The Blockhouse is a 1973 film, based on a 1955 novel by Jean-Paul Clébert. It was directed by Clive Rees and starred Peter Sellers, in a rare dramatic performance, and Charles Aznavour. It was filmed entirely in Guernsey in the Channel Islands and was entered into the 23rd Berlin International Film Festival.
British theatrical poster
|Directed by||Clive Rees|
|Produced by||Edgar Bronfman Jr.|
Antony Rufus Isaacs
|Screenplay by||John Gould|
|Based on||novel Le Blockhaus by Jean-Paul Clébert|
|Music by||Stanley Myers|
|Edited by||Peter Gold|
|Distributed by||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)|
On D-Day, a mixed group of forced labourers held by German forces take shelter from the bombardment inside a German bunker, but are then entombed when the entrances are blocked by shelling damage. By coincidence, the bunker is a storehouse, so the prisoners have enough food and wine to last them for years. However, they are trapped not for years but permanently, and the film analyzes how they deal with their underground prison, with their relationships, and with death.
The book and film appear to have been inspired by a possibly true story: On 25 June 1951, Time magazine reported that two German soldiers claimed to have been trapped for six years in an underground storehouse in Babie Doły, Poland.
Edgar Bronfman Jnr, when only a teenager, was working on one of his father's films in London while on summer vacation. He came across a script called The Blockhouse by John Gould and Clive Rees. In the summer of 1972 Bronfman and Anthony Rufus-Isaacs combined to produce the film, which was shot on the Channel Islands, under the direction of Rees. Filming took place in June 1972.
"I've fallen in love with producing" said Bronfman "and I plan to make it my life's work."
"It's a film for the connoisseurs of cinema," said Sellers. "It's a very heavy movie. It could easily put you on a downer... Clive Rees, who directed it, is brilliant, every bit as good as Stanley Kubrick.
The film was shown at the Berlin Film Festival but was never given a general release in Britain. Hemdale recut the film adding footage to show time passing, and putting in a new ending where the two lead characters survived. (In real life the two survivors died almost immediately after being released.)
TV Guide states that "the film tries to study men in a terrible, claustrophobic setting, but it never reveals the true nature of the characters or a metaphysical reason for their predicament. A worthy idea that sadly goes nowhere." However, the film does currently hold a 73% approval rating (based on 126 reviews) on Rotten Tomatoes.
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- "Buried Alive For Six Years". Eugene Register-Guard. 18 June 1951. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
- "In Babie Doly". Time magazine. 25 June 1951.
- MOVIES: Peter Sellers paces his 'life after death' SISKEL, GENE. Chicago Tribune 25 June 1972: k4.
- Ah, To Be 18 and a Movie Mogul!: ALSO OPENING THIS WEEK SUSPENSEFUL PERRY SELECTED SHORTS FINAL CURTAIN MORE WHITMORE WHERE'S WINNER? To Be 18 and a Mogul! By A. H. WEILER. New York Times 13 May 1973: 127.
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- "The Blockhouse". TV Guide. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
- "The Blockhouse". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 21 April 2017.