The Password Is Courage (1962)
Reviewed on 2012 March 15
This B&W film from 1962 is a kind of British Stalag 17, with elements that reminded me a great deal of The Great Escape. Like the latter, this is based (pretty loosely from what I’ve read) on a true story, and it has more of that dry English humor than either. This doesn’t make it better, just different, and a worthy addition if you’re a film buff.
Sergeant-Major Charles Coward (Dirk Bogarde), who based on this thing gets my vote for one of the most ironically named men ever, is a German POW who never tires of tormenting his Nazi captors, through either outright sabotage or through sheer passive-aggressiveness. He delights in sabotage most of all, and his friend Corporal Billy Pope (Alfred Lynch) wreak more havoc than a herd of locusts. When Pope and Coward aren’t driving the Germans insane, they’re busy with the other POWs plotting an escape. Coward may have a wicked sense of humor, but he’s dead serious when he reminds the men that it’s their duty to try to escape, no matter what the risk.
Coward soon sees a chance to work with the Underground, which would be the ultimate hat trick of helping the Allies, a possible chance of escape, and just the joy of knowing what he’s doing would enrage the Nazis even more. He’s warned of the risks to himself and others if he does this, and he doesn’t take this lightly, but neither is he afraid. After all, he duped the Nazis into awarding him an Iron Cross without batting an eye…
I read the real-life Coward spent more time helping some Auschwitz prisoners instead of being a destructive wasp in Nazi flesh, but it’s still a good movie, very funny at times without demeaning what the Allies went through. The Iron Cross thing is mentioned on the DVD cover, and only the beginning of the stunts pulled by Coward and Pope. I still liked Stalag 17 more, but this is a close second. The ingenuity of the prisoners is enough to warrant a recommendation from me.
Three chocolate morsels. I’m still surprised I’ve never heard of this thing before.