The Great Escape

The Great Escape

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The Great Escape

MGM Home Entertainment's Special Edition of The Great Escape (1963) is a total-immersion experience of the John Sturges movie. The Special Edition release offers a much cleaner and sharper transfer (letterboxed at 2.35:1), with few of the anomalies that marred the film's earlier DVD release. The 32 chapters are a proper breakdown of the 172-minute movie, and the layer-transition is so smooth that one will scarcely notice it. The most prominent of the supplementary materials is an informative and entertaining commentary track featuring director John Sturges and associate producer Robert Relyea, and other members of the crew and cast (including James Garner, James Coburn, Donald Pleasence, and Jud Taylor). Sturges' commentary was retrieved from a 1974 interview that author Steve Rubin did with the director, so his words are shoe-horned into the overall track, whereas the other participants were all addressing the shots and scenes directly. The movie playback also comes with an optional "trivia track" function which offers observations and facts about the film, actors, real-life German POW camps, and other aspects of the movie that are not addressed in this commentary. The movie's sound, including the superb Elmer Bernstein score, has been cleanly remixed to a reasonably loud and full Dolby 5.1 Surround. The menu is easy to maneuver around through multiple layers. Disc two is devoted exclusively to special features, including a string of short featurettes originally produced in conjunction with The History Channel and devoted to the film and its actual history. "The Great Escape: Bringing Fact to Fiction" starts reconciling the fact with the fiction of the movie -- it goes into the distillation of the real people into the various characters. "The Great Escape: Preparations for Freedom" goes into the actual details of the historical escape, comparing and contrasting the actual events with their depiction in the film. "The Great Escape: The Flight to Freedom" delves into the depictions of the various escapes, including the historically inaccurate motorcycle sequence, and the issue of how to impart something positive to the ending of a story in which 50 men were executed. "The Great Escape: A Standing Ovation" goes into the initial response to the movie, both by participants who saw it at the time of its release as well as film critics. Much more interesting and engrossing than those short documentaries is Steven Clarke's Grenada Television documentary, The Great Escape: The Untold Story, narrated by Derek Jacobi, which combines interviews with participants in the escape, survivors of the camp, relatives of those executed by the Gestapo, and archival materials with new footage of actors in costume playing British investigators and postwar German prisoners. The actual escape, the details of the flight of the escapees, and the German reaction to the event are delved into during its 50-minute running time. This material is supported by a supplement featuring further interviews for the film that were not included in the original documentary. Finally, the best part of this disc is the short film The Real Virgil Hilts: A Man Called Jones. This film tells the story of David M. Jones, the American prisoner of war who was the inspiration for the character played by Steve McQueen in the movie. It's built around an extensive interview with Jones, who tells of his early life and introduction to flying in the late '30s, and his experiences on General James H. Doolittle's raid on Tokyo, and then in North Africa, where he was captured after being shot down. His recollections are beautifully organized and add immeasurably to the understanding of the events depicted in the film; this is one of the finest supplemental films ever included on a DVD. The disc also contains Return to The Great Escape, the featurette that appeared on the original late '90s MGM/UA DVD. It has nothing that's not on the other, newer support materials, but it's still a nicely paced and well put together account of the movie. Watching this edition, one gets the sense of the movie's historical, moral, and philosophical permutations (as well as its fine example of filmmaking), all expanded geometrically by the supplementary materials -- kind of the movie "squared," as opposed to doubled or tripled in impact. The film itself retains its emotional impact, and with a picture as good as this, one can now fully appreciate the decision to shoot in Germany and the full impact of what Sturges and company originally intended.

Product Details

Release Date: 05/18/2004
UPC: 0027616905710
Original Release: 1963
Rating: NR
Source: Mgm (Video & Dvd)
Region Code: 1
Presentation: [Wide Screen]
Sound: [Dolby Digital Mono, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround]
Time: 2:52:00

Special Features

Closed Caption; Stunning new high-definition transfer; Presented in 16 x 9 widescreen (2.35:1); New 5.1 Surround English audio; Audio commentary by director John Sturges and the cast & crew; Trivia track; "The Great Escape: The Untold Story" documentary; "The Real Virgil Hilts: A Man Called Jones" documentary; Five featurettes: "Return to the Great Escape," "Bringing Fact to Fiction," "Preparations for Freedom," "The Flight to Freedom," and "A Standing Ovation"; Photo gallery; Original theatrical trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Steve McQueen "Cooler King" Hilts
James Garner "The Scrounger" Hendley
Richard Attenborough "Big X" Bartlett
James Donald Senior Officer Ramsey
Charles Bronson Danny Velinski
James Coburn "The Manufacturer" Sedgwick
David McCallum Ashley-Pitt "Dispersal"
Donald Pleasence "The Forger" Blythe
Gordon Jackson MacDonald "Intelligence"
John Leyton Willie "Tunnel King"
Angus Lennie "The Mole" Ives
Nigel Stock Cavendish "The Surveyor"
Jud Taylor Goff
William Russell Sorren
Robert Desmond "The Tailor" Griffith
Tom Adams Nimmo
Lawrence Montaigne Haynes
Hannes Messemer Von Lugar "The Kommandant"
Robert Graf Werner "The Ferret"
Harry Riebauer Strachwitz
Hans Reiser Kuhn
Robert Freitag Posen
Heinz Weiss Kramer
Til Kiwe Frick
Ulrich Beiger Preissen
George Mikell Dietrich
Karl Otto Alberty Steinach

Technical Credits
John Sturges Director,Producer
Elmer Bernstein Score Composer
W.R. Burnett Screenwriter
Fernando Carrere Art Director
James Clavell Screenwriter
Bud Ekins Stunts
Daniel L. Fapp Cinematographer
Bert Henrikson Costumes/Costume Designer
Emile LaVigne Makeup
Jack N. Reddish Asst. Director
Ferris Webster Editor

Scene Index

Side #1 -- Feature Film
1. Main Title [2:37]
2. The New Arrivals [3:21]
3. A Little Bit of Russian [4:43]
4. The Blind Spot [1:20]
5. In the Cooler [6:21]
6. Prisoner Bartlett [:22]
7. Big X's Big Plan [3:23]
8. Tom, Dick and Harry [2:16]
9. Forger and Scrounger [1:32]
10. Stealing Some Steel [3:39]
11. Under a Stove, in a Drain [1:03]
12. "I'm a Lifeguard" [2:35]
13. Bad Time for a Blitz [3:26]
14. "Come All Ye Faithful" [:11]
15. Chocolate and Cigarettes [3:34]
16. Poor, Mixed-Up Werner [1:51]
17. More Wood! [:38]
18. Moonshine Revolution [2:20]
19. "They Found Tom!" [1:34]
20. Blind and Claustrophobic [2:11]
21. Time to Go [6:18]
22. Twenty Feet Short [1:18]
23. "Don't Shoot!" [1:21]
24. Riding Without a License [4:04]
25. Fatal Identity Check [5:59]
26. Flying Blind [2:07]
27. Crash-Landing [1:58]
28. Motorbike Chase [2:23]
29. The Usual... With Lead [3:09]
30. Last Stop [3:01]
31. The Lucky One [4:43]
32. End Credits [1:14]

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The Great Escape 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this DVD in my stocking this year. Santa must know that I like war movies and this is a great one. The plot is intense and makes your pulse race from the opening shot. The most fun part is seeing ALL of the tremendous actors who are part of this film: James Garner, Charles Bronson, and all those British guys you know their faces, but not their names. I find it odd that Steve McQueen is given top billing. It seems to me that he had more of a cameo or walk-on than a starring role. Watch the documentary and you'll know why. I can't beleive that this movie was to be shot in California! This movie would not have been half as good if it had not been shot in Europe. The Polish set is amazing! It just goes to show that ''they don't make em' like they used to''.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While McQueen's character is more or less a composite, the basic story of Tom, Dick and Harry at Stalag Luft III is true. My father was a ''penguin'', one of many POWs who assisted in the real life escape plot, and he still bears the scars of his captivity today. ''The Great Escape'' is one of his favorite movies, too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Great Escape is a must for all war movie lovers. Hey it's a must for all movie lovers. About 300 POWs find themselves in a camp which is filed 'escape-proof'. The Nazi's put all of their most troublesome escape artists in one camp, or as the commandant puts it ''All of the rotten eggs in one basket.'' Well let me tell you, these men are not going to stand by quietly and sit out the war as comfortablely as possible, as the commandant puts it. They are going to dig! And they don't plan to take out three or a dozen, how about more like 200. Based on a true story, the Great Escape is a wonderful movie for all. With the escape exactly as it happened in real life, it will keep you gripping the arms of your chair. Oh, and don't forget the awesome motorcycle chase with Steve McQueen. With great music by Elmer Bernstein, and great actors like Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, James Garner, Charles Bronson, James Coburn and many more, you can't afford to miss this movie. Made with just the right amount of laughter and action, it's a movie that you will cherish forever.
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