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  • By the end of "Berlin Tunnel 21," I had no nails left, having bitten all of them off during this very tense and exciting 1981 TV movie. The stars include Richard Thomas, Horst Buchholz, Kenneth Griffith and Jose Ferrer. Thomas plays an American soldier in 1961 who has increasing trouble getting to see his girlfriend in East Berlin now that the wall is up - he approaches engineer Buchholz about building a tunnel under one of the abandoned buildings in East Berlin. Joining them are a well-known artist (Griffith) and two young men trying to get loved ones out of East Berlin.

    The situation is fraught with tension with Buchholz trusting no one and Thomas trusting everyone; traitors emerge, the tunnel starts to fill with water, and they are discovered by the owner of the building (Ferrer). Then the families start to chicken out about leaving East Berlin. "I lost all my courage in the war," one man says. The fear and oppression under which these people lived is accurately depicted as they are afraid to hope any longer.

    Filmed in West Berlin, the atmosphere is perfect - dark streets, dilapidated buildings, overcast weather - it all really adds to the tension.

    The performances are uniformly excellent. The always wonderful Richard Thomas plays a determined young man who will not let anything stop him from achieving his goal; where he is relaxed, Buchholz is pessimistic, angry and tough. The two work well off of each other. Ferrer is in his usual type of role - cold and dictatorial, but this time, his character has some sensitivity as well. The most emotional work comes from Kenneth Griffith who gives a very touching performance. The European actors - Ute Christensen, Jacques Breuer, Robert Freitag, etc. - are all excellent.

    Very well written by John Gay and directed by Richard Michaels, "Berlin Tunnel 21" is a well above average TV movie that deserves at some point to be released on DVD.
  • Great cast, well acted! Well written by John Gay, a successful writer of TV movies, including this and FATAL VISION. I remember it from watching it the first time it aired and later in repeats. A few years back, I tracked down a VHS release copy and I hope it comes out on DVD one day. It is always fun to watch and remind one of a difficult time and situation when the Berlin Wall divided families, friends, and neighbors. And how many sacrificed their lives trying to escape it.
  • lereynard455 October 2005
    This film is excellent and a true thriller throughout. Thomas is excellent as are his supporting actors. This film really builds the tension to what is an excellent climax to the picture. Thomas has done other terrific stuff such as battle beyond the stars, but it still felt like john boy playing who ever. In this though we forget all about john boy and see him as a very good actor. This film picks up the feeling of the time and the situation people were in. This is an all round great piece of work and should be aired to the public more often. It must be twenty years since I saw this movie on our screens. Come on show it again, somebody please.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Why oh why do Americans take a wonderful movie and mess it up? So much of this movie was fiction, when the real facts were far more exciting.

    The original movie, Der Tunnel was based on the book written by one of the men involved in creating the tunnel. While Der Tunnel was English subtitled (the original was in German, and personally I usually try to avoid subtitled foreign movies) you don't even notice after the first 10 minutes because you're on the edge of your seat, and that's where you stay for 160 minutes.

    Compared to the original, this adaptation had very poor character development and little in the way of tension. Oh, there's tension there, certainly - if you only see this one and not the original. So if you want to watch it, avoid seeing the original first. That was my mistake - I had a comparison.

    I found myself barely caring about the people involved - half of them didn't even want to leave East Berlin and had to be persuaded. So many scenes were either unnecessary - such as a dinner with a character played by Jose Ferrer - or watered down, like a boy killed trying to climb over the wall, which was referred to very briefly by way of a newspaper clipping in this movie. In Der Tunnel, we literally lived through it.

    But the biggest disappointment to me was the ending. No, I won't spoil it, but trust me - the ending of Der Tunnel was spectacular, especially when they told us over the end credits what became of each of the participants. For me, the ending of Berlin Tunnel 21 just didn't compare.

    I could have been reasonably satisfied with this version and found it mildly interesting, worth watching once but certainly not twice. But to me it was just the clumsily re-arranged bones, while Der Tunnel was the flesh, curves and all.

    Do yourself a favor and beg, borrow or steal Der Tunnel. If you can't, then you might enjoy this one.
  • The movie takes place in 1961 when Berlin is separated between East and West Germany during the height of communism. Richard Thomas did a terrific job in playing an American soldier who falls in love with an East German woman. He and Miguel Ferrer are the only known actors in this largely German cast. The film was shot on location in West Berlin, Germany which added authenticity to the film and subject matter. His character and other men take part in building a tunnel from west to east to get those who want out of East Germany. You can see why they would want to leave East Berlin. It becomes a prison to those who stayed behind, suffered and endured for almost three decades. The Berlin Wall is down and Germany is unified as a country. There are still scars from those Communist years in postwar Germany to this day. The ending credits show the actual photographs of those seeking to leave for a better life in the West.
  • This TV movie reminds me much Robert Siodmak's ESCAPE FROM EAST BERLIN, back in 1963, starring Don Murray. I guess there were many escape tries from behind the Wall. This one is a tremendous piece of work, very tense and exciting. and I am still amazed that Horest Buchholz is here at nearly fifty years old; he actually looks like a young man...Yes, this feature is far better than most of the big pictures movies. Players are so good, the characters so powerful too.

    I don't know if this was aired in France. Maybe, it is possible. Anyway, that's a pretty good picture made for TV. I highly recommend it. I don't know if there were other films about tunnels drilled Under the Iron Curtain made before or after this one.