This made-for-television movie from Yorkshire Television was written by the prolific British comedy writer David Nobbs (author of The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin) and resolved around a group of allied prisoners in a German POW camp called Stalag Luft during World War II.
Stephen Fry – as Wing Commander “Big F” Forrester – virtually reprises his character from Blackadder Goes Forth as a pompous officer who won’t listen to anyone else and the unsuccessful leader of the escape committee. Forrester is a hopeless snob whose only redeeming feature is his schoolboy German which allows him to befriend the nervous camp Kommandant, played by a marvellously hangdog Geoffrey Palmer.
When the prisoners plan an escape, the Kommandant (“call me Heinrich”) persuades Big F to let him and his tired old guards come along too, in order to avoid the inevitable retribution of the SS.
The Germans are duped into going first, and without them, prison camp life suddenly seems a lot more fun, so the Allied soldiers decide to stay behind and wait out the war.
To avoid detection in frequent SS inspections, half of them – led by Big F – dress up as German soldiers and feign laryngitis. But power goes to the new Kommandant’s head, and conditions in the camp rapidly become worse than they were under the real Germans.
The SS commander is so impressed that he recommends Big F for the Iron Cross.
But the “prisoners”, led by northern grammar school boy “Chump” Cosgrove (Nicholas Lyndhurst), feel hard done by and plan another escape.
The film was shot on location in Northumberland, Leeds and at Yorkshire Television’s studios. It’s very funny, but perhaps an hour too long.
Wing Commander James “Big F” Forrester
Sqdn. Ldr. Barton
‘Einstein’ Price Egerton
Oberst Von Steffenberg
John Pirkis (as John Duvall)