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A Forgettable time passer.
Lord John Morgan(Richard Harris)is an English aristocrat who was captured and enslaved by the Yellow Hand Sioux on a visit to the American west in the 1820s. Over time he fought to prove himself and eventually became a respected member of the tribe. The Sioux called him Horse. Years later, Morgan has returned to England and the Sioux are attacked by bloodthirsty trappers who massacre most of the tribe and destroy their sacred home. A jaded Morgan returns to the west to aid the Sioux in their fight against the trappers.
I particularly enjoyed the first movie, A Man Called Horse(1970). It was a fascinating essay on life in a Sioux tribe that was colourful and inspiring too. This sequel however, is really just a forgettable potboiler which drags on. The characters are not allowed to develop and the plot looses itself in endless scenes of chanting, screeching and riding. The villainous trappers are barely seen and appear to be nothing but a bunch of dumb labourers. Geoffrey Lewis' head honcho had especially little to do, trying his hardest to be menacing but never really succeeding in doing so. The script feels as if it's been written by a 14 year old with several unnecessary scenes which are merely there to pad out the movie's 2 hour running time. The film is at least half an hour too long and several important plot points are tossed aside. For example the film did not delve deep enough into Lord Morgan's life at home in England with his wife and how he suffered when returned to civilised society. Also, his reason for returning to the tribe is explained so promptly that you are likely to miss it if you aren't paying attention. So much potential is wasted, the depth and atmosphere of the first movie is non-existent here .
The purification ritual is featured in this film once again. In the original it was executed with professionalism, the end result being gorgeously psychedelic. Here it just looks outlandish and takes up too much time. I found it unintentionally humorous as well as corny. There isn't much action apart from the climatic attack on the fort which was pretty well shot but far too abrupt and rather anti climatic. The fact that some of the horse falls have been removed took away the tension thus making me enjoy the battle even less. Richard Harris just runs around the interiors of the fort trying not to get shot, but the special effects were really good. The final explosion of the hut was ruined by the fact that the adjacent watchtower did not come crashing to the ground. Again it was an action sequence that they could have done a lot more with by throwing in some hand-to-hand combat, ambitious stunts and maybe even Lord Morgan sacrificing himself for his Sioux brothers. Although the film did boast some fine scenery with beautiful vistas of sun kissed plains and lush forests and it at least sounded nice courtesy of Laurence Rosenthal's operatic score.
Don't worry if you haven't seen this sequel, you're better off watching the original and leaving it at that. The sequel is one of those movies that is best enjoyed when one is intoxicated. 6/10.
Kojak: Chain of Custody (1978)
Corruption in the judicial system always makes for riveting plot material...
Kojak's tailor is murdered by a loan shark to whom the man owed money. The killer is apprehended by police shortly after the crime and a court date is set. Kojak is hopeful that the murderer will be convicted and is further reassured by a confident attorney who vows to put the killer away. However, the attorney botches the hearing which allows the loan shark to walk free. An irate Kojak publicly insults and denounces the attorney which leads to his subsequent suspension from the police force. Now working alone, Theo fights to prove corruption in the chambers of law and that the attorney and a top judge are guilty of deliberately letting the murderer walk free...
A gripping episode throughout with an engrossing story backed up by a sturdy script. Corruption in the judicial system always makes for riveting plot material and here it is handled in a severely unflinching way. The performances were first rate as usual. Telly sears with the fiery charisma that I expect from him and in the immortal Kojak tradition, gets all the best dialogue to himself. In one scene he paraphrases Rhett Butler's "I don't give a damn" line from Gone With The Wind to blistering effect. The Greek's proficient acting skill is on full show in the sequence when he launches a full scale verbal attack on the attorney outside the chamber. Some of Kojak's remarks in this scene are truly priceless and hark back to passion he let rip so often throughout the earlier episodes. As with most other Kojak episodes there is a strong supporting cast. Jack Hogan as the seemingly incompetent district attorney, Madison Arnold as repulsive loan shark Joe Hennessey and Allan Rich as the judge whose palms have been greased.
Season 5 got off to a fantastic start, but some of the subsequent episodes were rather forgettable. However, gems like this particular episode which stay true to the granite edged Kojak formula make it worth your while. 9/10.
The best episode of the series in a long time!
A young detective is shot and killed by a thug who is robbing a store. Kojak and his men are soon on the scene and Theo discovers that the only witness to the murder is the girlfriend of an embittered mobster with whom the Lieutenant has had run ins in the past. The woman refuses to cooperate and disappears, making Kojak's investigation difficult. On top of this the FBI warns Kojak not to interfere with the witness as she is of immense importance to one of their operations...
Kojak is back with a bang in this first episode of the show's 5th and final season with a soaring new theme tune(check it out on Youtube). This episode was a glorious breath of fresh air for the series which had begun to turn rather stale with the onset of the mostly disappointing season 4. Telly is firmly back in the saddle in one of his best performances of the series, once again firing on all cylinders with his passionate charisma and sardonic demeanour which make the show a joy to watch. The mesmerising Greek is supported by a more than competent cast: Paula Kelly as the gangster's moll who is not what she seems, Charles Cioffi as the cruel mobster Arnie Brace and Edward Power as federal man Robinson. Robust support also comes from series regulars Dan Frazer, Kevin Dodson and George Savalas. The episode also benefits from an engaging script with some memorable lines of dialogue, throw in a couple of riveting foot chases and it succeeds fully.
A promising start to the final season of Kojak which returns to the quality of seasons 1 and 2. 10/10.
"When it's impossible...send in the dozen"
During the Second World war, allied intelligence discovers that 12 top Nazis are to be sent to the Balkans to form a fourth Reich. Major Wright(Telly Savalas)is ordered to assemble a 12 man killing machine known as the "dozen" to attack the train on which the Nazis are travelling and wipe them out...
Fatal Mission is the final of the 3 made-for-TV movies which were all spinoffs of Robert Aldrich's 1967 actioner. Immensely entertaining with a skinny plot, Fatal Mission is one of the fast food war movies. You can enjoy this film at any time without taxing your brain cells and it's only an hour and a half. The script is about as cheesy as it gets which will make the movie seem to some like a corny rehash of the 1967 original. In a way this is true, but I wasn't bothered by it at all. Some of the dialogue from the original has been copied and pasted straight into this movie, Lee Marvin's "foul up" speech is repeated word for word by Telly Savalas. The action scenes failed to disappoint with thrilling stunts and impressive special effects. The action builds to a spectacularly explosive finale which looks almost too professional for a TV movie. The cast was okay, Telly was the best part of it. The other actors who made up the dozen were forgettable. However, Telly was pushing 70 when he made this movie and is amazingly versatile. He blisters with plenty of that Kojak-esque charisma that had helped make him an international star. His glory days had come to an end and he spent his last years doing TV and movies like this, but his affecting personality and exuberance would never die.
An exciting action flick that delivers an hour and a half of sturdy fun with some unintentional humour. A tired cast headed by Telly Savalas is another bonus. 9/10.
Birdman of Alcatraz (1962)
Fictionalised account of Robert Stroud's life.
This 1962 biopic from United Artists claims to tell the story of Robert Stroud. However, it is mostly fictionalised and refuses to depict the real Robert Stroud. The end product is merely a drama which addresses issues associated with the prison system which are still very much relevant today. In 1912, Robert Stroud is transferred to Leavenworth prison in Kansas to serve out a sentence for murder. During his first few years there, Stroud kills a prison guard who refuses to let him see his mother. Now facing the death sentence, Stroud's doting mother appeals to the President to have the conviction quashed. The President obliges, but Stroud must spend the rest of his life in solitary confinement. As the years pass, Stroud finds a baby sparrow in the exercise yard and nurses it back to health. Now taking an interest in ornithology(the study of birds), Stroud soon acquires a menagerie of finches and sparrows which changes his life. He even finds a cure for a deadly virus among the birds and writes a book on how to treat them, gaining the nickname "Birdman".
In reality, Robert Stroud was a psychopath, not the mild mannered individual who is shown in the film. There are instances of Stroud threatening to kidnap and murder the children of some of the prison guards. Although Hollywood could not glorify an individual with such tendencies, especially in 1962, hence why this movie has been watered down. However, the ever brilliant Burt Lancaster transforms Stroud into a likable character. The robust script gives the character some truly memorable lines("a man ain't whipped until he quits")and it is Burt's unsurpassed professionalism which makes the character succeed. Karl Malden is also superb as the governor, Harvey Shoemaker. Malden would always inject passion into the characters he played and it shows here. It was also great to see an early role for Telly Savalas(with hair!)as convict Feto Gomez. The Greek gets a substantial amount of screen time and executes his role with the awe striking charisma that I have come to expect from him. Neville Brand, Hugh Marlowe and Thelma Ritter also shine in supporting roles.
John Frankenheimer's direction holds the movie firmly together by making each character real. The film depicts it's characters as human beings and not just prisoners/guards. The highlight of the film is the heated discussion between Stroud and Shoemaker regarding the progression of the penal system. Shoemaker believes he has succeeded in transforming the prison into a more human environment. Stroud knows that this new system is no different from the old one. The prisoners have the ideals of the prison staff pressed onto them thus when they are released they have been robbed of their individuality which acts as a catalyst in encouraging them to re-offend. A scathing comment on the justice system handled in a mature way by Frankenheimer. There's also a particularly moving scene after the riot in which a young convict dies as Stroud begs him to reconsider what it means to be alive.
Birdman is a rather long slog, but it's easy on the eye. On top of this the sturdy script and rich characterisations make it an engaging watch. 8/10.
A Bridge Too Far (1977)
"The forest that once was green, was coloured black by those killing machines"
By September 1944, the allies were exploding with confidence due to the D-Day victory. Field Marshall Montgomery devised an ambitious plan to thrust into Germany and end the war by Christmas. Christening this plan "Operation Market Garden", allied brass intended to parachute hundreds of troops into occupied Holland where they would capture a series of strategically important bridges. Once these bridges were secured, more troops would push across the Lower Rhine and into Germany where they would destroy the Nazi's munitions plants. Montgomery was positive that the plan would succeed, however this was not to be the case. The fact that the allies hoped to establish a total victory all too soon led to Operation Market Garden becoming one of the most calamitous tactical failures in military history.
Executed in the same style as The Longest Day, ABTF chronicles the disastrous events of Operation Market Garden in awesome fashion. Like Ken Annakin in 1962, Richard Attenborough gives us a sturdy history lesson. Dickie's lesson however, is wrapped in poignant anti-war subtext. Until this point, anti-war movies only saw fit to show the debilitating effects of war on the soldiers. ABTF cuts much deeper by depicting the effects of warfare on civilians, thus the film succeeds amazingly. These anti-war overtones are at their most powerful when the town of Arnhem is razed to the ground by German tanks, but hit hardest when a distraught elderly woman and her confused son are thrust into the fighting after their home is overrun by Lieutenant Colonel Frost and his forces. Also later in the movie, a young Dutch woman is forced to turn her house into a makeshift hospital for allied casualties. Yes, the film's anti-war subtext is laid on extremely thick, but the ugliness of war is it's selling point. Richard Attenborough goes further to criticise the decisions made by the allied high command. Most of the Generals who appear in the movie are depicted as overzealous toffs who stubbornly send their soldiers to be massacred at the expense of efficiency. The highlight of the film comes when James Caan's Sergeant threatens to shoot the U.S Medical Colonel unless he removes the bullet from Caan's dying Captain's skull. Proficiently executed with meritorious tact, the entire sequence is a robust testament to consequential writing and sharp acting. It also brilliantly showcases the crippling pressure under which real life soldiers have to fight. ABTF is light years ahead of it's time in terms of cinematography. The scenes showing the allies landing in Holland boasted a series of most impressive subjective POV shots of paratroopers plunging through the air. The said shots certainly wouldn't look out of place in a contemporary first person shooter game.
As with The Longest Day, ABTF is blessed with the advantage of star power. Awe striking portrays come from Sean Connery, Robert Redford, James Caan and Edward Fox. Gene Hackman stood out as Major General Sosabowski, as did Elliott Gould as the cigar chomping Colonel Bobby Stout. The latter is the stereotypical American Colonel, although clichéd as he may appear, Gould's professionalism transforms Colonel Stout into a staunch character. Other vivid performances included Anthony Hopkins as Lieutenant Colonel John Frost, Michael Caine as Lieutenant Colonel J.O.E Vandeleur, Maximillian Schell as Lieutenant General Bittrich, Arthur Hill as the American Medical Colonel and Liv Ullmann as Kate Ter Horst. Laurence Olivier gave a profound performance as the kindly Doctor Spaander and so did Hardy Kruger as Major General Ludwig and Michael Byrne as Lieutenant Colonel Giles Vandeleur. Be sure to look out for a pre Cheers John Ratzenburger as a U.S Lieutenant and Donald Pickering as Lieutenant Colonel Mackenzie. Tight editing allows the battle scenes to be both engaging and taut. The stunts and special effects have the full power to excite with the engagements on the Arnhem bridge and amphibious assault on the German held river bank plus the subsequent attack on the Nijmegen bridge packing spectacularly cuspidate suspense!. The action scenes, especially the streetfighting(which is some of the most realistic I've ever seen in a war movie!), were given a brutal edge thanks to the use of modern camera techniques and moderate inclusion of gore.
ABTF is a biting comment on the hideousness of war, but can also be read as a severe essay on the repercussions of overenthusiasm and conformity. Handled with commendable tact by Richard Attenborough, ABTF has more than enough strength to pull any war movie or history buff in. 10/10.
Away All Boats (1956)
Routine, but enjoyable potboiler
In 1943, hard nosed Captain Hawks is placed in command of the Belinda, an attack transport ship responsible for ferrying Marines to Japanese held islands in the Pacific. Austere in character, the rigorous Hawks enforces sharp discipline on the Belinda's lackadaisical crew. He is met at first with resentment, but later wins the men's respect using tact whilst remaining firm. Hawks pushes the men beyond their limits as the Belinda fights it's way through some of the bitterest campaigns in the Pacific theatre.
Away All Boats is dated flag waving at the best of times crammed with all the war movie clichés of the decade as well a strong share of wooden performances. The movie chunters along at a laboured pace with mostly desiccated dialogue and tight eruptions of action. It does get rather boring in the middle and we are fed spoonful upon spoonful of corniness. The romantic flashbacks involving Lt. MacDougall(the Belinda's second in command)and his wife forced me to cringe. I just found these flashbacks pointless and again clichéd, they're just so familiar and seem to be copied from at least 10 other movies. Then again I suppose every film of the 1940s and 50s had to have at least one character with a love interest. The 1950s morals surrounding husband and wife were just too forced. There are also some poor attempts at comic relief. Two sailors fight over a Coconut like a couple of kids which in turn instigates a brawl. I'm sorry but it made the movie feel all the more hackneyed. The main problem is that the script contained a few great ideas which were hashed together with mawkish plot devices in a rush. The piercing soundtrack, whilst commanding your attention, is nearly played non stop over endless shots of landing craft and Battleships.
Apart from the movie dragging itself to the point of becoming tiresome, Jeff Chandler was excellent as the stern Captain Hawks, although he was trying too hard to channel John Wayne. He played in a lot of Universal's B westerns but his portray of Hawks in this movie is his most robust performance. He really hams it up without coming across as being too pretentious, therefore exploding with charisma in a lot of scenes and showing the viewer he cares about his character. His acting ability peaks during the battle near the end of the movie. At the sight of a burning Kamikaze hurtling toward the Belinda, the near crazed Hawks waves his hand in rage and screams above all the explosions and gunfire as it speeds ever closer "HARD LEFT, HARD LEFT I SAY, GET AWAY FROM MY SHIP, GET YOUR FILTHY PLANE AWAY FROM MY SHIP"!!!!!!. The plane crashes and the Bridge becomes engulfed in flames. Overacted maybe, but these few seconds are the greatest part of the entire film and the brutal aggression displayed by Chandler is an acting tour de force to be reckoned with!. The same cannot be said for much of the other actors, although Richard Boone was pretty good. The few action sequences were spectacular and crammed with all the suspense that director Joseph Penvey could muster. The use of colour wartime footage showing massive destroyer's cannons blasting islands to smithereens takes us on a whistle-stop tour of the battles of Makin, Saipan, Guam and others. The final Kamikaze attack on the Belinda was packed with amazing special effects and tautness and looked extremely professional. A lot of this action footage, including the shot of one of the Japanese planes crashing into the Belinda, various shots of anti aircraft batteries firing at the attacking planes and shots of the Belinda's crew struggling to douse the flames on it's deck were all pinched and inserted into The Battle OF Midway(1976). This is the only part of the movie which etches the realistic chaos of war into your mind.
Away All Boats is given the cheap and corny treatment but is saved by a few dazzling sequences, but it's not up to much other than that. It's still worth watching for some of the sequences mentioned above though.7/10.
"They say the Nile still runs red from the battle for Khartoum!"
Most of the events depicted in this movie are based upon fact. On the desiccated sands of the Sudan in 1883, 10,000 Egyptian soldiers commanded by British Colonel Hicks are massacred by warriors loyal to the fanatical Mahdi. Prime minister Gladstone dispatches General Charles Gordon(CHARLTON HESTON)to Khartoum to evacuate European nationals before they and the city's inhabitants are decimated by the Mahdi's forces. The cynical Colonel Stewart accompanies Gordon to Sudan as an aide. As the General oversees the evacuation, Colonel Stewart develops a respect for his superior officer. However, Gordon disobeys orders from London by remaining in Khartoum and fortifying the city against impending attack. As the garrison becomes increasingly constricted by a punishing siege, Gordon engages in a battle of wits with the Mahdi as he fights to save the city he has come to love.
As the title suggests, the film is a depiction of the events leading up to and surrounding the siege of Khartoum as well as the siege itself. The script is great and well written. Although, some significant events have been omitted from the narrative which makes the film feel too restrained. On the other hand though, a couple of scenes have been fabricated for the sake of Hollywood and the movie benefits from this. Khartoum is decently paced and chunters along at a fine speed with adept editing and stunning cinematography. The ever fantastic Charlton Heston embodies the role of General Gordon with commendable ease. Chuck was the king of the period epic and this film belongs to him without a doubt. The illustrious Laurence Olivier was rather hammy in his portray of the Mahdi. As this was the case, it was difficult to take the character seriously and hew wasn't as threatening as he should have been. There are scenes in which Gordon travels to the Mahdi's camp and through engrossing conversation, begins to respect his enemy and vice versa. Now this never happened in reality and was merely invented for artistic licence. The verbal exchanges between the two men were excellently scripted. Khartoum is peppered with robust performances. Richard Johnson gave staunch support as Colonel Stewart, as did Ralph Richardson, Alexander Knox and Nigel Green. Edward Underdown also gave a sturdy, but abrupt portrayal of Colonel Billy Hicks.
Boasting electrifying battle sequences, Khartoum is never short of spectacle. The spectacular action is constructed by Yakima Canutt and his immensely sophisticated stunt team, the same group of people responsible for the exhilarating action scenes featured in the epic Ben-Hur(1959). Unfortunately, the pains of Canutt's labour have been treated with shambolic disregard by the BBFC. In English, the region 2 DVD release has been hacked to smithereens due to "illegal horse falls". This really is a crying shame as the battle sequences are truly epic in scope. Firstly, this has taken the edge off of the action sequences. Secondly, now don't get me wrong, I loathe animal cruelty as much as anyone else, but to cut footage from old films such as this is appalling. I believe it to be an insult to the vigorous work of Canutt and stuntmen like him. There's a taut river ambush in which a steamboat commanded by Colonel Stewart is attacked by Arab forces. This sequence is executed in truly spectacular fashion, complete with bone chilling stunts and special effects!. However, this sequence is tactlessly handled in that half of the battle is left out of the movie. In reality, Colonel Stewart and the surviving Europeans were slaughtered after the steamboat ran aground. The film doesn't show this, merely implying the events towards the end. The narrative prefers to progress after the steamboat begins bombarding the blockade of Arab boats. I was impressed with the ultimate battle of Khartoum. In real life, it was more of a mass slaughter as opposed to the glorious last stand depicted at the film's climax. Still, the end result is fantastic. It reminded me of the epic battle at the end of John Wayne's The Alamo(1960), although the battle shown in Khartoum was smaller and didn't last as long. There were also a few smaller battles in the desert. Memorable as they were, the felt too pressured and suffered most from the unnecessary cuts. The lofty musical score was fine, although typical of historical epics such as this.
Khartoum never fails in providing a colourful 2 hours of entertainment. It just feels rushed with too much restraint placed on the action scenes. However, it showcases an interesting piece of British military history which is often overlooked. 8/10.
C'era una volta il West (1968)
Dream or Nightmare?
Sergio Leone's epic pastafest from 1968 is the closest the stalwart director ever got to making a western. Yeah sure the dollars movies were westerns, but they satirised American horse operas in Leone's unique tongue-in-cheek style. Duck You Sucker is not really a western. It's a buddy actioner which criticised war, patriotism and social hierarchy. Finally we have Once Upon A Time In America. Something of a labour of love for Leone, this depression set crime epic would be an object of obsession for the final part of his life. With West, dear old Sergio was merely tipping his hat to his inspiration, the American western. A love letter to Hollywood directors like John Ford and Howard Hawks, West is comprised of subtle references to several American westerns. However, there is only one variation. With these references, Leone has taken the conventions of the Hollywood western and reversed them, giving birth to mind blowing authenticity. Still, Leone's immortal style remains and the symbolism of the dollars trilogy is present.
Allow me to explain further. At the film's outset, we have 3 villains waiting for a fourth at a train station. While waiting, their appearance frightens the conductor. Now, obviously there are several variations, but think High Noon(1952). At the beginning of Fred Zinnemann's classic, 3 villains wait at a train station for a fourth. These nice fellows also make the conductor wary of them. Now there are 2 differences. In High Noon, the train doesn't arrive for at least an hour, whereas in West it arrives within 10-15 minutes. Secondly, High Noon has our 3 villains waiting for their leader, bad guy Frank Miller, but West has the 3 baddies waiting for the film's hero, Harmonica. As with Leone's other westerns, symbolism is abundant. When you strip away the complex plot, West tells the story of the expanding railroad. The construction of the railroad represents life and how it is eternally progressing. However, the progression of life always has and always will be wrought with different evils. These evils take the form of the corrupt railroad tycoon Morton and his hired gun Frank. Still, in spite of these evils, life continues to progress unaffected and when the evils are rid of, a new evil always rears it's ugly head. When Morricone's trancelike score is combined with slow, uninterrupted shots of stillness, West feels like a beautiful dream, or is it a nightmare?. You decide.
West has an ingredient that the dollars trilogy and DYS lacked, a strong female lead. Claudia Cardinale was excellent, like a breath of fresh air. Henry Fonda was deliciously menacing as Frank, probably the most robust role he's ever played. Charles Bronson made for a staunch anti hero as Harmonica and Jason Robards nearly steals the show as the tough outlaw, Cheyenne. Fore reasons I can't quite explain, Gabriele Ferzetti owned the movie as the crippled railroad baron Morton. Personally, I believe West to have the greatest musical score ever written for a western, Morricone's finest hour!. Composed in stunning, majestic style, "Jill's Theme" alludes to a resplendent utopia away from the violent filth of the frontier. "The Man With A Harmonica" is the ultimate soundtrack for a showdown. The piercing shrieks of a harmonica juxtaposed with the fuzz of an electric guitar and the soaring tempo of an orchestra is eerily atmospheric, evoking exquisitely the ritual of the final duel. "Cheyenne's Theme" is catchy and you will be whistling it long after the credits have rolled. As you would expect from a Leone film, West has the blessing of consummate cinematography. The penetrating zooms and close-ups of Harmonica and Frank were proficient and the infinite shots of silence dazzling. While it was still commendably tight, the suspense was a little too tenacious. The slow build ups were nearly as taut as they were in the dollars trilogy, but the intense explosions of violence came too soon and too fast. The tension just wasn't as sharp as it should have been. It also wasn't as copious as it was in the dollars movies, therefore some parts of the film were slightly desiccated. In a brief showdown in the town's street, there are a couple of positively spectacular stunts!. I'm surprised stuntman Fabio Testi wasn't paralysed for the rest of his life. A queasy flashback intercut into the climatic duel between Harmonica and Frank provided the confrontation with fierce bite.
What else can I say?. If you love any kind of western you must see this movie. Just falling short of the glory of the dollars trilogy and Duck You Sucker due to some acute flaws, West is a cast iron classic nonetheless. 9/10.
The Great Escape (1963)
From a barbed wire camp to barbed wire country...
I won't insult your intelligence by discussing the nature of it's plot. Even of you've lived as a hermit for the past 50 years, you'll hear the words "Great Escape" and know exactly what I'm talking about. Engraving Steve McQueen into the annals of pop culture and giving new meaning to the term "war movie", the masses considered the film to be "THE Great Escape".
Personally, I thought it was slightly overrated. It will never touch classics such as Patton, A Bridge Too Far and The Dirty Dozen. Still, don't get me wrong, it is one great war movie, just not the GREATEST. A fun 2 hours and 45 minutes was spent watching it and the events unfolding throughout the story were thrilling to say the least. The Great Escape is an immortal testament to the inspiring determination and shrewdness of an extraordinary bunch of individuals and the bond they shared. The film has the benefit of a staunch script with each scene flowing nicely. Although her we have the problem. The film is a little overlong which therefore allows much of the dialogue to dry out. The movie also becomes tedious when you're seeing the same huts and barbed wire fences. This is why it's first half can be difficult to get through. When lacking in action and suspense, this is understandable. However, the sequences involving the planning and execution of the escape do provoke interest by engaging the mind. The detail of the script and of the actual escape itself will never cease to fascinate me. The second half of the movie is much more exciting and takes full advantage of the Panavision cinematography. With it's sweeping vistas of snow capped peaks and lush green plains, this is one war film that is a lot more easier on the eye. The editing techniques too are praiseworthy. Most of the film's second half is crammed with cutaways of different characters making their bid for freedom. This cranks up the pace and builds excitement towards the end of the film.
It's stellar cast is comprised of some fine acting talent. The performances were superb, but none of them really stood out for me. Steve McQueen was pretty cool as Hilts and made for a great ode to teenage rebelliousness. The best performances came from Donald Pleasance and Charles Bronson. Richard Attenborough was good as Bartlett, as was Hannes Messemer as Colonel Von Luger, the camp commandant. The film has very little action and the action sequences come in abrupt, but tense bursts. I found the famed motorcycle chase to be a little anticlimactic but awesome nonetheless. The escape from the camp via the underground tunnel had me perched on the edge of my seat and John Sturges kept the suspense rigidly tight throughout the last half of the film. The suspense is ten times more electrifying than the action itself and puts the "Great" into the title. Elmer Bernstein's score is decent, but we've all heard it before somewhere.
To say it's not all it's cracked up to be would be rather harsh, just don't expect too much from it upon your first viewing. However, The Great Escape is an intriguing time passer which will hold your interest. If you're any kind of war movie fan, you must see it at least once. 7.5/10.