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The McKenzie Break (1970)

PG | | Action, Drama, War | April 1971 (UK)
During WW2, German POWs in Britain plot to escape from their prison camp in Scotland.


Lamont Johnson


William W. Norton (screenplay) (as William Norton), Sidney Shelley (novel)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Brian Keith ... Capt. Jack Connor
Helmut Griem ... Kapitän zur See Willi Schluetter
Ian Hendry ... Maj. Perry
Jack Watson ... Gen. Kerr
Patrick O'Connell Patrick O'Connell ... Sgt. Maj. Cox
Horst Janson ... Lt. Neuchl
Alexander Allerson ... Lt. Wolff
John Abineri ... Capt. Kranz
Constantine Gregory ... Lt. Hall (as Constantin De Goguel)
Tom Kempinski Tom Kempinski ... Lt. Schmidt
Eric Allan Eric Allan ... Lt. Hochbauer
Caroline Mortimer Caroline Mortimer ... A.T.S. Sgt. Bell
Mary Larkin ... Cpl. Jean Watt
Gregg Palmer ... Lt. Berger
Michael Sheard ... Ingenieur-Offizier Unger


In the closing days of World War II, German prisoners riot in a POW Camp in Scotland. Fearful of a mass escape attempt, the British Army sends in an unorthodox Irish Captain in hopes of discovering exactly what is going on. The Irishman at once comes into conflict with the senior prisoner, a U-Boat commander, and the two must match wits, knowing that only one will emerge victorious. Written by Anthony Hughes <husnock31@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


CAPTAIN WILLI. Honor graduate from the Hitler Youth. He's well-liked in Berlin. That's why they picked him to lead the escape. See more »


Action | Drama | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for violence, language and brief sensuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Ireland | UK


English | German

Release Date:

April 1971 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Escape See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The word break of this film's title "The McKenzie Break" refers to a prison break or escape from a prisoner-of-war POW camp during the Second World War. See more »


The Jeep used is a civilian CJ 3B model, first introduced in 1953. See more »


[last lines]
Captain Jack Connor: Willi, looks like we're both in the shithouse.
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SYMPHONY NO.3 E-FLAT MAJOR, OP.55 -- 1st & 2nd Movements
Music by Ludwig van Beethoven
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User Reviews

A Charismatic Stone Cold Killer
4 August 2008 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

The McKenzie Break refers to a prison in Scotland during World War II where some German prisoners are very anxious to get back to the fight as they see it. This is the early war years and the only prisoners there are Luftwaffe and Sailors, more specifically prisoners taken off captured U-Boats.

McKenzie Prison is in for some big trouble, commander Ian Hendry can smell it. It's due to the presence of U-Boat captain Helmut Griem who has taken over the leadership of the prisoners unofficially. Griem plays Captain Willy Schluetter as I conceive Reinhard Heydrich to be, a handsome charismatic leader, totally dedicated to the Nazi cause and one stone cold killer.

British Intelligence in trying to get to the bottom of things sends Captain Brian Keith who from his accent I'm guessing is an Ulster Protestant. Keith's a smart guy, but just maybe a bit too smart for his own good.

The McKenzie Break is dominated by Helmut Griem as well it should be. This man has to dominate or otherwise the film would make no sense at all. As charismatic as Griem is as Schluetter, he's both fascinating and repellent. His objective is to get as many U-Boat people back into the fight. He will sacrifice everything to achieve that objective and I do mean everything.

Sad to say this film is a forgotten gem and deserves to be better remembered than it is. Catch it by all means if it's broadcast, you will enjoy the surprise ending when neither Keith or Griem get everything they want.

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