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"The Great Escape" is a rousing blend of suspense, action and ultimately
tragedy, bolstered by an all-star cast, terrific music and beautiful
European locations. A few fellow reviewers have cited the unbelievably
"pristine" prison conditions, but the German authorities did try to uphold
the Geneva Convention for Western Allied POWs. The characters in this film
left their well-run 'stalag' anyway, and many paid the ultimate price.
entertaining its viewers, "The Great Escape" effectively depicted the
THE GREAT ESCAPE is another overrated "classic" that somehow seems to stumble along film history on its good reputation. Very little about it is great, as the title suggests, and so one sits through 170+ minutes only partly enjoying the company of POWs in a Nazi camp. A Nazi camp however that's pretty far removed from anything I've imagined, heard or read about German Concentration Camps during WWII, as the film portrays it as quite a relaxed and sunny condition. The characters we're in it for are a bunch of guys that tods along happily enough aiming to escape, and while there are several neat moments among them, one character seems unclear; Steve McQueen's Captain Hilts, if not a weird character, certainly an annoying performance by McQueen. Through the hours of planing the escape, the jovial and cheerful mood of the film helped me get through it, and as we're headed out at the end I felt disappointed, as the supposed great climax is somehow disjointed and lackluster.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film had a stellar cast, and most of them delivered. The score was
unusually cheerful and eerie, too. A strange combination. In reality,
allied POW's in German detention camps were treated with contempt and
without mercy. What we have in this film, however, are a bunch of guys
who act like they belong in a country club. The country club/summer
camp they reside in is a fun place, except you'll get shot if they
catch you climbing the fence. That's it - no mention of the terrible
brutality these guys actually endured or the fact that they were given
barely enough food to live on. No mention of the atrocities regularly
visited upon them by their Nazi captors, including beatings,
executions, and forced marches. Instead, we get gentlemanly or comical
Germans who seem to actually care what the POW's think of them.
James Garner's character seems to epitomize the relaxed country club type who seems to be on vacation. He never takes off his turtleneck, which, no doubt, would cause the average person to perspire and stink after awhile. Steve McQueen, as usual, was the coolest guy in the room, but why would the Nazis allow him to have a baseball and glove to keep himself amused while in solitary confinement? Why didn't they just shoot him or beat the hell out of him after he was captured? Instead, they treated him like a naughty school boy. Richard Attenborough turned in a fine performance, but in reality, the Nazis would have never allowed him to take such a leadership role among the other prisoners. They would have singled him out and broken him instead of giving him respect.
The film had many powerful moments: the motorcycle chase, the fatal error on the bus, the massacre, the shooting of the fence climber....these were all extremely well done. The film ultimately failed, though, because it did a disservice to the men who actually lived through this by failing to convey the wretched conditions of a German POW camp.
The film had many moments where you had to suspend reality for such banal situations. Why in the world would the Nazis have ever allowed the Americans to hold a 4th of July celebration that include a parade, a picnic, and free-flowing vodka? Why would they allow a still on the premises to make homemade vodka from potatoes? Where did the Americans find a large American flag and why were they allowed to run it up a flagpole? Where did they find the smaller 13-star flag to wave around? Wasn't it out of character for Hilts to suddenly become a master flutist, blowing out a flawless rendition of "Yankee Doodle"? Colonel Klink would never have allowed Hogan and the boys such privileges! I'm surprised the Nazi guards didn't bake them cookies! What about when Hilts took out the planks from the bunkbeds (all of them) to use to reinforce the tunnel? The beds were now unusable, but the Germans didn't seem to notice all the guys sleeping on the floor, I guess. I could go on and on about these lapses in reality and this is why I wouldn't recommend this film for anyone over the age of 11.
Add to this the 1960's film making habit of over illuminating all indoor scenes to the point where it seems like the actors need to wear sunglasses, and you have a very poor rendering of a POW camp. Was I the only one who noticed that the interactions and dialogue of these impeccably dressed and well-groomed men seemed like the goings-on in an upscale gay social club?
Wait. comedy? This is a war movie. Yes, it is supposed to be. It is not. What was planned as a serious, deep, psychological wartime escape drama, in reality turned into a raw, unbaked, half-cooked slapstick with awful character development, with awful performances, especially those from McQueen and Bronson, need one mention terribly laughable and horribly unserious delivery. The whole thing seems like a lame amateurish school play with absolutely irregular moves and wrong lines. I never, but never believed a single thing they said or did. The whole film just smacks of a cheap second-rate low-budget effort of a mediocre dubious merit. There is no merit, as even actors betray a playful unseriousness of what they say or do. Does the movie ever seem to be tragic or decent? Nay, even the killing spree seems to be staged or simply poor. Poor - this is the word. Every little detail in this film is poor or false.
Being not too familiar with the original back story, I had higher hopes
for this film. Too much film was spent on the minute details, which do
have a place, but it made the movie about 50 minutes too long. Very
little time was placed on the actual escape, although what they did
show was rewarding. Some of the details revealed were McGuffins: they
didn't really add to the plot, although I'm sure the writers intentions
were to show the lengths that these prisoners went to in their plans to
escape their German captors.
I was disappointed (very) in the climax and ending. I have no need to watch this film again. It just wasn't satiating as entertainment, although the acting was superb.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I don't claim to have been in WWIIor maybe I was, during a past life
but this I know for sure: life in a German POW camp had nothing to do
with what we see in TGE, let alone a POW camp where they had gathered
Allied airmen. See, at a time when Allied warplanes were bombing German
cities to dust the German populace had developed a deep hatred for all
them and when they had the chance to get their hands on one of them the
poor sap was lucky if all he got, before the local military came to get
him, was just a good beating. In fact a number of them were lynched by
irate mobs. Not to mention that many had had to bail out from their
burning planes and then land on mud, water, bushes; had to spend hours,
days, hiding in barns, forests, running for their lives, before being
caught. And that some of their camp wardens had suffered themselves the
effects of their bombing, lost homes, probably dear ones because of it
and so were in no mood for youthful pranks. Not, life wasn't a picnic
in those German POW camps. Not to mention that the Luftwaffe was a Nazi
haven, Goering's baby. And yet what we see here is more like a group of
well fed and contended, sharp and alert vacationers arriving to their
resort in the heart of nature. If it wasn't for the guns you could even
picture the German guards handing out leaflets with the activities of
the day while Hendley looks for a comfy spot where to light up his pipe
and engage in some good reading.
But things don't get any better as we trod along, as we are next subjected to a stream of usual 60s war flick clichés, not the smallest of them that of the decent, fair, even likable German military officers who "are just doing their duty", as opposed to the dastardly Gestapo and SS goons. If you have seen enough of these U.S-U.K war flicks of the 50s, 60s you got to be familiar with the obvious dichotomy. Now, while I am sure that there were many honest and fair German military fighting in that wardespite the well known complicity of the brass of the Wehrmacht with the atrocities of the Nazisthe fact that they are a staple in these war flicks is not so much due to Hollywood's regard for historical truths as due to necessities of the Cold War, which by the 60s was going full steam. As Germany had gone from enemy to NATO ally, it wasn't anymore sensible to depict their military men as murderous brutesas it was the case during the war of courseso they got around all it just putting all their bad deeds on the shoulders of the SS and Gestapo. That is the main reason why there are always nice, good, fair Germans in these war flicks.
Now, if TGE is already looking pretty unrealistic by the moment McQueen's Hilts appears, with him it turns into a real masquerade. For one, Hilts must be the only man in History who comes out of a month in solitary confinement in a German POW camp looking far better than he did when he got in. With clean clothesremember, he had entered all covered in mudimpeccable, well groomed, perfectly shaved. (Who washed his clothes, who cut, combed, his hair there, who gave him such clean shaves?) I'm not fan of Guns of Navarone, but compared to this one it looks like Shakespeare because, despite all its shortcomings it still has that aura of reality, is still happening in the real world, it still gives us a sense of what really Nazi occupation looked and felt like, In TGE there is instead there is no tension, no sense of vulnerability, no fear for your life from the part of the POWs. You feel like watching the youthful shenanigans of a bunch of teens in summer camp who, if caught will get just a slap in the wrist. See for ex. that after Tilts physically attacks two guards armed with automatic guns he is just let go scot free, he is not even reprimanded! After that scene you can't possible take TGE seriously. And what about guard Warner, who is smart enough to immediately discover the concealed tunnel but not enough to put the obvious two plus two together, that Hendley was the one who stole his wallet?.
But the unrealistic reaches new heights with that Fourth of July parade. The German would have never ever allowed such a thing. No military in the world would ever allow their POWs such kind of display, let alone the Germans, who knew well how dangerous the mix of beer and flag waving could be. All that is pure Hollywood mythology. And to make things even worse, we got Steve McQueen, who every time he is on the screen, no matter what he does, say, he seems to be flaunting his star ratings. Not for a moment he makes you feel you are watching a real POW there, a man that feels impotent because deprived of his freedom, totally vulnerable to the whims and moods of his captors, but instead he gives you all along the feeling that Steve McQueen is all that there is to watch there and the rest is secondary. He feels all along so sure of himself that he can even engage in a staring contest with a SS heavy, a guy who could turn him into dust with a gesture of his little finger. But of course he knows he can do that, after all he is making thousands times more dough for this flick than the other guy, and than everyone else. He is the star here and he will never let them forget it, neither you, the spectator. In all, not worth watching, except for his fans. 3/10.
OK, here We go. 8.3 Rating on IMDb...93% on Rotten Tomatoes...#119 in
the Top 250 Films of All Time. What's the Point?...An Exercise in
Futility...Spitting in the Wind...Tugging on Superman's Cape...But
Let's Mess Around a Bit, just because We can.
This is one of the Most Overrated Movies Ever. John Sturgess also Directed The Magnificent Seven (1960). So there is The GREAT Escape and The MAGNIFICENT Seven, so You know where this Guy's Head is, way up there in the Clouds, Nowhere near Earth and Reality, just like this Fabrication.
Because this is Comic Book Stuff. The Director seems to have been Influenced by Stan Lee, the Creator of The FANTASTIC Four, The AMAZING Spider Man, and The INCREDIBLE Hulk. This Film is Hollywood Pablum. Glossy and Superficial.
The Acting is Average and the Star Power is Typical of these Types of Movies that Parade "Names" around on Screen and in Ads to make the Thing seem more Important than it Actually is. It is Entertaining to a Point and is Watchable because it is just so Sweet, never Achieving Anything remotely Suspenseful or Terrifying, or really Very Exciting. Can Anyone say with a Straight Face that Steve McQueen's Motorcycle Chase is Riveting Cinema.
It must also be said that Hogan's Heroes, that Long Running and Popular TV COMEDY, was Certainly Inspired by this, because when all is Said and Done, this is Nothing but a Long, Lightweight, Immensely Popular Movie Showing what Fun is to be had in a German POW Camp.
This is a splendid film about a daring breakout from inescapable Nazi
concentration camp , Stalag Luft North , with all star cast and
magnificently realized by John Sturges . It's partially based on facts
adapted by James Clavell and W.R. Burnett from a bestselling written by
Paul Brickhill . The continuous escapes have caused the Nazi staff
ordered 'putting all the rotten eggs in one basket' as the prisoners
are reunited into a special concentration camp . It deals with hard
preparatives of a diverse group formed by rebel air officers and
soldiers mounting a dangerous getaway from a barbed-wired and strongly
controlled camp . The most part of the film concerns on the elaborated
process of secretly digging an underground tunnel and the last one
deals with spectacular breakout and effort the approx. 70 escaped
prisoners throughout Germany trying to make their bid to freedom ,
including an impressive motorcycle pursuit in charge of iconic Steve
McQueen for one of the best action sequences in years .
This exciting story contains thrills, intrigue, tension, excitement galore, entertainment and lots of fun . Suspenseful WWII epic packs exceptional plethora of prestigious actors incarnating the motley group of POWs , giving good acting and support , as a sensational Steve McQueen whose character , ¨The Cooler King¨ , remains today as attractive iconography ; Charles Bronson as digging expert but suffering claustrophobia ; Donald Pleasance as professional on forge documents but blind , James Coburn as roguish Australian and of course Richard Attenborough as Air Force Squadron leader who plans the massive breakout , furthermore , James Garner as American officer , the British Gordon Jackson and David McCallum, among others . Colorful, atmospheric cinematography shot in Bavaria,Germany, by Daniel Fapp and perfectly remastered . Excellent production design and art direction with evocative sets by Fernando Carrere. Rousing and lively soundtrack , nowadays a classic score, by Elmer Bernstein . This blockbuster is followed by inferior TV sequel with Christopher Reeve, Judd Hirsch , Ian McShane and directed Jud Taylor who played to Goff in the original version . The motion picture is magnificently directed By John Sturges , author of various classic Western as ¨Escape from Fort Bravo, Gunfight at the OK Corral, The law and Jake Wade, Magnificent seven¨ and also realized another nice wartime film as ¨ The eagle has landed ¨ . Rating : Two thumbs up , essential and indispensable watching , a real must see.
More or less guaranteed to be shown during holiday afternoons this is based
on a true story. During WW2 the germans create a prison where they house all
the most notorious escapees. It's a plan that is either ingenious, if they
can keep everyone in, or stupid, if everyone escapes. As we all know from
the movie it turns out to be an idea of the stupid variety.
It's very interesting to watch the documentaries on the escape and discussions on whether it was worth it. The german officer that killed the escapees was following orders and was eventually executed himself after the war which is also a very interesting moral question. Should he have disobeyed the orders and been shot and did he deserve to die for obeying the orders.
Anyway back to the film and it seems hard to believe that anybody could have not seen this. The Steve McQueen bike ride has gone into cinema folklore. The main purpose of the escape is to cause as much trouble as possible to the germans and thereby aide the allies. A great film, but also a sad story.
At first, THE GREAT ESCAPE seems like your normal 1960s war flick.
as the picture progresses, it ends up being a heart wrenching tribute to
POWS and their attempts to find freedom. A masterful piece.
Ted's Grade: A
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