The One That Got Away Review
Based on a true story, The One That Got Away opens with a picture of life in wartime England, one that goes on as normal in spite of the sound of German fighters overhead and the ever-present threat of a falling rocket. It is in such a place, somewhere deep in the English countryside, that a small crowd looks up on hearing the sound of an airplane freefalling out of the sky. Leaving their homes and places of work, the Home Guard run, cycle and drive to a remote piece of farmland, where a German plane lies damaged on the ground and where the pilot, aware of procedure, burns any record of his identity and his mission. Oberleutnant Franz von Werra, from his place in the Luftwaffe, is well aware of procedure and what will occur after his arrest.
Taken into custody by the Home Guard, von Werra demands that he be taken to a Prisoner Of War camp as is his right but the British either don't pay him any mind or are simply amused by the stand he takes. Even his interview with the Home Guard are curious affairs, less a formal interrogation than a chat and a cigarette beside the fire. But the manner in which von Werra is treated hides the care with which the British are extracting what they need to know from him, assisted by microphones in his room and a line of flattering questions posed by his interviewing officers. In spite of the manner in which he is treated, though, von Werra plots his escape and when the opportunity presents itself, he runs during a routine walk along the country lanes. Will von Werra be the only German prisoner of war to escape his British captors during the Second World War?
Well, the title does rather explain what happens but perhaps not in the manner that you might expect. von Werra does indeed escape during a routine walk outside of the camp but given that he chooses to run in the middle of the moors, his escape back to Germany is hampered by the wet English weather, the rain-soaked ground and the wide open spaces that offer little shelter from the elements. In time and with the British army doing so very little, von Werra shows up face down in the mud and almost begging his captors to take him back into custody. An ignominious end for a man now known for being the only German to flee back to occupied Europe during the Second World War.
Of course, like the British prisoners in The Great Escape or even those in Escape To Victory, von Werra doesn't admit defeat after but one attempt as, following his recapture, he tries again. The enjoyment in this film is twofold, the first and most obvious of which is the manner in which von Werra conducts his escape. von Werra does, for example, spin quite a yarn about being a Dutch pilot based at Dyce in Aberdeen and is so convincing that he's even seated in the cockpit of a fully-fuelled plane before he's suspected of attempting to steal it. And so von Werra returns to a Prisoner Of War camp but tries once again, feeling that fortune is turning his way as the British ship him off to Canada and to Montreal, at that time of the year just a walk across the frozen waters to the then still neutral US. After so many years of the Allies being presented as the good guys in the war, it does feel somewhat odd to be rooting for a Nazi but the film presents von Werra as being somewhat loosely affiliated to the Aryan cause, fighting for his own pride and for the glamour of the uniform than any belief in the message espoused by Hitler.
That brings us neatly to the other aspect of this film that draws our attention, that of watching The One That Got Away with no small amount of interest in the manner that the British presented themselves and the war in general. With much of the horrors of the Second World War still, I would imagine, to be fully understood, The One That Got Away portrays its combatants as gentlemen fighting a war with certain rules of conduct that must be obeyed. Hence the British, like the Germans, conduct their interviews by the fireside, ensure that their men get a few good meals a day and look upon the war effort in the manner of a jolly good jape straight from the pages of Warrior magazine. In that respect, it's a world away from the war movies that would follow but is no less fun because of it, probably being all the more enjoyable for its tale of a heroic escape than of anything related to what was then happening in mainland Europe and over the English Channel. Perhaps, however, in 1957 XXX XXX, that was just what was needed, leaving The One That Got Away an escapist tonic, literally so, until The Great Escape would come along some ears later.
Presented in what appears to be 1.66:1, The One That Got Away is in black-and-white but looks to be a little washed-out with none of the richness of contrast that we might expect of such a film. There is also a fair amount of damage to the print with flecks of dirt and spotting of the image visible throughout but in spite of that, this DVD does the job it's called upon to do. The DD2.0 Mono soundtrack is much the same, being sufficient in its accompaniment of the film but doing so without flair. There are so subtitles.
There are no extras on this DVD release of The One That Got Away.
Released by Network DVD, this is a typically bare-bones release that forms the bulk of their product - outstanding releases like The Champions tend to be the exception - but is fine as it is. Granted, some background information on von Werra might have improved this release but such things are not out of the reach of even the most technically backwards of viewers. As such, it's worth mentioning that von Werra returned home to Germany via the US, Brazil, Spain and Rome and was, on his arrival, declared a hero by Hitler. Returning to the Luftwaffe, von Werra disappeared on a routine flight in October 1941. Explaining all of this in a scroll in the end credits, The One That Got Away does enough to tell those parts of von Werra's life that it has an interest in but beyond the thrill of escaping, it doesn't have a great deal to say about the war in general, then only happening a short flight away.