a/perture cinema, the Official Movie Sponsor of The Less Desirables, presents The Less Desirables Movie of the Week, The Great Escape (1963), starring Steve McQueen, James Garner, Donald Pleasence and Richard Attenborough.
Per IMDb: “Allied P.O.W.s plan for several hundred of their number to escape from a German camp during World War II.”
Based on a true story of the escape attempt of mostly British World War II POWs from a Nazi prison camp. I don’t know if it’s Hollywood or if it was the real thing but a couple of films I’ve seen on German prison camps have shown them to be almost like a country club. I get the feeling they weren’t meant for the POWs to “sit and ride out the war comfortably” they way they portray them in the films.
The prisoners in this particular prison are mostly the ones that had gained reputations as escape artists or at least escape attempters. So, when they get put in this brand new camp, it is under “strict” scrutiny and measures are taken to ensure that they can’t escape. Well, that means nothing but a challenge to these guys, especially ones that have tried over 15 escapes. So, they take that challenge, some of them trying to get out the first day.
They start digging tunnels using drains and other irregular fixtures. They spend time getting rid of extra dirt by using mechanisms in their pants to distribute dirt onto the grounds to not draw suspicion. They plan to dig three different tunnels and move around 200 men out of the camp. They name the tunnels “Tom,” “Dick” and “Harry.” Throughout the film, they dig and work. The time comes for them to attempt escape. Around 76 or so escaped, but not all survived. But who?
I don’t know if this was supposed to be a comedy or not but it had a lot of comedic moments. And, while there was an all-star cast, it was truly an ensemble piece, to me. Any of the players could have been the main character but there was so much going on and in different veins that no one person, at least to me, could be called the lead. I guess Steve McQueen’s character, American Virgil Hilts (there’s no evidence any Americans were actually in the camp) or Richard Attenborough’s Roger Bartlett could have been but I didn’t feel they were front and center enough.
It was a long film, coming in at just under three hours. The first 2’15” were about digging the tunnels and almost getting caught, over and over. The last almost-hour was the escape and its aftermath. There was plenty going on so while it did feel like it was a long film, it wasn’t dragging, at least not after the first 30 minutes or so. Good score throughout, too. This film was one of the 400 nominees for the AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies list in 2007.
Rotten Tomatoes rates it at 93% Fresh with an Audience Score of 95%. IMDb has it rated at 8.3 stars out of 10. This isn’t available on Netflix streaming but is available as part of DVD.com. I own the film on DVD and watched my copy. I think it was a good film. Historically significant, albeit inaccurate, it is worth a watch but it’s a commitment. I recommend it, especially, if you’re a fan of WWII flicks. I rate it 4 out of 5 stars. Have you seen it? What do you think? I’d love to hear.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“I haven’t seen Berlin yet, from the ground or from the air, and I plan on doing both before the war is over.” – Hilts