The Great Escape (1963) Poster

Richard Attenborough: Bartlett 'Big X'



  • Hilts : Wait a minute. You aren't seriously suggesting that if I get through the wire... and case everything out there... and don't get picked up... to turn myself in and get thrown back in the cooler for a couple of months so you can get the information you need?

    Bartlett : Yes.

  • Bartlett : Hilts, how do you breathe?

    Hilts : Oh, we got a steel rod with hinges on it. We'll shove it up and make air holes as we go along.

    [to Ramsey] 

    Hilts : G'night, sir.

    [Walks out] 

    MacDonald : Why didn't anyone think of that before? It's so stupid, it's positively brilliant!

    [face falls] 

    MacDonald : Oh, but it'll bring every goon in the camp down on top of us!

    Bartlett : I don't know. Perhaps we're being too clever. If we stop all the breakouts, it will only convince the goons we must be tunneling.

    Ramsey : I hope it works. If it doesn't, those two will be in the cooler for an awfully long time.

    [cut to Hilts and Ives being escorted back to the cooler covered in dirt] 

  • Hilts : How many you taking out?

    Bartlett : Two hundred and fifty.

    Hilts : Two hundred and fifty?

    Bartlett : Yeh.

    Hilts : You're crazy. You oughta be locked up. You, too. Two hundred and fifty guys just walkin' down the road, just like that?

  • [on some materials he's using for escape clothes] 

    Bartlett : Where in God's name did you get these?

    Griffith : Hendley.

    Bartlett : Well, where did he get them?

    Griffith : Well, I asked him that.

    Bartlett : What did he say?

    Griffith : "Don't ask."

  • Ashley-Pitt : [watching Hilts be brought back into camp]  I didn't think he'd get caught so soon.

    Bartlett : He wasn't caught.

  • Bartlett : Gentlemen, no doubt you've heard the immortal words of our new commandant: devote your energies to things other than escape, and sit out the war as comfortably as possible.

    Sedgwick : [derisively]  Ha!

    Bartlett : Well, that's exactly what we're going to do. We're going to devote our energies to sports and gardening, all the cultural pursuits as far as they're concerned. In fact, we're going to put the goons to sleep. Meanwhile, we dig. Now, even a superficial look at the compound shows us that Huts 104 and 5 are closest to the woods. The first tunnel goes out from 105, directly east under the vorlager, the cooler, and the wire.

    Willie : But that's over three hundred feet, Roger!

    Bartlett : Did you make a survey, Dennis?

    Cavendish : Only a temporary one, sir. I make it just over three hundred and thirty-five feet.

    Bartlett : Let me know when you've got an exact one. Willie, this time we'll dig straight down thirty feet before we go horizontal. That'll rule out any question of sound detection or probing.

    Willie : All right, Roger. But did you say "the first tunnel"?

    Bartlett : I did. There will be three. We'll call them Tom, Dick, and Harry. Tom, as I said, goes out directly east from 104. Dick goes north from the kitchen, and Harry goes out parallel to Tom from 105. If the goons find one, we'll move into the other.

    MacDonald : How many men do you plan to take out, Roger?

    Bartlett : Two hundred and fifty.

    [Shocked stares] 

    Bartlett : There will be no half-measures this time, gentlemen. There will be identification papers and documents for everyone. And Griff, we'll need outfits for the lot.

    Griffith : Two hundred and fifty?

    Bartlett : Mostly civilian clothes.

    Griffith : Yes, but, um... okay, Roger.

    Bartlett : Mac. Maps, blankets, rations, compasses for all the walkers, and timetables for every train.

    MacDonald : Right, Roger.

    [Blythe enters] 

    Colin : Sorry I'm late, Roger.

    Bartlett : It's all right, Colin. Sit down. We're going to tunnel.

    Colin : Splendid.

    Bartlett : Willie, you and Danny will be tunnel kings. Danny, you'll be in charge of traps, and I'll work out the exact location with you tomorrow.

    Danny : Good.

    Bartlett : Sedgwick, manufacturer. Griffith, I said, tailor. Nimmo and Hayes, diversions. Mac, of course, will take care of intelligence. Hendley? We haven't met. Scrounger?

  • Danny : [preparing to start the escape tunnel]  We're ready.

    Bartlett : Big enough?

    Danny : It's perfect. Right through the middle of the foundation.

    [with his chalk, he writes "17" in the corner of the concrete] 

    Bartlett : Good luck to us, Danny.

    Hendley : [quietly to Mac]  Why seventeen?

    MacDonald : This is the seventeenth tunnel Danny's started.

  • Bartlett : Virgil, isn't it?

    Hilts : Hilts. Just make it Hilts.

  • Bartlett : It's possible for one man to get out through the wire, even get away, but there are in fact a considerable number of people besides yourself in this camp who are trying to escape.

    Hilts : I appreciate that.

    [pauses, looks at Bartlett] 

    Hilts : Something's coming. I can feel it, and it's coming right around the corner at me, Squadron Leader!

  • [last lines of part one] 

    Hilts : [after Ives is killed]  Sir, let me know the exact information you need. I'm going out tonight.

    Bartlett : Right.

    [to Danny] 

    Bartlett : Open up Harry. We dig. Around the clock.

  • Ramsey : Did the Gestapo give you a rough time?

    Bartlett : Not nearly as rough as I now intend to give them.

    Ramsey : Roger, personal revenge must be kept out of what we have to do here. Too many lives are at stake.

    Bartlett : [scoffing]  What my personal feelings are is of no importance. You appointed me Big X. And it's my duty to harass, confound, and confuse the enemy to the best of my ability.

    Ramsey : That's true.

    Bartlett : Well, that's what I intend to do. I'm going to cause such a terrible stink in this... Third Reich of theirs, that thousands of troops that could well be employed at the front will be tied up here looking after us.

    Ramsey : How?

    Bartlett : By putting more men out of this... "perfect" camp of theirs than have ever escaped before. Oh, not blitzing out two or three or a dozen, but two hundred, three hundred. Scatter them all over Germany.

    Ramsey : Do you think that's possible?

    Bartlett : Well, the men are here to do it. The goons have put every escape artist in Germany in this camp. You said so yourself.

    Ramsey : Have you thought of what it might cost?

    Bartlett : I've thought of the humiliation if we just... tamely submit. Knuckle under and crawl. Surely, you don't advocate that, do you, sir?

    Ramsey : I have to point out one thing to you, Roger. No matter how unsatisfactory this camp may be, the High Command have still left us in the hands of the Luftwaffe. Not the Gestapo and the SS.

    Bartlett : Look, sir, you talk about the High Command and the Luftwaffe, and then you talk about the Gestapo and the SS. To me, they're the same! We're fighting the bloody lot! There's only one way to put it, sir: they are the common enemies of everyone who believes in freedom. If the High Command didn't approve of Hitler, then why didn't they throw him out?

  • Bartlett : One has to ask some very strange things in the job I have.

  • Bartlett : [of the Americans' vodka]  In the three years, seven months and two weeks that I've been in the bag, that's the most extraordinary stuff I've ever tasted. It's shattering!

    MacDonald : Well, I think it's rather good... Well, with your permission, sir, I think I'll all on kives. Er, call on Ives.

  • Hilts : One chance. When the guard goes to the far end of the compund, you might be able to move your men out. I think I can make it to the woods, set up a signal when you're clear.

    Bartlett : What about the goon towers?

    Hilts : That's a chance you're gonna have to take. But they're gonna be watching the compound, not the woods.

  • Hendley : Come on, Roger. We all know the score here, at least... most of us do. Your idea of this escape is to... start another front, to foul up the Germans behind the lines. All right, that's fine, that's fine. But once we get passed that barbed wire, once we have them looking all over Germany for us, that mission is accomplished. Afterwards, we have some ideas of our own.

    Bartlett : You mean getting home? Back to your family and children?

    Hendley : That's right.

    Bartlett : Good God, man. Do you really believe I haven't thought about that, too?

  • Bartlett : Not Colin. He'd be an appalling hazard to the whole escape. That must be my decision.

    Hendley : You want to talk about hazards? Let talk about hazards. Lets talk about you. You're the biggest hazard we have. The Gestapo has you marked. No one has said you can't go.

    Bartlett : That's true, and I have thought about the Gestapo. But if you're asking me how a far a commanding officer is allowed to go, or dare go, or should be permitted to play God, I can't answer you.

  • Sorren : Roger, who's going to handle security for this lot?

    Bartlett : You are.

  • MacDonald : [learning the escape tunnel is twenty feet short of the woods]  We could postpone until we dig to the trees.

    Bartlett : All the documents are dated today. It's now or never.

  • Hilts : Hold on to yourself, Bartlett. You're twenty feet short.

    Bartlett : What do you mean, twenty feet short?

    Hilts : You're twenty feet short of the woods. The hole is right here in open. The guard is between us and the lights.

  • Hendley : Right.

    Bartlett : Dennis, maps and surveys. Colin, you'll take your usual job. Eric, have you thought how you're going to get rid of this dirt?

    Ashley-Pitt : Yes, I have. The usual places. I hadn't anticipated three tunnels, but we'll manage.

    Sorren : Roger, who's going to handle security for all this?

    Bartlett : You are. I want a system of stooges covering this compound from front to back, checking every goon in and out. I want a signal system so perfect that if ever a ferret gets within fifty feet of any of the huts in which we're working, we can shut down without a sign.

  • Willie : This is the dirt from the compound.

    Danny : This is from the tunnel.

    [Mac takes a handful of tunnel dirt and sprinkles it onto the mound from the compound] 

    MacDonald : Wherever we put it, they're going to spot it a mile away.

    Willie : Well, maybe we could put it under the huts. The dirt's dark there.

    MacDonald : Nah. No, it's the first place the ferrets would look. I saw one measuring the height under a hut yesterday.

    Willie : Well, maybe we could dry it out the same color.

    Danny : We'll have fifty tons of it.

    Willie : Well, I was just thinking out loud.

    Bartlett : If you must think, for God's sake, think clearly. Where the devil is Ashley-Pitt?

    MacDonald : We can't destroy the dirt, and we can't eat it. The only thing left to do is... camouflage it. That's as far as my thinking takes me.

    [Ashley-Pitt enters] 

    Bartlett : Didn't they teach you promptness in the R.N.?

    Ashley-Pitt : You'll never believe it, but I think I have the solution. The problem is somehow to get rid of this tunnel dirt over the compound.

    Bartlett : Well, of course.

    Ashley-Pitt : Would you mind?

    [Eric hands Danny and Willie a blanket, which they set on the floor, while Eric gets his contraption ready] 

    Ashley-Pitt : Now... you fill these bags with the dirt from the tunnel. Then, wearing them *inside* your trousers, you wander out into the compound, where you pull these strings in your pockets. Out come the pins...

    [Eric pulls the pins out to demonstrate] 

    Danny : Eric, it's good.

    Ashley-Pitt : All you have to do is... kick it in. Unless you're a complete fool, the ferrets will never see a thing.

    MacDonald : It's indecently brilliant. What do you think, Roger?

    Bartlett : We'll try it first thing tomorrow.

    Ashley-Pitt : I already have. It works.

See also

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