Q: I'm looking for the name of an old movie I saw years ago about some soldiers caught in an underground compound during the war. They eventually run out of candles and must remain in the dark for years. It might have had Peter Sellers playing a part, how

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Adam Thomlison / TV Media

You're quite right that this film is not a comedy. It is, in the words of a contemporary New York Times review, "a chronicle of slow deterioration." And to answer your question, it's called "The Blockhouse" (1973).

It is, as you say, about an international group of prisoners of war who become trapped in a cellar that has an ample supply of food and wine and an impressive, but ultimately insufficient, supply of candles. They remain trapped underground for six years, four of them in darkness after the candles run out.

The Times reviewer, Janet Maslin, wasn't as taken with the film as you are. She also called it "grim, gray and almost as claustrophobic as the situation," adding that "the story has very little tension to it."

The only good things she had to say about the film related to two of its stars. One of them was indeed Peter Sellers, and she said that he only succeeded when he verges on comedy, during the film's rare lighter moments.

The other highlight, for Maslin, was the performance of French actor/singer Charles Aznavour.

Maslin's review seems even harsher when you discover that the film was based on real events. Its source material was a novel by French author Jean-Paul Clebert, but he based the tale on a true story -- the main difference was that it actually happened to German soldiers rather than Allied ones.

The film was produced in the United Kingdom, and despite the presence of Sellers, already a major star by 1973, it wasn't released in the U.S. until a while afterwards.


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