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Thursday, July 23, 2015

ESCAPE FROM EAST BERLIN (1962)

No doubt, it sounded like a good fit; Hollywood film noir specialist Robert Siodmak, back in Germany since the mid-‘50s, taking on a ripped-from-the-headlines story of East Berliners digging their way to freedom in the West under the recently erected Berlin Wall. With an American ringer as box-office insurance (Don Murray with a hard-to-locate accent), Siodmak has little trouble running this moderately thrilling suspenser with its nicely varied cast and atmospheric lensing by Georg Krause, best known from Kubrick’s PATHS OF GLORY/’57. Retitled TUNNEL 28 (presumably to catch the draft off NBC’s just-aired Emmy-winning documentary THE TUNNEL), the film only partially hits its potential. There’s a phony misunderstanding near the start that hobbles everything that follows, and further losses in verisimilitude as each neatly-groomed plot beat & carefully balanced character flaw kicks into place. Without a plain surface and a ban on got’cha narrative tricks, the bedrock story starts to cancel itself out dramatically. Though full credit for the visually effective twist at the end. But it could have/should have been better, as it was when that documentary was made into an excellent tv film, also called THE TUNNEL/’01*, released theatrically outside Germany.

DOUBLE-BILL: *In addition to the 2001 German film mentioned above, there’s also Billy Wilder’s off-the-chart Cold War farce, ONE, TWO, THREE/’61 which was actually being shot on location in Berlin as the Wall was going up.

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