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  Danger Within Killer In Camp
Year: 1959
Director: Don Chaffey
Stars: Richard Todd, Bernard Lee, Michael Wilding, Richard Attenborough, Dennis Price, William Franklyn, Vincent Ball, Peter Arne, Peter Jones, Ronnie Stevens, Terence Alexander, Andrew Faulds, Steve Norbet, Cyril Shaps, John Dearth, Robert Bruce, Michael Caine
Genre: Thriller, WarBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Second World War is raging, but for these four hundred British prisoners of war, things are a little quieter under the camp rules of the Italians, not that everyone wishes to simply sit out their time there. The duty of the British soldier under these conditions is to escape, and some of them take this instruction more seriously than others: there are those who would prefer to play cards, or rehearse for a performance of Hamlet, while there are the daredevils who have been getting up to digging tunnels under the fence to get away. But today there is a grave incident when one of the would-be escapees is shot to death in his attempt to leave: how did the Italians know about this beforehand? Is there an informer in the Brits' midst?

The P.O.W. movie was a variation on the war genre the British film industry took to with some enthusiasm. Obviously, the most celebrated of these would be The Great Escape from 1963, the star-studded adventure, based on a true story, that may have entertained a large contingent of actors from the United Kingdom, but was not actually a British production, it was American. Nevertheless, there were plenty of indications that the makers of that blockbuster were well aware of the conventions of the P.O.W. efforts that had hailed from Blighty, as they lifted quite a bit from the likes of Very Important Person or Bridge on the River Kwai, among others - and this little item, an unassuming war caper that struck a chord in many.

Danger Within, or Breakout as it was also called in some territories, more or less came and went in the cinemas of its day, it garnered some decent reviews but the feeling was we had seen too many of these by 1959, so it was nothing new. Skip forward to the point where television was casting about for content, however, and it was ideal for filling a couple of hours in an afternoon schedule, not merely thanks to its accommodating running time, but because it was the sort of film you could catch the first five minutes of and idly pay it attention, whereupon it was two hours later and you had been sufficiently engrossed to watch the whole shooting match. For that reason this just about qualified as a cult movie, since it had its fans even if it was not a title that many would bring to mind immediately as one of their all-time favourites.

Besides, there was a collection of British actors, both leads and character actors, assembled here who delivered exactly what was required of them, which was, perhaps surprisingly, a whodunit based in a prison camp. A body of one of the escapees is found in a tunnel and it is ascertained that he did not die, as is initially thought, when the earth collapsed on his head, but he has been murdered instead, and the race is on with the imprisoned officers in the camp to work out who is the killer, before their next big break. Maybe you could argue we find out - at the halfway mark - the identity of the villain too soon, yet this simply meant the suspense shifted to a different perspective as we realised plans were being discussed freely with the informer/murderer in the room. Although tense, there was room for comedy (Dennis Price the longsuffering thespian playing the Dane), and you could spot Michael Caine in a couple of bits, who became more famous than any of his well-known at the time co-stars like Richard Todd or Michael Wilding. All round, professional and solid entertainment.

[Network release this on Blu-ray in a very clean print as part of The British Film with an image gallery and HOH subtitles as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Don Chaffey  (1917 - 1990)

British director best known for directing fantasy favourites Jason and the Argonauts and One Million Years B.C, both of which featured groundbreaking Ray Harryhausen effects. Chaffey also directed Hammer's Viking Queen, but much of his work was in television, both in the UK (The Prisoner, Man In a Suitcase) and, later, the US (Charlie's Angels, CHiPs, Airwolf). Also made kids' favourites Greyfriars Bobby and Pete's Dragon for Disney.

 
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