The Blockhouse CoverWar, death, frustration, and fear, are four singular entities that will always be synonymous with each other, come what may. On occasion, though, a fifth element has also been known to penetrate this darkly emotional quartet. And do you know what? It was depicted in the following 93 minute movie made in 1973. It was Directed by Clive Rees; and Starred: Peter Sellers with Charles Aznavour.

The Blockhouse - Le Blockhaus

Hello? Is anybody there? Can anyone hear me? Hey! It's dark and murky in here! And I'm sure I saw some of you enter this bunker when the Allied Forces suddenly attacked our German prisoner of war camp.

Come on. Somebody. Anybody. Answer me. It's D-Day, God damn it. 1944. So at least one of you must be up and about celebrating our abrupt yet thankful victory against the axis regime!

What about you, Aufret (Peter Vaughan)? Or are you still concerned that the Germans guards will find us pilfering from their supplies? Or how about you, Visconti (Charles Aznavour)? Or are you prudently trying to figure out how we're going to get out of this place? And what about Kozhek (Leon Lissek) and Rouquet (Peter Sellers)? I mean, are you both thinking we'll always be trapped inside this hell-hole in spite of... of... of... oh, f*ck it!

I'm spent. I'm tiered. And I desperately need to have a lie down and get a drink. 

But then again, that's most probably why what next transpires all goes from bad to worse when we all start gradually falling to pieces. As suicide is on the cards - lunacy sends its warmest regards - desperation is the final key - and at the end of the day, 1951 spells nobody's victory.

Generally speaking there are many words I could use to define, 'The Blockhouse'. 'Depressing' would be one of them whilst another would be 'bleak'. Yet if I had to be completely honest with you, folks, I'd say the best word I can think of to label this film with would be, 'morbid'.

Peter Sellers in The Blockhouse DVD
Well, let's just say this slice of celluloid isn't really your hometown family comedy. Essentially it's a sad tale about a group of German prisoners who find themselves trapped inside a bunker and fighting to stay alive. What's more, to make this pretext even starker in tone, you'll notice that over time there's a series of time-related transitions, depicting each character deteriorating in front of your very eyes. And then, to make matters even more sullen, this in turn is enhanced by a combination of slow and repetitive sequences with hardly any exposition to them, bathed in a tinge of shadow and dimly lit candlelight. 

No. It's not 'Mary Poppins', is it?

Now to a certain degree I can understand why the makers of this movie decided to make it this fashion. After all, it was based on a true life tale about the futility of war. Also, I best mention that the cast members involved are great in it too -- especially Peter Sellers and Charles Aznavour -- because every single one of them managed to sprinkle something special into the mix, thus making this prisoner of war drama seem more real than others I care not to mention. 

On the flip side of things, though, there are a number of drawbacks to this picture as well. For instance, in places the dialogue is mumbled and rather difficult to comprehend, whilst its gloomy contrasting shades of dark and light does make certain visual elements very difficult to differentiate.

The Blockhouse Starring Peter Sellers

The Blockhouse Starring Peter Sellers DVD Cover
Once again, I can understand why the filmmakers put this type of artistic flourish in place. So we -- the audience -- can feel what the people in this film are feeling too. But at the same time too much can be too much, directly making the overall experience come across rather irritating to follow. And I tell you what? It's nothing like the following filmic-facts. (1) 'Audley Films' first screened this production in West Germany at the '23rd Berlin International Film Festival'. It was held in January, 1974, and no, it didn't win a prize. (2) The majority of this movie was shot on location within the English Channel Island of Guernsey. (3) One the taglines used to promote this picture, was, 'A true story of perseverance and survival'. (4) Loosely translated, this project was entitled 'Prisoners of war: The Bunker' in West Germany. (5) Even though this drama was loosely based upon a true story written by the French author, Jean Paul Clebert, entitled ‘Le Blockhouse’, in real life these events happened to German soldiers, not Allied soldiers. (6) The actor who played Aufret in this flick, Peter Vaughan, actually played Peter Sellers' father in the bio-pic, 'The Life and Death of Peter Sellers'. (7) For some strange reason this film never had a theatrical release in the United Kingdom. (8) This was the second of two movies where Peter Sellers tried to 'play it straight'. The other one being the 1960's crime-drama, 'Never Let Go'.

The Blockhouse Starring Peter Sellers

Overall I'd say ‘The Blockhouse’ is a very interesting film to watch, and I would recommended it to people who like slow, moody, and true-tales, depicted in a bleak, fractured, and monotonous way. Also, for any of you Peter Sellers fans out there who have never seen him act ‘straight’ before, go on, give it whirl! What have you got to lose?

Nice film. But not for people who are on a lot of anti-depressants, or for those of you who have short attention spans. Nuff said.


THE BLOCKHOUSE THE BLOCKHOUSE Reviewed by David Andrews on November 25, 2014 Rating: 5
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