World War II movies with a German perspective and made by American or British directors have been few and far between. The only two I can readily recall are Sam Peckinpah’s “Cross Of Iron” and Roy Ward Baker’s “The One That Got Away”. 

Baker’s film centres round the exploits of Franz von Werra, the only German prisoner of war to escape from the Allied forces during World War II. In this 1957 film, von Werra is played by the charismatic young Hardy Kruger (little bit of a stereotype here, given that Kruger looks like the archetypal Aryan blonde so favoured by Hitler’s Nazis).

The film opens with von Werra’s fighter crashing into a British farm in 1940 and throws us fairly quickly into the pilot’s increasingly bold and desperate efforts to break out of captivity. A poorly planned bid to break away during an exercise march and trek across desolate marshes nearly ends in tragedy for von Werra due to bad weather.

Hardy Kruger and Michael Goodliffe in "The One That Got Away"

Transferred to another prison camp, von Werra and four other Germans tunnel their way out. This time, von Werra resorts to the audacious ploy of posing as a Dutch pilot in the Royal air Force and talks his way into an airbase in order to commandeer a fighter plane.

Captured once again, von Werra is transferred to Canada (which was then part of the British Empire). While being transported to a prison camp, von Werra jumps out of a moving train and makes his way to the border with the then neutral United States of America.

Hardy Kruger and Alec McCowen in "The One That Got Away"

Like many war movies made in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s, this is a “little” film – small budget and simple special effects (check out the miniature plane used to depict von Werra’s crash at the start of the movie) – but with a solid cast. Kruger, who is in almost every scene in the film, carries off the main role with aplomb, playing a cocky young man who is not willing to let anyone or anything keep him in captivity.

The only flaw, for me, was the lack of any exploration of von Werra’s desperate efforts to break out. There is no real explanation for his desperate desire to escape.

The direction by Roy Ward Baker, who had a long career in British films and television series, is solid and workmanlike. This was a man who always churned out watchable stuff, ranging from episodes of the series “The Saint” and “The Persuaders” (both featuring Roger Moore) to Hammer horror films like “The Vampire Lovers”.

“The One That Got Away” is available in a fine PAL anamorphically enhanced DVD from Britain in its correct 1.66:1 aspect ratio.

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