FF6 - Stalag 17

Intro by John Roderick

At ease! At ease! Today we will be enjoying an early WWII dramedy by legendary director Billy Wilder. As an ensemble-piece, the film tells the story of American airmen in a German POW camp. While the overarching narrative concerns one of the inmates betraying them to their hapless German captors, the story is largely a series of light vignettes in which the soldiers get into all kinds of hijinks. From listening to the BBC on a clandestine radio to distilling alcohol and cross-dressing for the big Christmas party. The rat in their midst transmits information to the Germans that one of the men is responsible for sabotaging a military train and in order to help their comrade escape, the group closes ranks. Eventually the informant is caught and it is the last man anyone suspected. He is sent outside the barracks at night to distract the guards while two men escape the prison. It is a classic from 1953 that inspired innumerable imitations and it is our movie today on Friendly Fire. Achtung, seargants, it is Stalag 17!

John was in jail for 10 days (FF6)

In 1986 John did 10 days in jail in Boulder County, Colorado. He was in there for a trumped-up charge that he doesn’t even remember, something the cops came up with because John was too dangerous and a risk to their system! The prison was overcrowded even then and John was one of the unlucky prisoners who was not in there for murder, but who was housed on bunk beds in the gymnasium where they had put all the low-level offenders like John and people who were accused of burglary and stuff like that. During that time, they would not serve you coffee, because coffee was seen as a drug or as some terrible stimulant that would cause the prisoners to riot, but they gave you as much tobacco as you could smoke. They would wheel through the gym with a cart that had unlimited packages of top-tobacco.

You had to roll them yourself, but you could just smoke all day and because John didn’t smoke at the time, quite a few older prisoner would adopt him for a little while during those 10 days. That is where John learned to hot-wire a Honda Gold Wing. He actually made a chess-set out of paper when he was there, because a chess-set wasn’t something you would give the prisoners, either. There was some guy who taught John how to roll cigarettes and John would just roll cigarettes all day, thinking he was going to be a hero. It turned out there was so much tobacco that nobody wanted those cigarettes that were unaffectionately rolled by this teenager and John ended up with 200 rolled cigarettes that he was trying to choke down one a day. It was pretty strong stuff and John had a milk mustache at that point. He offered those cigarettes to anybody who wanted them, but rolling cigarettes was the one activity they all had in there and everybody just rolled their eyes at him.

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