UK / 1959
Director: Don Chaffey
Writers: Bryan Forbes, Frank Harvey, based on the novel Death in Captivity by Michael Gilbert
Cast: Richard Todd, Bernard Lee, Richard Attenborough, Michael Wilding, Dennis Price, Donald Houston
Prisoner-of-war escape movies have held a constant fascination for British filmmakers. Many of the best took their inspiration from real-life experiences and incidents. This highly enjoyable example of the genre, however, derives from the novel Death in Captivity by thriller writer Michael Gilbert. It ingeniously combines the ‘traditional’ elements of the prisoner-of-war films with those of the equally ‘traditional’ whodunit. The result is an effective mixture of suspense and comedy, resulting from both the depiction of the prisoners’ various efforts to break out of a British Officers’ prisoner-of-war camp in Northern Italy in 1943 and their efforts to track down the traitor in their midst who is betraying their plans to their captors.
The excellent screenplay is by actor and director-to-be Bryan Forbes and Frank Harvey and provides a strong narrative and good characterisation as well as entertainingly observing the minutiae of life in a POW camp. This observation is complemented by Don Chaffey’s sharp direction. The casting, too, is impeccable with a fine roster of British actors and character performers on view, led by Richard Todd, Bernard Lee, Michael Wilding and Richard Attenborough.