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The Great Escape (1963)

 -  Adventure | Drama | History  -  4 July 1963 (USA)
8.3
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Ratings: 8.3/10 from 129,900 users  
Reviews: 285 user | 104 critic

Allied P.O.W.s plan for several hundred of their number to escape from a German camp during World War II.

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(book), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Top 250 #119 | Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

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Hannes Messemer ...
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Storyline

Based on a true story, a group of allied escape artist-type prisoners-of-war (POW's) are all put in an 'escape proof' camp. Their leader decides to try to take out several hundred all at once. The first half of the film is played for comedy as the prisoners mostly outwit their jailers to dig the escape tunnel. The second half is high adventure as they use boats and trains and planes to get out of occupied Europe. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Hours ago... Minutes ago.... These men were behind barbed wire. See more »


Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

| | |

Release Date:

4 July 1963 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El gran escape  »

Box Office

Budget:

$4,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

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Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)|

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

MacDonald (Intelligence) is based on George Harsh, a very good friend of Wally Floody (the real Tunnel King). They were both transferred to Belaria before the escape. Harsh was a very interesting character who was from the American south and had joined the RCAF as a tail-gunner. In the 1920s Harsh had committed murder and was sent to jail for life. A medical student, Harsh performed an appendectomy on a dying prisoner and saved his life. The governor of Georgia granted him a pardon and he was set free. After the war, he had personal problems as he was plagued by guilt over the crime he committed as a youth; on top of adjusting to life after fifteen years in captivity (12 years on the Georgia chain gang, followed by three years as POW). On Christmas Eve 1974, he did shoot himself but survived. A stroke soon after left him partially paralyzed. When that happened, Wally Floody and his wife brought him up to their Toronto home and looked after him. He eventually went to live -at his own urging- at the Veteran's Wing at the Sunnybrook Medical Centre. He died in January of 1980. See more »

Goofs

When Hendley and Blythe are playing chess, the chessboard is set up with a black square in the bottom right corner, i.e. the board is positioned sideways. See more »

Quotes

Hendley: Colin's not a blind man as long as he's with me. And he's going with me!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Love & War: The Great Escape (1994) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

If you're going to critique the history, then know the history.
31 January 2003 | by (Rochester NY) – See all my reviews

I find it difficult to believe that some reviewers' negative reactions to this film are based on their (misguided) beliefs that none of this could possibly have happened. Comments like these make it crystal clear that what some people don't know about history is appalling. If you are going to judge a film based on historical fact, it helps if you know what it is.

It is well-documented what amazing technical feats the POW's were able to accomplish in the stalags. There was even an entire section of the British Secret Service dedicated to coming up with all sorts of clever ways to send these captured men the tools they needed to facilitate their escape attempts, i.e., sandwiching maps between the split sides of a record album (yes, the Germans allowed the prisoners to have records in the camps) or compasses in pens. At Colditz Castle, one of the more forbidding stalags, (actually an offlag since is was for officers only), many, many tunnels were dug and disguises created. One man actually created a German sergeant's uniform totally from scratch, donned a moustache and created an overall impersonation so realistic, it fooled two out of three sets of sentries. Some of the POW's built and concealed an entire glider that would have carried two men off the roof and over the wall! The only reason it didn't fly was because the prison was liberated before they got the chance! The Colditz experience is well documented. There are many books written about that particular prison complete with photographs, including one by a German officer confirming these amazing escapes and attempts. The reviewers who doubt what can be done when necessity is truly the mother of invention should look for them and learn something.

As for the prisoners not being in jumpsuits, as suggested by one reviewer as one reason to question the authenticity of the film? Ludicrous, POW's wore what they were captured in. The German military (different from the Gestapo and the SS) considered them soldiers and allowed them to keep their badges of rank.

As for the film itself, it is long, but absorbing. There are historical flaws (as there are in all movies), but several of the former POW's participated in the filming process, keeping it, for the most part, very authentic. As for the emphasis on Americans, it's true they were not among the escapees per se, but several did assist in the effort before they were transferred out, as mentioned by a previous reviewer. However, you must remember that the movie was made for an American audience in 1963, long before international distribution revenue became so important to a studio's bottom line. They needed American stars who would appeal to an American audience. Who knows, perhaps if they were to remake it today, the cast would be all British and German, but I doubt it (see "Hart's War" where not only the plot, but all the British and Canadian characters that were in the book, disappeared).

All in all, "The Great Escape" is an entertaining movie telling a fascinating story of what ordinary men can achieve in adverse circumstances. It's well worth the time.


64 of 68 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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