After settling his differences with a Japanese PoW camp commander, a British colonel co-operates to oversee his men's construction of a railway bridge for their captors - while oblivious to a plan by the Allies to destroy it.
Based on a true story, a group of allied escape artist-type prisoners-of-war (POWs) 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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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 »
Early on, Hilts leans against the corner of one of the huts and observes the guard towers for weak spots. Moments later, he pulls his baseball mitt and squints into the setting sun. A few seconds later he walks toward the fence, it is midday. In the next minute the sun shifts back and forth from late, midday and morning. See more »
Credit should be given to the brilliant score by Elmer Bernstein. If you listen to it closely, it literally is a battle between the Allied Prisoners (flutes & woodwinds) and the Germans (tubas). The escape scenes with the little boat on the scenic german river is evocative of Wagner and his heroic Germanic Operas. The scenery of the German countryside and the Alps is breathtaking. I believe that the scriptwriters emphasized the heroism, humor, and character of the prisoners to make an uplifting statement of what is essentially a cruel and tragic story. As a child growing up in the seventies, our 7th grade glass was reading the Paul Brickhill book and we had the opportunity to meet a former (American) Stalag Luft III prisoner from that era. He had arrived at the camp after the Great Escape, but was placed on the monument detail for the 50 executed men. He said that few men seriously contemplated escape after this incident and the emphasis was on surviving the war and going home alive.
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