Danger Within

Danger Within
Directed by Don Chaffey
Produced by Colin Lesslie
Written by Bryan Forbes
Frank Harvey
Michael Gilbert (novel)
Starring Richard Todd
Bernard Lee
Michael Wilding
Richard Attenborough
Music by Francis Chagrin
Cinematography Arthur Grant
Edited by John Trumper
Distributed by British Lion Films
Release dates
Running time
101 min
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Danger Within is a 1959 British war film set in a prisoner of war camp in Northern Italy during the summer of 1943. A combination of POW escape drama and whodunnit, the movie is based upon the novel Death in Captivity by Michael Gilbert, who had been a prisoner of war, held by the Italians.


A cleverly planned escape attempt, which seemed guaranteed to work, ends in disaster: the would-be escapee is caught and killed by sadistic Capitano Benucci (Peter Arne) within seconds of leaving the POW camp. This incident is witnessed by the other prisoners, who notice that Benucci seemed to be waiting for the escapee to arrive before shooting him dead in cold blood.

Afterwards, the escape committee led by Lieutenant Colonel David Baird (Richard Todd) are convinced that there is an informer within their ranks. The prime suspect is a Greek officer, Lieutenant Coutoules (Cyril Shaps). However, when Coutoules is found dead in an escape tunnel, suspicions that there is a traitor living among the POWs die down. In an effort to explain away his death to the Italian captors, Coutoules' body is placed in an abandoned escape tunnel within the camp and the Italians are informed he was suffocated by a roof fall.

Based on the flimsiest of evidence, Benucci charges Captain Roger Byfold (Donald Houston) with the murder of Coutoules. It is obvious to the POWs that although Byfold is completely innocent, Benucci will ensure that he is found guilty and executed. The escape committee forms a desperate plan to get Byfold and two other officers (played by Peter Jones and Michael Wilding) out of the camp before Byfold goes on trial. The three POWs scale the camp fence with a ladder constructed from two rugby posts. Unfortunately, Benucci and his men are concealed just outside the fence with a machinegun mounted on the back of a truck, and promptly mow them all down. This is the second occasion on which Benucci has deliberately killed escaping POWs in cold blood, when it would have been very easy to capture them alive, instead. The POW escape committee realise that Benucci knew exactly when and where the three POWs planned to escape, and that he had positioned himself in the best place to ambush them. The only logical explanation is that there genuinely is a traitor among the POWs who has betrayed them by passing information to Benucci. This also means that Benucci must already know about another tunnel they are working on, intended for a mass escape of POWs. The prisoners realise that Benucci could easily intervene to prevent the next escape attempt from taking place, if he wanted to. However, Benucci prefers to let preparations continue for sinister reasons: the informer is certain to pass on the date and time of the escape, allowing Benucci to wait at the other end of the tunnel with a machinegun to shoot as many POWs as he can.

The race is then on to find the informer and for the rest of the inmates to escape en masse before the camp is handed over to the Germans as part of the Italian Armistice. The escape plan devised by Lieutenant Colonel Huxley (Bernard Lee) is for the prisoners to make their escape during the day, under cover of a production of Hamlet in the theatre hut by a group of POWs led by Captain Rupert Callender (Dennis Price). Benucci would never imagine that the POWs will try to escape in broad daylight, which is precisely why the POWs intend to do it.


Filming locations

Locations for the film were Chobham Common, Surrey and Shepperton Studios.

See also


The film was retitled Breakout for the US market.

External links

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