The Wooden Horse

  • 1950
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Prison, War

One of the cleverest escapes of WWII was pulled off by British prisoners in 1943, and this film tells their story. Pondering a method of escaping their camp, POWs Peter (Leo Genn), John (Anthony Steel), and Phil (David Tomlinson) hit upon a brilliant scheme. They construct a boxlike vaulting horse, which is brought out to the yard daily for a few hours...read more

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One of the cleverest escapes of WWII was pulled off by British prisoners in 1943, and this film tells their story. Pondering a method of escaping their camp, POWs Peter (Leo Genn), John (Anthony Steel), and Phil (David Tomlinson) hit upon a brilliant scheme. They construct a boxlike

vaulting horse, which is brought out to the yard daily for a few hours of exercise by their fellow internees. Inside the horse, however, are one and sometimes two men who start a tunnel from underneath the horse, then cover it up at the end of each day's vaulting. After months of digging and close

calls, the tunnel is ready. Three men remain inside it until after dark, then break through the last few feet of ground to the surface beyond the fence. Peter and John travel together and are eventually spirited by the Danish underground to Sweden, where they rejoin Phil. This was the first of the

British POW films and set the subgenre's style, in which Stalag life takes on the character of a British public school, a rigorous discipline and hierarchy in which the Germans function as "rather nasty prefects, who exist simply to be tricked and humiliated," as one critic put it. THE WOODEN

HORSE subscribes to this trivialization of what was really a horrible, degrading experience, but as an adventure the film is very successful--suspenseful and fast-paced, with all the leads well done in suitably stiff-upper-lip style.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: One of the cleverest escapes of WWII was pulled off by British prisoners in 1943, and this film tells their story. Pondering a method of escaping their camp, POWs Peter (Leo Genn), John (Anthony Steel), and Phil (David Tomlinson) hit upon a brilliant schem… (more)

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