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I remember seeing the trailer for this maybe 25 years ago:

  • Some prisoners (probably war prisoners) plan an escape from a work camp.
  • There was a train that took them to work.
  • A guy did this trick with a box of matches to show them how they would escape.
  • Maybe it was something to do with a false compartment in the train.

I think it was from the USA (an American film), but as the trailer was dubbed in Spanish I cannot be sure about that.

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I've modified your post by adding a few words here and there, some bullet points and new tags. Looks a bit better now :-) – rumandwrite Mar 15 '14 at 19:17
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Gulag (1985) - Movie Poster

Here's a guess: Gulag (1985)

Mickey Almon is a popular sports reporter covering the Olympics in Moscow.

Deceived by the KGB and forced to confess that he is a spy, Mickey is then arrested and sent to the Gulag, a prison located in Siberia.

Unable to prove his own innocence, Mickey must face inhumane conditions or start thinking about an escape plan.

Gulag (1985) - Pic 01

One reviewer adds this crucial detail about Mickey's time at the Gulag:

By learning a magic trick there using a box and piece of paper, he learns how to escape this man made hell on Earth.

More about that plan from another review:

Hooker is disgusted with Mickey for blowing his good fortune to be in the foreign sector, but Mickey insists that he can escape using the trains.

He shows Hooker and Matvei the trick with the box. The guys don't know how it was done, but Mickey shows them the false wall in the box. They can hide behind a false wall and get away.

Screenshots of Mickey demonstrating the trick:

Gulag (1985) - Pic 02 Gulag (1985) - Pic 03

Read more about the movie here. Watch that scene with the "magic box" here.

Note: The magic trick in this movie doesn't involve a box of matches, but it's a "false-wall" trick nonetheless. Other plot points you've mentioned also fit in. So is it possible you've got the "matchbox" element mixed up with some other movie?

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+1: You are a god at this stuff. I just automatically your answers are right! – Andrew Martin Mar 14 '14 at 12:28
Amazing, Thank you a lot. Yes it's this one; seems it wasn't a box of matches after all; I only saw some seconds of the scene almost 30 years ago, so I probably mixed up this detail from another movie – Borgtex Mar 14 '14 at 16:32
Glad you found your movie after so long. The next time you have a similar, nagging recollection, you know where to ask :-) – rumandwrite Mar 15 '14 at 10:18

It sounds a little like Stalag 17, (1953). POW Lieutenant Dunbar (Don Taylor) is rumored to have blown up an ammunition train as he was being transported to the prison camp. He eventually demonstrates to his camp-mates how he closed a pack of matches, (not a box), onto a lit cigarette to make a crude delayed-action incendiary device, and threw it through the open door of the passing train car when nobody was watching. The movie does also involve several escape attempts.

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No, it wasn't so old, probably from mid 80's to first 90's. And the trick with the matches box was definitely there, opening the box once with matches in and again with the box appearing empty. – Borgtex Mar 13 '14 at 11:51

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