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Guy Hamilton
John Mills, Eric Portman, Christopher Rhodes
Writing Credits:
Guy Hamilton, Ivan Foxwell

Allied prisoners of various nationalities pool their resources to plan numerous escapes from an "escape-proof" German camp housed in a Medieval castle.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
English PCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 98 min.
Price: $84.95
Release Date: 3/31/2020
Available Only as Part of “Their Finest Hour” 5-Film Collection

• “Colditz Revealed” Documentary
• Restoration Comparison
• Booklet


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The Colditz Story [Blu-Ray] (1955)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 25, 2020)

A few years after his death, Guy Hamilton remains best-known as the director of four James Bond movies, a run most remembered for the iconic 1964 flick Goldfinger. Of course, Hamilton’s career started pre-Bond, and with 1955’s The Colditz Story, we get one of his earlier efforts.

Set in 1940 during World War II, the Germans refashion Colditz Castle as Oflag IV-C, a POW camp. There the Nazis house the most difficult Allied soldiers – ie, the ones who already tried to escape other facilities.

The location’s Kommandant (Frederick Valk) threatens ranking British officer Colonel Richmond (Eric Portman) and the others not to attempt to flee. Naturally, Colonel Richmond and the others do their best to defy these orders.

I strongly suspect that WWII movies outnumber films about all other wars by a wide margin, and POW dramas become a notable subset of the genre. Here in the US, we know flicks like The Great Escape and Stalag 17.

Don’t expect Story to match up with those classics, as it fails to reach their level. However, it still offers a fairly engaging take on the subject.

Viewers will see connections to both Great Escape and Stalag 17, as it shows traits found in both. Ala Escape, we see the POWs’ attempts to leave the camp, but ala Stalag, we get more of a feel for life in captivity.

Unlike Escape, we don’t get one overriding mission for the plot. Instead, Story follows multiple stabs at freedom, most of which fail.

That creates an unusual energy about Story, as the persistent losses by the Allies set a certain sad-sack tone. Story doesn’t focus on tragedy, as it dollops out some comedy, but it does allow for effective drama too.

Like the other movies cited, Story comes with a large cast, but in this case, it doesn’t delineate the roles especially well. Outside of Colonel Richmond and British officer Pat Reid (John Mills), we don’t get to know the various characters especially well.

This doesn’t turn into a fatal flaw, though, as the basic tension of the escape attempts brings enough juice to keep us engaged. Because we feel a natural affection for the Allies, it matters less that we don’t bond with specific characters – we root more for the mission than the men.

Hamilton manages to balance the comedy, drama and action pretty well. Although he doesn’t show quite the same sure hand he displayed with Goldfinger, he nonetheless holds together a movie that could fall apart easily.

All of this adds up to a pretty effective war drama. Nothing about Colditz Story makes it a classic, but it becomes a good genre effort.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+

The Colditz Story appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The transfer gave us a good reproduction of the film.

Sharpness appeared fairly tight and distinctive most of the time. Some softness occurred, though I suspect these instances came from the source photography. I didn’t think those concerns because problematic, though, as the definition was fine through the majority of the film.

No issues with shimmering or jagged edges occurred. Despite the film’s advanced age, source flaws were minor, as only a handful of small marks appeared.

A good layer of grain appeared, so I didn’t suspect significant noise reduction. Contrast was strong, as the movie consistently maintained a nice silver tone.

Blacks were deep and firm, while shadows were smooth and well-defined. Overall, this was a largely appealing presentation.

I felt the LPCM monaural soundtrack of Story also worked well. Speech seemed reasonably accurate and distinct, with no issues related to intelligibility or edginess, though the lines could feel a little brittle at times. While music came across as fairly bright and lively, dynamic range seemed limited given the restrictions of the source.

Effects were similarly modest but they showed good clarity and accuracy within the confines of 65-year-old stems. This was a more than adequate auditory presentation for an older movie.

A documentary called Colditz Revealed spans 53 minutes, 34 seconds and brings comments from author’s son Henry Reid, historian David Ray, and Colditz prisoners Corran Purdon and Pete Tunstall.

As expected, “Revealed” looks at the history of Colditz Castle’s use in WWII, the experiences of the POWs and connections to the novel/movie. This becomes an informative chat, especially when we get the vivid memories from Purdon and Tunstall.

We also find a three-minute, four-second Restoration Comparison. This simply shows side-by-side images of “before” and “after” without explanation of the processes.

The package also includes a booklet. It presents basic notes about Story and the other four movies in the Their Finest Hour collection.

While not one of the all-time great POW movies, The Colditz Story proves fairly effective. It brings an engaging narrative and enough drama to keep the viewer with it. The Blu-ray offers largely positive picture and audio as well as a good documentary. Story becomes a quality war tale.

Note that Colditz Story appears only as part of the five-film “Their Finest Hour” package. This set also includes Went the Day Well?, The Dam Busters, Dunkirk (1958) and Ice Cold in Alex.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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