How the US army escaped from history

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The Independent Online

How on earth can the Americans make a film about Americans escaping from Colditz, if there weren't any Americans there in the first place? Answer: never underestimate Hollywood's ingenuity, as this extract from the forthcoming The Colditz Job shows:

Scene: interior. A large POW hut in Colditz Castle. It is 1943. The war is going badly for the Allies. It is also going badly for the enemy. But it is going even worse for the POWs in Colditz Castle, a council of whom have met to discuss the chances of escaping. It is chaired by Major Ralph Fiennes, ably assisted by Captain Ewan McGregor.

Fiennes: I have to report failure in our last escape attempt. As you know, 10 of our chaps succeeded in tunnelling out. Sadly, their exit point was in the castle wall 100 feet above the ground, so they had a bit of a tumble on the way out.

McGregor: Did they get away?

Fiennes: No. They were shot in mid-air by enemy sentries.

McGregor: Bastards! Don't they know it's against the Geneva Convention to shoot anyone flying without a plane?

Cut to Captain Sylvester Stallone, Major Bruce Willis, Lootenant Leonardo DiCaprio and other American escape committee members looking wearily at each other.

Stallone: Listen, you guys have had your chance. You blew it. It's about time you let the experts take over. Maybe the US of A can get things done where the U of K failed.

Fiennes: You may be good at hot air, you Yanks, but can you deliver the goods?

The floor erupts and a heavily blacked-up figure digs his way up into the room. It is Sergeant Rowan Atkinson.

Atkinson: Oops! Sorry, sir...

He digs his way back down again.

Willis: Who the hell was that?

Fiennes: Cameo appearance. Pay no attention.

Stallone: Yeah, well, that's where good old American know-how would pay off straight away. See that guy in the floor? Your boys have to black up for camouflage. We don't have to do that, eh, Sergeant Denzel Washington?

Washington: No, sir.

Fiennes: Just a moment. That's all very well, but what if Sergeant Washington were to escape? A black face in German countryside might attract attention.

Willis: He'd travel by night.

Fiennes: Yes, but how are you fellows going to escape in the first place? You know that Camp Commandant Kalkbrenner has given orders for anyone escaping to be shot.

Stallone: We're gonna stage a big American football game as a diversion, burst through the gates, and set out across Germany, led by a native German speaker.

Fiennes: And who might that be?

Stallone: Come in, Oskar!

The door opens and in comes Camp Commandant Kalkbrenner, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Fiennes: I don't believe it!

Kalkbrenner: Ja, it's true, Major Fiennes. I am on your side. The war is going badly and we shall lose, so I shall help you in exchange for a free trip to the US after the war and help with starting an acting career.

Fiennes: With an accent like that?

Kalkbrenner: Nothing is impossible.

Fiennes: But... He is a German soldier! And they are the enemy!

Stallone: Not necessarily. We have decided that the Russians should be the enemy henceforth.

Fiennes: But...

Willis: But nothing, limey. With American know-how, everything is possible. And rewriting history is the least of it.

Enter Mel Brooks and Woody Allen.

Brooks: Hey, I hear you guys have got an escape planned for Saturday! Can I buy two tickets?

Allen: I'd love to escape, but I'd feel so guilty about letting the Germans down.

Etc until the final scene, when the US prisoners build their own helicopter and fly everyone out of Colditz.