Monday, November 21, 2016


aka TUNNEL 28

In 1961, East Germany, under Russian control, built a wall to separate East and West Berlin. The Berlin Wall was heavily guarded by armed patrols to stop East Berliners from escaping, either to join relatives who had already left or to get out from under Communist rule. This film's focus is on Kurt (Don Murray), a mechanic and driver for Major Eckhardt. Kurt is a carefree young man, still living with his family in East Berlin and engaged in a clandestine affair with the Major's buxom wife. One night after work, he hitches a ride with Gunther, a fellow driver, hoping to talk him into sharing a beer. But the nervous Gunther drops Kurt off, then turns his truck around and races desperately for the wall. His truck does crash through, but he winds up tangled in barbed wire and killed by guards. The next day, Kurt runs into Gunther's sister Erika (Christine Kaufmann), who makes a half-hearted attempt to break through some barbed wire at a less-guarded area of the wall. She is certain that her brother got through, but Kurt can't bring himself to tell her the truth, though he does hide her when some suspicious guards come after her. Soon Kurt finds himself pressured—by Erika, by a potentially blackmailing neighbor, and by the presence of a stranger named Brunner (Werner Klemperer) whose motives for hanging around Kurt's family’s house are unclear—into attempting an escape by tunneling under the Wall.

Based on an actual escape that occurred only months before shooting on the film (in West Berlin) began, this is a low-key thriller whose main suspense is generated not so much by the escape at the end—which actually feels a little rushed and anti-climactic—but by the character development of Kurt from unambitious playboy to committed hero. Though derided by some critics as too bland and Midwestern, Murray brings a certain easy charm to his part and does a decent job of showing his (mostly internal) struggle with committing to political action—albeit mostly because he falls in love with Erika. Klemperer nicely underplays the wild card character. Tension is kept up well throughout without much in the way of histrionics or bombast. Robert Siodmak, the director, was known for his film noirs of the 40s (THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE, THE DARK MIRROR) and this movie has a dash of the noir flavor in its shadowy nighttime scenes. Not a masterpiece but enjoyable. [TCM]

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