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The Great Escape (1963)

Unrated  |   |  Adventure, Drama, History  |  4 July 1963 (USA)
8.3
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Ratings: 8.3/10 from 139,864 users  
Reviews: 287 user | 103 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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Title: The Great Escape (1963)

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Top 250 #118 | Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Hannes Messemer ...
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Angus Lennie ...
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Robert Graf ...
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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:

A Glorious Saga Of The R.A.F. 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)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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

The newspaper that Ashley-Pitt (David McCallum) reads on the train is the 'Völkischer Beobachter', a real newspaper produced for 25 years by the National Socialist German Workers Party. It served as a propaganda sheet for the Nazis and helped bring Adolf Hitler to power. At its height, it had a circulation of approximately 1.4 million. The headline for the issue seen in the film translates roughly to "Day after day, the Soviets have high, bloody losses." Given that the escape in the film occurs in the summer of 1944, this too can be viewed as propaganda. The Nazis had transferred hundreds of thousands of troops to Normandy to stop the Allied advances after D-Day, allowing for the Soviet's to launch Operation Bagration on 22 June, which pushed the Nazis back into Poland by the beginning of 13 July and sparked the Warsaw uprising. In all, the Soviet advance caused German losses of approximately 670,000 dead, missing, wounded and sick, including 160,000 captured. Although the date of the escape is unclear, given the green pastures around the Alps that the escapees encounter, one can easily surmise that the newspaper was putting a positive spin on the battles in the east. See more »

Goofs

(at around 1h 23 mins) During the moonshine distribution scene, there is a crew member (wearing a red baseball cap) directing /moving the cast into position can be seen on the left-hand side of the screen. See more »

Quotes

Stratwitch: [Danny and Sedgewick are trying to sneak out with a group of Russian prisoners] Halt!
[walks over to Sedgewick]
Stratwitch: Out!
[pause]
Stratwitch: OUT!
Danny: [No, No! Comrade!] Nyet, nyet! Tovarich!
Stratwitch: Oh, he's your friend.
Danny: [Comrade!] Tovarich!
Stratwitch: And who vouches for you, Lieutenant Willenski? Come on out, Sedgewick.
Danny: [hands coat back to Russian prisoner and steps out of line] Spasiba.
[...]
See more »

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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.


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