Colditz - Ace in the Hole s2e6 - David McCallum, Anthony Valentine
also starring Jack Hedley, Bernard Hepton, Christopher Neame, Jeremy Kemp
Tony Shaw, a much decorated fighter pilot, is captured and brought to Colditz. To the disappointment of the escape committee he has no interest in joining them, rather renewing his pre-war job as a teacher and taking part in education classes with librarian Porteous. However, when he discovers a locked room in the attic he concocts a plan to build his own glider and fly out of the castle.
Tags: Colditz Ace in the Hole s2e6 David McCallum Anthony Valentine
Added: 11 months ago
[newly arrived prisoner Tony Shaw enters one of the barracks, where Captain James Porteous (the schoolmaster in residence and prison librarian) is conducting a class on Victorian literature to their fellow POWs]
JAMES PORTEOUS: The Victorian novel is basically about two things ... getting on in life, and money. Now, most of them are written first of all as weekly serials, so they had to hold their audience with a good story that meant something immediate to the average reader. Now, that's not as cynically commercial as it sounds, because within that framework, they managed to explore virtually every aspect of human relationships. Even sex was there.
[the men laugh, as Shaw wanders over to listen in]
JAMES PORTEOUS: Yes ... Heavily disguised, of course, as swirling water with the heroine drowning in terror, and the hero churning to the rescue astride a plank of wood with a large paddle!
[the men laugh again]
JAMES PORTEOUS: It's true! Y'see, the point I'm making is this ... that literature is never something divorced from life, whether as an entertainment or as a work of art.
[Porteous continues to talk, as the men stop listening when they notice Shaw is standing behind him]
JAMES PORTEOUS: On the contrary, it arises out of a desire to express one's feelings about life, and to increase one's understanding of it. So, let's turn to--
[he turns, finally noticing Shaw himself]
JAMES PORTEOUS: Oh.
TONY SHAW: [pause] Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to ... to interrupt, please go on.
[Porteous gets up]
JAMES PORTEOUS: Ah, we're uh ... we're talking about the Victorian novel.
TONY SHAW: Ah, rather my subject.
JAMES PORTEOUS: Oh, why don't you join us?
TONY SHAW: I'd be delighted.
JAMES PORTEOUS: Excellent! Uh, my name is James Porteous. How do you do?
[he shakes his hand]
TONY SHAW: How do you do?
JAMES PORTEOUS: Let me introduce you to everybody. This is Harry, and--
[all of the men immediately stand up, but Shaw holds his hand up]
TONY SHAW: No, please. Uh, stay where you are, we'll pick up names as we go along.
[they sit back down, as Shaw pulls up a chair]
TONY SHAW: Please continue, Porteous. I'll just, uh, sit and listen.
[Porteous sits back down]
JAMES PORTEOUS: Well, I think perhaps you might do better than that. I mean, you have admitted that it is your subject ... There we are.
[he hands Shaw his book]
TONY SHAW: Not gonna set me to work already ...
[everyone laughs, then cut to Porteous and Shaw entering the prison "library" (a dimly lit room filled with shelves of books)]
JAMES PORTEOUS: Ah, nobody here, so we can talk.
[Shaw, carrying a stack of books, looks around the room in amazement]
JAMES PORTEOUS: It's not bad, is it?
TONY SHAW: Yeah, I wouldn't have believed it!
[Porteous laughs, then Shaw points at the stack of books]
TONY SHAW: Uh, what should I do with this, then?
JAMES PORTEOUS: Uh, just put them on the table, I'll see to them.
TONY SHAW: So you were a schoolmaster before the war?
JAMES PORTEOUS: Uh, yes. Yes, I had hoped for a university post like yourself, but uh ... well, didn't work out. And I enjoy teaching, wherever it is.
TONY SHAW: Even here, by the look of it.
JAMES PORTEOUS: Yeah, especially here.
TONY SHAW: What you might call a captive audience!
TONY SHAW: I presume this library is for the use of everyone.
JAMES PORTEOUS: Oh yes, and you'd be surprised how many make use of it ... despite all those stairs.
[as Porteous tends to the books on the table, Shaw pulls one of the books on the shelf and taps it on the spine]
TONY SHAW: Security, I suppose.
JAMES PORTEOUS: Hmm?
[as Porteous turns, Shaw points to some more of the books on the shelves (which all have their covers ripped off)]
TONY SHAW: Oh, uh ... no covers, you mean. Yes, that used not to happen, until the Germans discovered that certain people were smuggling in contraband inside false covers. Maps, German money, even hacksaw blades.
JAMES PORTEOUS: Ah.
TONY SHAW: So now, the censors strip every book that comes in.
JAMES PORTEOUS: Bloody Phillistines ...
TONY SHAW: To tell the truth, I'm glad.
JAMES PORTEOUS: Hmm?
TONY SHAW: Oh, I don't like it, naturally enough. I mean, books being torn apart, but if it means that those of us who are not interested in escaping can get on with what we want to do, without serving as a ... a front for Flight Lieutenant Carter and his crowd, then well and good.
TONY SHAW: Hm, do I gather your disapprove of Flight Leftenant Carter and his crowd?
JAMES PORTEOUS: Well, no I don't ... I don't disapprove, no, but what I resent is the suggestion that the rest of us, the vast majority I might add, exist only to serve their needs.
TONY SHAW: And has that ever been suggested?
JAMES PORTEOUS: Oh, by implication, yes. Yes, all the stuff about it being a prisoner's duty to escape ... All that means is that any man who spends his time digging tunnels that come out nowhere, or cutting his way through a barbed wire fence and getting shot for his trouble, is a better man than the rest of us. And I just don't believe that's true.
TONY SHAW: Nor do I ... but I thought everyone here was supposed to be a potential escaper.
JAMES PORTEOUS: Oh, potential, yes. I mean, I escaped ... twice, while I was in transit. Well, it just happened, easily. But now I'm in Colditz. Have you thought of the odds of getting out of here?
TONY SHAW: [pause] And yet they go on trying.
JAMES PORTEOUS: Yes, a handful ... The desperados, I call them.
TONY SHAW: But why?
JAMES PORTEOUS: Because it is something to do! That's the biggest danger here, not the Germans ... boredom!
[Porteous begins pacing around the room]
JAMES PORTEOUS: Our problem is survival, staying sane, and helping others to stay sane! Thinking, preparing! There's going to be a helluva lot to do when we get out of here, we'll be needed. That's where my thoughts are, on the job ahead.
[he chuckles to himself]
JAMES PORTEOUS: I suppose that's the mainstay of my, uh ... "Morale" is the word, isn't it? Do you know what morale is? It's what you get drunk on when you can't get alcohol.
[Porteous is shelving books in the library, as Shaw is sitting at a table writing]
JAMES PORTEOUS: Do you know how many books that have been written here, in Colditz?
TONY SHAW: How many?
JAMES PORTEOUS: Three hundred, at least.
TONY SHAW: All about the war?
JAMES PORTEOUS: Oh lord no, mostly it's men just putting their thoughts onto paper for the first time in their lives. It's a kind of mental exercise.
TONY SHAW: Well, from today, it's going to be three hundred and one.
JAMES PORTEOUS: Yes, and the first with a full-time unpaid research assistant. There we are.
[he hands Shaw one of the books]
TONY SHAW: Thanks ... You know, James, I couldn't wish for anything more. All I need to write the one book I've been meaning to write ever since I was a student, if only I could find the time.
JAMES PORTEOUS: You found the time now.
[Porteous enters the library, but (rather than finding Shaw) he discovers one of the grates on the wall has been taken off ... climbing inside, he eventually finds a crawlspace leading to the attic (where Shaw is standing with his papers)]
JAMES PORTEOUS: What in god's name is this?
TONY SHAW: What's it look like? It's a roof.
JAMES PORTEOUS: I had no idea.
TONY SHAW: You mean you never saw that grid down there?
JAMES PORTEOUS: Well yes, but I thought it was some kind of a ... I dunno, ventilation.
[Shaw points to something off camera]
TONY SHAW: There's a proper staircase over there, with a door at the bottom. Locked. This must've been some sort of escape route once, into what is now the library.
JAMES PORTEOUS: Well, it's a ... it's a large castle.
[Porteous looks around (examining a large hole in the roof), when Shaw suddenly tears up his papers and throws them to the ground]
JAMES PORTEOUS: Whu ... What're you doing?
TONY SHAW: I've been re-reading them. Rubbish, the whole damn lot. Rubbish. I can't do it, James, it just isn't there.
JAMES PORTEOUS: Well, give it time, you've barely started!
TONY SHAW: [pause] I started five years ago ... I didn't mention that.
[he bends down and picks up some of the pieces]
TONY SHAW: I always swore that after I got my fellowship at Oxford, some security, I was gonna write this book. All the college politics, the wheeling and the dealing, were just preparation for this book ... and others to follow. Great works of criticism. Original, illuminating.
TONY SHAW: But I was just putting it off. And when I finally tried, like now ... nothing there.
JAMES PORTEOUS: Listen to me--
TONY SHAW: No, I ... I want to explain. Please try to understand, I have no originality. I can absorb other men's ideas, pass them on, teach. But I have none of my own. Nothing to say that hasn't been said a thousand times already, and better.
[he picks up another piece of paper]
TONY SHAW: I thought, maybe now, it would be different. Now that I ... Mohn was right.
JAMES PORTEOUS: Mohn?
TONY SHAW: And so was I, maybe ... I'm not so different from him. Only very ordinary men need to prove themselves. All I've proved is that I needed to prove something! It hasn't changed me.
[Porteous stares at him in confusion]
TONY SHAW: And the truth is ... God help me, I still need it. The gongs, the acclimation. I like being what they want me to be! It's all I can be.
[Porteous hands him some more pieces of paper, as Shaw stands up and stares out the hole in the roof]
JAMES PORTEOUS: [pause] Well, I don't know what I can say ... except that you're wrong! Look, I know that--
TONY SHAW: Look, waddaya think about this?
[he picks up a paper airplane and throws it at Porteous, who catches it]
TONY SHAW: Not bad, eh? It's my notes again ... best end to them.
[he takes the paper airplane and throws it out of the hole in the roof, then cut to an exterior shot of the castle, as the airplane sails through the air before landing in a riverbed down below]
[Shaw is speaking to Porteous alone in the library, explaining how the paper airplane gave him the idea to build a glider for escape, and that (consequently) Lieutenant Colonel John Preston and the "Escape Committe" gave him permission to pursue the manpower and resources necessary to execute the escape plan]
TONY SHAW: Carter didn't stand a chance, not once I put it to the chaps. Heh, he tried to argue that it was a helluva lot of work to put into one man's escape, but I trumped him there! I point out it's a two-seat glider ...
[Porteous (obviously disappointed that his colleague has sided with the "desperados") looks up from his book with a blank stare]
TONY SHAW: The passenger can be anyone the committee votes in. They'll all be working for it.
JAMES PORTEOUS: So you're all set, hmm?
TONY SHAW: All set ... Eh, James?
JAMES PORTEOUS: Hmm?
TONY SHAW: Uh, there's something I have to tell you ... Uh, you won't like it. I'm afraid you're going to have to provide cover.
JAMES PORTEOUS: [pause] Cover? How do you mean?
[Shaw slowly gets up and walks towards one of the bookshelves, moving it aside to reveal the wall behind it (which is right next to the grate leading to the attic)]
TONY SHAW: This ... It's the only way in.
JAMES PORTEOUS: But you said there was another door ...
[he gets out of his chair with a desperate look on his face]
JAMES PORTEOUS: At the far end.
TONY SHAW: Locked. And on the same floor as some Kraut's office. All the materials and men will have to come through here.
[Porteous gets a shocked look on his face, slowing shaking his head]
JAMES PORTEOUS: [quietly] No ...
TONY SHAW: I'm sorry, James, but there's nothing I can do.
JAMES PORTEOUS: My god, Shaw, haven't you done enough without destroying this place? It's the only place in the whole damn building--
JOHN PRESTON: [from off camera] Captain Porteous!
[he turns, as Colonel Preston has entered the library]
JOHN PRESTON: I cannot allow anyone to disrupt an escape attempt.
JAMES PORTEOUS: In that case, sir, I suggest that we close the library altogether.
JOHN PRESTON: No, James, I'm sorry. I don't think you understand ... The library must appear to function as usual, and I shall reply upon you to see that it does.
JAMES PORTEOUS: [pause] Is that an order, sir?
JOHN PRESTON: Yes, that is an order.
[he looks up at Shaw]
TONY SHAW: It's this way, sir.
JOHN PRESTON: Thank you.
[he walks over and joins Shaw in examining the bookshelf, while Porteous is left to absorb the situation with a worried look on his face as the scene fades to black]
Colditz is a British television series co-produced by the BBC and Universal Studios and screened between 1972 and 1974.
The series deals with Allied prisoners of war imprisoned at the supposedly escape-proof Colditz Castle when designated Oflag IV-C during World War II, and their many attempts to escape captivity, as well as the relationships formed between the various nationalities and their German captors.
Colditz was created by Brian Degas working with the producer Gerard Glaister, who went on to devise another successful BBC series dealing with the Second World War — Secret Army. Technical consultant for the series was Major Pat Reid, the real British Escape Officer at Colditz. One of the locations used in filming was Stirling Castle.
"Ace in the Hole" (Season 2, Episode 6)
11 February 1974
Simon Carter's hopes are raised by the arrival of Squadron Leader Tony Shaw, a decorated RAF hero. Security Officer Franz Ulmann is convinced that the celebrity prisoner will be trouble. However, Shaw appears far more interested in pursuing his pre-war role as a professor of literature, quickly rejuvenating the British officer's education classes - much to the joy of the pacificist-leaning librarian Captain James Porteous.
Disappointed, Carter tries to shame Shaw into taking more of a part in the escape plans, but to no avail. But when Shaw discovers a closed off room in the attic adjacent to the library and conceives of the audacious plan to build and fly a glider out of the roof of the castle, Shaw snaps into action with the full backing of the SBO. The librarian is dismayed to find his classes used as mere cover for the escapers' activities - relegated again.
Jeremy Kemp ... Sq. Ldr. Tony Shaw
David McCallum ... Flt. Lt. Simon Carter
Jack Hedley ... Lt. Col. John Preston
Bernard Hepton ... Kommandant
Anthony Valentine ... Major Horst Mohn
Richard Heffer ... Capt. Tim Downing
Paul Chapman ... Capt. George Brent
Hans Meyer ... Hauptmann Franz Ulmann
Jim Norton ... Capt. James Porteous