a 4K Scan of the 35mm Original Camera Negative
• NEW Audio Commentary by Filmmaker/Historian Steve Mitchell and Combat Films: American Realism Author Steven Jay Rubin
• NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historian Joseph McBride, Author of Billy Wilder: Dancing on the Edge
• Audio Commentary by Actors Richard Erdman and Gil Stratton with Co-Playwright Donald Bevan
• Stalag 17 - From Reality to Screen: Featurette (22:01)
• The Real Heroes of Stalag XVII B: Featurette (24:49)
• Theatrical Trailer
• Dual-Layered BD50 Disc
• Optional English Subtitles

Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray + Blu-ray
Video Resolution/Codec:
Dolby Vision HDR / HDR10
Aspect Ratio(s):
Audio Formats:
English: DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono
English SDH
Special Features:
Release Date:
November 21st, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take


Writer-director Billy Wilder made a disproportionate amount of great films over the course of his four-decade Hollywood career, so it isn't surprising some of his cinematic gems don't always get the attention they so richly deserve. One of them is Stalag 17. This captivating comedy-drama about a gaggle of pent-up, puckish American POWs in a German prison camp during World War II earned more money than any previous Wilder movie when it premiered in 1953. It also earned William Holden a Best Actor Oscar and nominations for Best Director and Best Supporting Actor, but it's routinely overshadowed by such Wilder tour de forces as Double IndemnitySunset Blvd.Some Like It HotWitness for the Prosecution, and The Apartment. It also gets unfairly dismissed as a carbon copy of its 1960s TV sitcom cousin Hogan's Heroes. (The two share a key character named Schulz and the same Stalag setting, but that's about it.) Hogan's Heroes is a stellar show, but Stalag 17 is infinitely smarter, classier, and more substantive.

Stalag 17 isn't Wilder's best film, but it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the classics listed above. Deftly balancing lunacy with intrigue and tension and brandishing Wilder's trademark cynicism and bite, the movie both incisively examines and lampoons male behavior while reflecting the prejudice, bullying, and persecution that was currently plaguing the U.S. during the McCarthy Era. Wilder's acerbic script, co-written with Edwin Blum (the only time the two collaborated), overhauls the popular Donald Bevan-Edmund Trzcinski stage play that's based on their own experiences as German camp prisoners. (Trzcinski memorably plays one of the POWs in the movie.) Wilder opens up the tale, yet maintains the stifling sense of paranoia and claustrophobia that drives it.

It's Christmastime in 1944 and two American GIs in the barracks of Stalag 17 are about to bust out of the pen. Sgt. J.J. Sefton (Holden), a smooth operator who schmoozes with the Nazi guards and works the system to his advantage, wagers the two escapees won't make it, despite what seems to be a foolproof plan. When Sefton wins the bet (after the two GIs lose their lives), his outraged fellow prisoners believe someone in their ranks tipped off the guards...and the smug, cocky Sefton is the prime suspect. Lack of evidence notwithstanding, the men target, browbeat, and ostracize Sefton, who endures their wrath while quietly trying to expose the rat who lives among them.

In addition to male bonding and discrimination, Stalag 17 adds class conflict to the mix when the Nazis capture a blue blood U.S. pilot, Lt. James Dunbar (Don Taylor), and toss him in the barracks with Sefton and the other POWs. After camp commander Oberst von Scherbach (Otto Preminger) turns the screws on Dunbar in the hope of squeezing vital information from him, the GIs plot the pilot's escape, but fear Sefton will sabotage their scheme.

Holden wasn't Wilder's first choice to play Sefton, despite their previous successful collaboration on Sunset Blvd. a couple of years earlier, but he's undeniably the right choice. Though Holden often sulked during shooting and continually pleaded with Wilder to make Sefton more sympathetic, the role fits him like a glove and he files one of his finest performances. The competition on Oscar night was stiff - both Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift for From Here to Eternity, Marlon Brando for Julius Caesar, and Richard Burton for The Robe - but Holden walked away with the award.

Robert Strauss also nabbed an Oscar nod in the supporting category for his no-holds-barred portrayal of Sgt. Stanislaus Kuzawa, a.k.a. "Animal." Along with his partner in crime Harvey Lembeck, Strauss ignites the movie's comic fuse, and though his work seems a bit too frantic and over the top today, his boundless energy and enthusiasm add spice and spunk to the proceedings. Sig Ruman as the bumbling guard Sgt. Schulz also gets plenty of laughs and Preminger, who felt more at home behind the camera than in front of it, is perfectly cast as the sour, sneering commander. The top-notch ensemble also includes Neville Brand, Gil Stratton, and a young Peter Graves, who attacks his meaty part with vigor.

Stalag 17 is a more important movie than meets the eye. It wasn't the first film to blend comedy with drama, but it proved just how comfortably the two forms could coexist and paved the way for the proliferation of a new genre. Wilder was first and foremost a writer and his scripts depict the human condition in all of its messy glory better than any of his Hollywood contemporaries. Stalag 17 is a prime example and remains a richly entertaining look at the various tools men use during wartime to deal with pressure and adversity and survive bleak circumstances. M*A*S*H and Catch-22 owe it a great debt. Movie fans owe it their attention and respect.

Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Stalag 17 arrives on 4K UHD packaged in a standard case inside a sleeve. A standard 1080p Blu-ray disc is also included in the set. Video codec is 2160p/HEVC H.265 with Dolby Vision HDR and audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono. Once the disc is inserted into the player, the static menu with music immediately pops up; no previews or promos precede it.

Video Review


A brand-new 4K scan of the original camera negative yields a spectacular 2160p/HEVC H.265 transfer that’s enhanced with Dolby Vision HDR. The movie’s natural grain structure remains intact, preserving the feel of celluloid and faithfully honoring the stark cinematography of eight-time Oscar nominee Ernest Laszlo, who would win the award a dozen years later for Ship of Fools. Superior clarity and contrast, rich blacks, and beautifully varied grays produce a detailed image that’s punctuated by palpable depth. All the dirt and grime on the prisoner’s clothes, the muddy ground, and cramped confines of the barracks are crisply rendered and top-notch shadow delineation keeps crush at bay during the immersive nocturnal scenes. Razor-sharp close-ups showcase the cuts and bruises on Holden’s cheek and ear after he’s beaten by his fellow POWs (the makeup is quite realistic and really holds up under the scrutiny of 4K UHD), as well as facial hair and stubble, sweat, and blemishes. Clothing fabrics are distinct, a couple of optical shots are seamlessly woven into the whole, and no nicks, marks, or scratches mar the pristine print.

The standard Blu-ray also looks great, but the 4K presentation really kicks everything up a couple of notches. I can’t compare these transfers to the 2006 DVD, but it’s safe to say both of them best that bygone relic. If you’re a Stalag 17 fan, an upgrade is mandatory.

Audio Review


The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track supplies crystal clear sound. There’s no music score per se (although an uncredited Franz Waxman supplied a few orchestrations), but the incidental music nicely fills the room, thanks to healthy dynamic range. Sonic accents like machine gunfire, fisticuffs, and sirens are distinct and all the dialogue is well-prioritized and easy to comprehend. No distortion creeps into the mix and any age-related surface noise has been meticulously erased. This is a no-frills track, but it’s been remastered with care and serves the film well.

Special Features


All the extras, except the photo gallery, have been ported over from Paramount's 2006 DVD. KLSC supplies two additional commentary tracks to raise the total to a whopping three!

  • NEW Audio Commentary with filmmaker/historian Steve Mitchell and author Steven Jay Rubin - This dynamic duo has recorded tracks for numerous war films and their comfortable rapport and vast amount of knowledge make this commentary a breezy listen. Mitchell calls Stalag 17 "an unusual film for Billy Wilder" and feels it provides a more realistic POW treatment than The Great Escape. Topics the pair covers include the importance of setting to Wilder, the differences between the play and film with regard to plot and characters, the difficulty of mixing comedy with sober reality, casting, and the cynical slant that distinguishes Wilder's best films. They also provide bios of many cast members, share anecdotes and trivia, and relate Stalag 17 to other war pictures. This is an engaging and insightful track that's well worth a listen.

  • NEW Audio Commentary with film historian Joseph McBride - Billy Wilder's biographer sits down for a high-quality commentary that covers some of the same territory as the one above, but focuses much more intently on Wilder. McBride reveals the reasons behind the breakup of the Wilder-Charles Brackett screenwriting team, notes Wilder was quite interested in making Schindler's List and spoke to Steven Spielberg about collaborating on it, relates how Wilder dealt with the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, and talks about the difficult relationship between Wilder and his co-writer Edwin Blum, who never worked with Wilder again. He also examines how Wilder liked to push the boundaries of both censorship and good taste, looks at the recurring themes of emotional detachment, cynicism, and masquerade in Wilder films, points out some homosexual undercurrents in the film, calls the plot an allegory for the Hollywood blacklist, details an alternate ending that was scrapped, and recounts some of his personal experiences with Wilder. If you're looking for a more scholarly and analytical commentary, this excellent track is the one for you.

  • Audio Commentary with actors Richard Erdman and Gil Stratton and co-playwright Donald Bevan - Recorded for the 2006 DVD, this track is a bit poignant because all three of the participants have passed away. They swap war stories, share their colorful memories of Holden, Wilder, and Preminger, criticize weak moments in the film, recount a few anecdotes, and enjoy a comfortable rapport. Bevan says he modeled Sefton after a kid he knew in junior high and envisioned the character as "a Cagney type." He also states it would have been "a disaster" if Charlton Heston played Sefton as originally envisioned by Wilder. Plenty of gaps litter this track, which is pleasant and engaging, but not particularly substantive.

  • Featurette: "Stalag 17: From Reality to Screen" (SD, 22 minutes) - William Holden biographer Bob Thomas, actors Richard Erdman and Gil Stratton, Billy Wilder biographer Ed Sikov, co-playwright Donald Bevan, and writer-director Nicholas Meyer talk about the film's stage roots, how Wilder rewrote and opened up the play, the impeccable casting, Holden's ambivalence about his unsympathetic role, and the challenges Wilder faced during production in this high-quality 2006 featurette. They also share anecdotes about Otto Preminger, discuss Wilder's style, recount a visit to the set by Marlene Dietrich, and look at the movie's success.

  • Featurette: "The Real Heroes of Stalag XVII B" (SD, 25 minutes) - Bevan and other World War II veterans recall their experiences in the German POW camp that lends its name to the film. They share facts about Stalag 17, reminisce about their day-to-day routines, escape efforts, and ultimate liberation, and relive some of the horrors they witnessed in this absorbing, informative, and emotional 2006 featurette. Military historians supply some perspective and some newsreel footage and rare photos enhance the piece.

  • Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2 minutes) - The film's re-release preview heralds Holden's Oscar-winning performance. Other trailers for Holden, Wilder, and World War II KLSC releases are also included.

Final Thoughts

Stalag 17 remains an incisive, gripping, and often hilarious film 70 years after its premiere and KLSC honors it with an exceptional 4K UHD release. A brand new Dolby Vision HDR master struck from a 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative puts us in the thick of the German POW camp and brings Wilder's often overlooked comedy-drama to brilliant life. Excellent audio, a whopping three audio commentaries, and two high-quality featurettes enhance this top-notch presentation that demands a spot on every film lover's shelf. Highly Recommended.