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This movie could easily make my top 15 of all time. From what I have read, it was QUITE realistic. Several of the British officers that were actually there went to the site in Germany when it was filmed. When something was wrong, they spoke up and got it fixed. (This has been on the History Channel several times.) There were almost no Americans, if any, at the time of escape. They had been moved to another camp only a couple of weeks prior to the escape. Many of the prime characters were based on actual people, most notably Attenborough. I also read the book (about 30 years ago) in high school pm which the movie was based. They had photos the Germans took of the tunnels. The movie was incredibly accurate. The tracks, the air pumps, lights, etc. It isn't the movie that was amazing, it was what the prisoners did. As far as how the prisoners were treated, for the most part, relatively well. The death rate in a German POW camp was about 1-2%. In a Japanese prison camp, about 35% of the Allied prisoners died, due to murder, torture, disease, starvation, etc. The Luftwaffe, headed by Fatso Goering, guarded Allied airman because Goering had a weird sense of camaraderie with fellow flyers. The Gestapo or SS are the ones who shot the 50 prisoners. These war criminals were later faced war crimes trials. This is one hell of a movie. But find the book yourself.
There are few adventure stories as great as this. The movie never flags
- it uses its wonderfully large cast to perfect effect - everyone will
have his favorite characters - the colors, the music, the sense of a
wonderful adventure is just magnetic.
It is interesting to think of how VERY different this movie could have been in different screenwriters and directors' hands. It is easy to imagine a very dark movie about an escape plan for 250 spoiled so that it involved only 76, and of the 76, 60 massacred and only a very few escaping - a story of frustration, of man's hopes destroyed, of the darkness of life. It would be interesting to see such a version - perhaps something like The Piano or Schindler's List.
Instead somehow, the movie makes the viewer feel GREAT - vibrant, happy, enthusiastic, excited! It's remarkable that this story could be made to do this - I think much is due to the energy of a large group working with such dedication and teamwork, much is due to the wonderful music, much is due to the very attractiveness of the actors themselves.
For me, there is something terribly appealing about the David McCallum character, Ashley-Pitt - his sacrifice to save the leader (and thus the entire operation), his looks, his manner. And something very touching about the Garner-Pleasance characters operating in tandem. Attenborough is himself properly subdued, authoritative, commanding - and Jackson is an excellent sidekick.
I've always liked James Donald very much in everything - particularly as the conscience of The Bridge on the river Kwai - he's in the same form here.
If you have heard the term, the "Anglosphere" in recent years, one can see a vivid illustration of it here - the Australian-American-English-Scottish team working perfectly - with the same sense of values to be pursued and preserved, the same sense of humor, dedication.
This is just wonderful for anyone - but perhaps particularly for men since there aren't any women in it at all!
This is, in my opinion, the greatest film ever made!
Made in 1963, this true story begins with the arrival of Allied P.O.W.'s to
Stalag Luft III. They are told that there will be no escapes from this camp
by the German officers, but they have made one mistake. They have
put all known escapees together 'in one basket' and they set about to do
what they do best - ESCAPE! The scenes throughout the film are thrilling,
especially the chase scene with Steve McQueen at the end of the
Miss it at your peril.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I checked this out from the library video stacks. It had Steve McQueen in
it, so I figured what the heck? To my surprise this is a great movie. What a
cast! Richard Attenborough, Donald Pleasence, Steve McQueen,James
Coburn,James Garner, Charles Brosan and David Mccallum. Most of these guys
before they got famous as well. One could spent hours creating spy and
western connections between the cast. The movie builds up suspense well. You
really want them to escape from that camp. Unlike most war movies, this
movie actually injects some humor into it.(the moonshine scene a good
example)The European scenery is beautiful. It's quite heart wrenching with
the escapees get killed or sent back to camp. I'm really glad Hollywood
didn't sugar coat it with a happy ending. It would have destroyed the drama.
But there's two things that bother me about this movie.
1. James Coburn's aussie accent. Auuggghhhh!
2. They make the POW camp seem almost like summer camp.They even study birds for pete's sake. At girl scout camp we had cabins that looked almost identical to the ones in the film. In fact some of the camps I went to looked amazingly like the POW camp in this movie. Hmmmmm I wonder. Anyway they make it seem like a POW camp isn't really that horrible a place to be.
Overall a few flaws, but a movie that is deserving of 'classic' status.
The Great Escape is definitely one of my favorite movies. I remember seeing it at the drive-in when I was about 6. My parents always brought me a blanket so I could sleep in the back seat, but I stayed up for this one. The cast is excellent, with many memorable characters. Steve McQueen is at his peak, along with James Garner and Richard Attenborough. Based on a true story, a group of POWs from many allied nations plan a daring tunnel escape from a German camp. We see them plan, prepare, and dig the tunnels (3) as they elude detection from their captors. I have only one issue; the conditions of the camp are presented as a little too pristine, not dirty or squalid as in other POW movies like Stalag 17 or Von Ryan's Express. The prisoners here are always well fed and well groomed, with cleaned and pressed uniforms. But that can be overlooked because overall, the movie is excellent. The actual escape is filled with suspense, and the last hour of the movie we see them on the run, by plane, train, on foot, and in McQueen's case, by motorcycle. By this time, we are rooting for each character as they all try to make it out of Germany. All in all, a WW2 epic.
This is an interesting and true story and like so many of the epics in the early 60's, has a great cast. Probably Steve McQueen's best film work. Most viewer's will find it worth the 2 hours and 50 plus minutes you spend with the flick. Recommended for all, I rated this an 8.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is as entertaining as a POW film can be. It is primary a lighthearted film, though it does have its serious moments. The characters are all very colorful. They are not overly stereotyped since this film helped to created the stereotypes. I enjoy that facts the prisoners get to work on escape before their feet hit ground. It is the thing that prisoners must do. The actors are all very good. Steve McQueen is my favorite--not because he is the best actor, but because he is so cool. Nobody makes riding a bike into a barbed wire fence more imitable than he. James Garner is perfect as the "Scrounger". I like the scenes where he is working on the German soldier. I really enjoy all the scenes where we get to see the soldiers working, and all the creative ways in which they get the job done. Though this doesn't have the psychological complexity of "Bridge on the River Kwai", it is one of my favorite war movies.
'The Great Escape' is a film based on a true story about Allied prisoners of war at a German camp who have a plan to tunnel an escape. Filled with great characters who each play a part in the scheme, great music, and plenty of adventure, this film gets the adrenaline rising. It's a thoroughly good film, and I highly recommend that everyone see it at least once in their life. (With each viewing, I think it is appreciated more.) It's easy to get caught up in the action and to see where the plot takes the characters, and this film is a legend of prisoner of war films. You see references to it everywhere. I highly recommend 'The Great Escape'.
Apart from the fact that it was a unique and great adventure epic, The Great Escape made important contributions to the career of a number of American and British male stars and would-be stars. This was due in part to director/producer John Sturges' particular intuition for the choice of actors and to effective, well-balanced characterizations which served as vehicles to several their players. Interestingly, none of the film's performers were big stars at the time and only McQueen, Garner and Attenbourough were well-known leading men. Primarily, the movie of course launched Steve McQueen to major stardom, only a few years after Sturges' The Magnificent Seven established the actor's lone hero persona on the big screen. McQueen stands out as a daring and cynical individualist, who appears unmoved and downright impertinent when being thrown in and out of the prison camp's cooler, and culminates in a classic motorcycle chase. But in a somewhat less glamorous manner, James Garner arguably gives a superior performance as the "scrounger", the prisoner gathering most of the essential materials of the escape through his wit, relaxed charm and resourcefulness. McQueen's admittedly impressive characterization sometimes comes a bit too close to parody and spectacular heroics, in the end lacking some credibility. Garner, on the other hand, manages a more subtle, understated humour, not distracting from the seriousness of his work and the stakes involved in the escape. Meanwhile, Richard Attenborough is also excellent as the mastermind of the escape, forcefully portraying a man convinced of his mission and ready to make sacrifices and ruthless decisions to achieve it. From the rest of the cast, Charles Bronson probably stands out most, projecting strength and determination as the head of the tunnel diggers, while towards the end, effectively conveying a vulnerable, tortured side of his character (even though the fact that the "Tunnel King" turns out to be a closet claustrophobic stretches credibility somewhat). Donald Pleasance gives some outstanding pieces of acting when his character gradually turns blind before the escape. The evolution of his friendship with Garner provides an interesting plot and character development, as Pleasance's traditional British ways and habits contrasts amusingly with Garner's easy-going and open American style. James Donald also does very well as the senior British officer, providing thoughtful, sensitive and self-effacing leadership. The other protagonists do not have sufficient screen time to make their characters more than moderately interesting, but James Coburn shines as a brash Australian who ends up escaping on a stolen bicycle, David McCallum has some brief but noticeable moments, particularly when disguised as a German civilian during his escape, and Gordon Jackson gives some bright support to Attenbourough, providing a human touch to balance the excessive seriousness of the latter's character. The attention spent to the fate and personality traits of all these characters, enliven by the engaging and usually flawless acting of the players, had much to do in creating and maintaining the interest of The Great Escape, making it a lot more than a big and exciting action film. For McQueen, Garner, Attenborough, Bronson, Coburn, Pleasance and McCallum, The Great Escape represents some of the finest moments in their long illustrious careers.
Back in 1963, a war film arrived on the silver screen which set the standard for all dramas which followed. True there were other great war films such as The War Lover and Twelve O'Clock High, but none of them became the launching point for so many of Hollywood's great screen stars. Paul Brickhill wrote the original true story upon which this film is based on. Furthermore, with Elmer Berstein's rousing musical score, this movie then becomes nothing short of genuine classic. The saga of "The Great Escape" is wound around the actual war time experiences of American and British Airmen, who'd been captured and sent to what the German High Command called 'An Escape proof' prisoner of War Camp. Upon seeing the assortment of Hollywood elite, one can not expect anything but great drama and action adventure from the entire cast. Steve McQueen, who plays Capt. Virgil Hilts, "The Cooler King" leads an all star line up which consists of James Garner as Hendley "The Scrounger", Richard Attenborough as Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett, James Donald as Group Capt. Ramsey "The Senior British Officer", Charles Bronson is memorable as Danny Velinski "The Tunnel King", Donald Pleasence as Blythe, James Coburn as Louis Sedgwick, David McCallum as Ashley-Pitt and Gordon Jackson as MacDonald. They are imprisoned and guarded by Germany's elite guards, commanded by Col. Von Luger (Hannes Messemer) who has been personally selected for the task. Since it's inception, this film has garnered a commanding cult following. It's status is notable as the vehicle which literally propels McQueen up into his stardom. *****
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