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The Great Escape [1963]

Director:John Sturges
Writer:James Clavell
W.R. Burnett
Composer:Elmer Bernstein
Length:172 minutes
(2 hours 52 minutes)
MPAA Rating:UR
Suggested Event Use:Veterans Day
Sorting Category:Drama
IMDB Rating:8.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating:92%
Amazon Rating:4.5/5 stars
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Synopsis: Allied POWs plan for several hundred of their number to escape from a German camp during World War II.

Reaction: Well made. Good drama. But at just under three hours, it is definitely on the long side so be aware.

Personal Rating: 7/10

John Sturges => Director
James Clavell => Writer
W.R. Burnett => Writer
Elmer Bernstein => Composer
Paul Brickhill => Book
Angus Lennie => Flying Officer Archibald Ives "The Mole"
Charles Bronson => Flight Lt. Danny Velinski "The Tunnel King"
David McCallum => Lt. Cmdr. Eric Ashley-Pitt "Dispersal"
Donald Pleasence => Flight Lt. Colin Blythe "The Forger"
Gordon Jackson => Flight Lt. Sandy MacDonald "Intelligence"
Hannes Messemer => Kommandant von Luger
Hans Reiser => Herr Kuhn
Harrison Ford => Young Nazi on train (uncredited)
Harry Riebauer => Stratwitch
James Coburn => Flying Officer Louis Sedgwick "The Manufacturer"
James Donald => Group Capt. Ramsey "The SBO"
James Garner => Flight Lt. Hendley "The Scrounger"
John Leyton => Flight Lt. William Dickes "The Tunneler"
Jud Taylor => Goff
Nigel Stock => Flight Lt. Denys Cavendish "The Surveyor"
Richard Attenborough => Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett "Big X"
Robert Graf => Werner 'The Ferret'
Steve McQueen => Capt. Hilts "The Cooler King"
William Russell => Sorren

Random Trivia For This Title:

  • Hilts (Steve McQueen) strings a wire across the road to obtain a motorcycle. McQueen himself played the German motorcyclist who hits the wire.
  • The shooting of the recaptured escapees was one of the charges at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial of [?] Hermann Göring and other Nazi leaders.
  • [?] Wally Floody, the real-life "Tunnel King" (he was transferred to another camp just before the escape), served as a consultant to the filmmakers, almost full-time, for more than a year.
  • The motorcycle scenes were not based on real life but were added at Steve McQueen's suggestion.
  • Steve McQueen also personally attempted the jump across the border fence, but crashed. The jump was successfully performed by [?] Bud Ekins.
  • The real-life escape preparations involved 600 men working for well over a year. The escape did have the desired effect of diverting German resources, including a doubling of the number of guards after the Gestapo took over the camp from the Luftwaffe.
  • The real-life escape was on the night of 24 March 1944, and the ground was snow-covered. The German town near the prison camp, called Neustadt in the film, was really Sagan (now Zagan, Poland). Steve McQueen was born on March 24th.
  • The nationality of a few of the prisoners in the story was changed, emphasizing American, and de-emphasizing Commonwealth and other Allied.
  • The gold medallion Steve McQueen wears throughout the film was a present from his wife.
  • The individual incidents in the film are mostly true, but were rearranged as to both the timing and the people involved. (A note at the start of the film acknowledges this.) For instance, of the 76 who escaped, there were indeed 3 who got away and 50 who were murdered in reprisal, but the murders occurred in small groups, not all at once. (14 Germans were executed after the war for their parts in them.)