The Great Escape, the 1963 United Artists movie stars Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasance, James Coburn and more, looking extremely young in this transfer to Blu-ray version of the movie. The Blu-ray release came to market on May 7th, it’s 50th anniversary.
It took the late director John Sturges a bit of time to convince the studio to produce the movie and thank god he did! And per the extras, it took the success of the 1960 movie, The Magnificent Seven, to give him the pull to get it done. After Escape, he went on to direct and/or produce movies such as Ice Station Zebra, Joe Kidd and The Eagle Has Landed.
The nearly three-hour movie starts with us watching prisoners of war being delivered to the Stalag, and immediately, the new prisoners scatter throughout the camp, scoping out options for escape. This, because attempting to escape is their duty. It’s not so much the escape as it is the resources of the Germans it takes up to be constantly watching our POWs.
Escapes were immediately attempted, testing the “system” as it is.
Our intrepid prisoners start to dig three tunnels to escape, and all along the way, we follow their quiet triumphs and public losses. We see them as they finally make their break for it and the consequences there of.
As you all know, their attempt was destined to what it was.
The Beauty of the Blu-ray
It was a pure pleasure to see these stars in their prime and in hi-def. When you compare some of the elements of the movie, versus action movies of today, there’s such a contrast of movie making in how they deliver scenes or moments in the film, it’s rustic!
And not a bad rustic.
Through the first half of the movie, though I appreciated the hi-def, but was wondering what bonus this provided. But the pure majesty of the hi-def does not really kick in until the latter half of the movie, when you get the full visuals of the surrounding countryside of Germany!
Then there are the Extra Features of the Blu-ray package.
For many movie buffs, seeing some of the classic, behind-the-scene work and thoughts that went into the production will tickle your desire to understand the process.
For instance, did you know that most of the characters were composites of multiple individuals of this true event?
The studio camp was going to be built out in a region near Palm Springs, CA. But then issues forced them to end up filming on a set in Bavaria, Germany.
The POW camp, Stalag Luft III, was built and designed for more difficult Air Force prisoners. The pesky ones that had a reputation for always trying to break out. The buildings were raised off the ground for guard inspections underneath, microphones were embedded in the ground to detect digging, more guards, etc., etc..
They point out that, as you would expect, there were obvious changes made to make the movie more entertaining and marketable. Or digestible.
For example, in the movie, it showed that the discovery of one of the tunnels is what prompted a rush to escape out of the tunnel earlier than planned. But in the actual situation, the prisoners had discovered that they were going to be split apart into smaller groups, and thus, they hurried along with their plans.
One of the shockers that came out of the movie, for me, was the murder of the fifty. As prisoners that escaped were recaptured, it was horrible to see what happened to fifty of them, as they were outright murdered after being captured. It’s also good to know that thirteen Gestapo officers responsible were convicted and hung. Five more, were imprisoned for their grievous actions.
The real pleasure of the Blu-ray packaging is the 51-minute retelling of the movie, called The Great Escape: The Untold Story. This is the real story of this “great escape.” The factual retelling of events, including the murders of the fifty, one or two at a time, after their captures. The retelling is done with a combination of acted scenes and interviews with actual “escapers” who lived through the ordeal, and are still alive today.
Of the 76 who did make it out of the camp, only 3 actually got home.