This movie was inspired by the real 1971 helicopter rescue and breakout of Joel David Kaplan from a Mexican prison which was orchestrated by lawyer Vasilios Basil Choulos. Film Critic Roger Ebert has said of this: "Kaplan was the scion of an American sugar-and-molasses empire with Latin American connections, and in the early 1960s, he was a courier for Fidel Castro. The Mexicans imprisoned him in 1962 on a highly questionable murder charge, and there were rumors that the CIA was somehow involved. He was in prison nine years before his sister hired a California helicopter pilot to carry out a neat little mission spiriting Kaplan out of the prison yard. Ramparts published material about the CIA connection, but Kaplan wouldn't talk, then or later. The movie's naturally more concerned with the rescue mission than with any shadowy political implications. But there are a couple of leftovers from the original story in the sinister persons of a CIA operative and the hero's rich grandfather. They seem to be in cahoots, although how or why is a little unclear."
Actor-director John Huston plays Harris Wagner in this Charles Bronson movie. About four years after this picture was made and released, Huston was scheduled to direct Bronson in Love and Bullets (1979). This was going to be the first movie where Huston directed Bronson. Pre-publicity advertisements for Love and Bullets (1979) announced this in trade paper 'Variety'. Huston left the picture due to creative differences with the films' producers having filmed just a few scenes and was replaced with director Stuart Rosenberg.
This was the first major studio film to be released in the now-common saturation pattern, debuting at over 1000 movie theaters simultaneously with 1300 prints in the USA. This was coupled with 17000 advertising radio spots. The Columbia studio claimed that this was "the most spectacular saturation blitz of any motion picture". Soon after, this wide release method was used for Jaws (1975) as well.
This was not the first escape from prison movie for star Charles Bronson. Bronson appeared in the classic film The Great Escape (1963) made and released about twelve years earlier. A tagline on an Australian movie poster for this film even connected with this by saying: "Mr. 'Tough Guy' engineers THE GREATEST ESCAPE since "The Great Escape"!!!".
This movie was made and released about two years after its source book 'Ten Second Jailbreak' was first published in 1973. The book's full title is actually 'The Ten-Second Jailbreak: The Helicopter Escape Of Joel David Kaplan'. The authors were Warren Hinckle, William Turner and Eliot Asinof.
The helicopter used for the breakout scene is an Aerospatiale SA.313/318 Alouette II powered by a gas turbine engine, while the sound was dubbed from a Bell 47 piston-engined helicopter. It was flown by well-known film pilot Jim Gavin.
This movie is one of only two pictures starring Charles Bronson which use alliteration rhyming his last name with the picture's title. The words BRONSON - BREAKOUT share the same first two letters: "B" and "r". The other movie which also did this was Breakheart Pass (1975), interestingly, made by the same director (Tom Gries) and also made in the same year.
Actor Robert Duvall became interested in the gypsy culture whilst working with gypsy extras on the set of this movie. Duvall drew on this experience as a writer-director when he later made the film Angelo My Love (1983) about eight years later.
This movie was the first of two pictures that star Charles Bronson made with director Tom Gries. The second, made in the same year as this movie but mostly released in 1976, was Breakheart Pass (1975). The two had also previously worked in television together.