Danger Within (1959)
The Reasonable Escape
I've watched quite a few WWII PoW movies and I don't remember ever watching a bad one but I have watched several which end up disappointingly average. "Danger Within" is one such movie because whilst we get all the usual elements of ingenious escape attempts, camaraderie and humour it serves up two differences but two differences which are under developed. The first of these is that the camp is in the North of Italy with Italian guards yet they act just like Germans and then we have the mystery of an informant and a murder but both are never more than ideas which need fleshing out. In a way "Danger Within" is a waste of a good story, put out as a movie before interest in PoW movies dwindled.
As the latest attempt by a prisoner to escape the Italian PoW camp goes wrong, head of escapes Lt. Col. David Baird, M.C. (Richard Todd - The Dam Busters) believes they have a traitor in their midst and suspects Lt. Cyriakos Coutoules (Cyril Shaps). But when Coutoules is found dead in one of their tunnels not only do the men wonder how he got there but also who killed him, something that head of the prison Capitano Benucci (Peter Arne) is also interested in as he sets about finding the men. But as the men plan for their latest and most daring escape Capt. 'Bunter' Phillips (Richard Attenborough - Sea of Sand) thinks he has uncovered who the traitor is and if he is right every man's life is in danger.
So part of "Danger Within" is very normal and delivers everything you expect from a WWII PoW movie. We have the various ingenious escape attempts, the way of discarding soil using socks down the trousers, the camaraderie of men, the group of performers putting on a show and to be honest I could go on because it is nothing but typical when it comes to this side of things. In fact mention that the cast features Richard Attenborough, Richard Todd, Bernard Lee, Dennis Price and you have familiar faces that appeared in other PoW of movies. Now yes this makes "Danger Within" typical but watching prisoners trying to escape, hide their activities and give the guards a hard time is always enjoyable.
But then there is the other side of the movie and to me the missed opportunity to make it feel different. Firstly here we a have PoW camp in Northern Italy with Italian guards but other than the accent they might as well have been German guards as they act the same. And that is most disappointing when it comes to Capitano Benucci who is as sadistic as any German officer, it would have been nice to make him more Italian if that makes sense.
And adding to this disappointment is that alongside being an escape movie we also have this mystery of not only who killed Coutoules but who the traitor is. Unfortunately whilst it is a bit of a surprise as to who the traitor is there is no solving of the mystery, out of the blue we are told who he is and at the same time who killed Coutoules. We still have the waiting game for the men to discover the rat within their ranks but even then it is all so underwhelming. It ends up feeling like a PoW movie made relatively quickly whilst the genre was still popular rather than delivering a really good PoW movie with ideas which are fleshed out.
Now I've already mentioned various actors who appear in "Danger Within" and to be honest you are more likely going to remember the actor rather than the character because they are all the usual bunch. There is nothing wrong with any of the performances but at the same time these are familiar actors playing generic characters and they do a solid if forgettable job of them.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "Danger Within" is an entertaining PoW movie it also feels like a missed opportunity. The whole aspect of the murder and traitor could have made for a really tense thriller instead of one which feels like it was in need of fleshing out and more time taken on it to make it more than just another WWII PoW movie.
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