Review by Jack Foley
DVD FEATURES: Cast and crew commentary; trivia track; The Untold Story, Heroes Underground and A Man Called Jones: The Real Virgil Hilts documentaries; additional Untold Story interviews; picture gallery; trailer (also available, the World Cup edition featuring an England flag, Umbro adverts and a mini-doc crammed with football memories, click here).
HAVING entertained us so thoroughly with The Magnificent Seven and its superb
ensemble cast, John Sturges returned some two years later with another humdinger
of a movie - the type of which is sure to be placed near the Top 10 of most
peoples' all-time greats and which almost always forms part of the Christmas
TV must-watch list.
The Great Escape is to war movies what Dirty Harry is to the cop genre, or Star Wars is to sci-fi. That is to say, essential. Based on Paul Brickhill's factual account of the efforts of Allied prisoners to break out of Stalag Luft North during World War Two, it contains a plethora of stars (from ultra-cool Steve McQueen to reliable stalwart Richard Attenborough) and more memorable moments than you have fingers to count them on. Oh, and another Elmer Bernstein score to match!
It is McQueen's 'cooler king' who, admittedly, owns the movie - his off-set antics helping to secure scenes, such as that motorcycle chase, which have become part of movie legend - but there is so much more to enjoy; from the nostalgic feel to the proceedings, and the interplay between the then little-known stars right through to that breathtaking jailbreak finale as the prisoners bid to make it across the border.
Aside from McQueen, there's Charles Bronson's claustrophobic 'tunnel king', James Garner's scrounger (whose flight to freedom with Donald Pleasance is as thrilling as it is heartbreaking), the aforementioned Big X, Attenborough, whose double act with Gordon Jackson is superb, and James Coburn (one of the few to make it!) - all of whom have become household names.
Nit-pickers have accused the film of being overlong and uneven, yet its enduring popularity speaks volumes for such commentary - this is the type of film for which the phrase 'they don't make them like they used to' was invented.
And the DVD package is pretty special, featuring The Untold Story behind the film (which reveals how close to real life the film stayed), as well as a feature on the liberties taken by the Hollywood machine (of course, there was no motorcycle escape bid!) and The Real Virgil Hilts documentary.
There are also the usual cast and crew commentaries, trailers and a picture gallery to give fans everything they could possibly imagine, plus a little more. You no longer need to wait for Christmas or Bank Holidays....