The Great Escape 1963
The Nazis, exasperated at the number of escapes from their prison camps by a relatively small number of Allied prisoners, relocates them to a high-security "escape-proof" camp to sit out the remainder of the war. Undaunted, the prisoners plan one of the most ambitious escape attempts of World War II. Based on a true story, "The Great Escape" deals with the largest Allied escape attempt from a German POW camp during the Second World War. The first part of the film focuses on the escape efforts within the camp and the process of secretly digging an escape tunnel. The second half of the film deals with the massive effort by the German Gestapo to track down the over 70 escaped prisoners who are at this point throughout the Third Reich attempting to make their way to England and various neutral countries.
Now this is a dramatic recreation, at least the first half, the second half is more action film drama than truth although they do represent the three prisoners that actually made it. Two to Sweden and one to Spain. the Germans shot 50 of the 76 prisoners that managed to get out. This was on direct order of Adolph Hitler, but only after several officers of the high command convinced him that shooting all of them was the wrong thing to do.
An all-star cast give great performances.....
Steve McQueen ... Hilts 'The Cooler King'
James Garner ... Hendley 'The Scrounger'
Richard Attenborough ... Bartlett 'Big X'
James Donald ... Ramsey 'The SBO'
Charles Bronson ... Danny 'Tunnel King'
Donald Pleasence ... Blythe 'The Forger'
James Coburn ... Sedgwick 'Manufacturer'
Hannes Messemer ... Von Luger 'The Kommandant'
David McCallum ... Ashley-Pitt 'Dispersal'
Gordon Jackson ... MacDonald 'Intelligence'
John Leyton ... Willie 'Tunnel King'
Angus Lennie ... Ives 'The Mole'
Nigel Stock ... Cavendish 'The Surveyor'
Robert Graf ... Werner 'The Ferret'
Jud Taylor ... Goff
These were all composite characters not using their real names, basically an amalgam of many prisoners and the actions and deeds they done. It ws the only way to put this on the screen in a storyline that could be followed. The movie does differ from the actual story in a great many ways. The fact that the american prisoners did not get to participate in the escape is only one. (they were moved to a new portion of the camp specifically built for them before the escape was to take place although many of them actually participated in the tunnel digging from the start) and of course the action scenes and storylines after the escape were totally fictitious....
Overall a good movie one I would classify as a classic.
I have also posted the PBS Nova 2004 Documentary "The Great Escape" where battlefield detectives and archeologists go back to Stalag-Luft 3 in Poland and dig for the evidence of what actually transpired, the real story of the "Great Escape" which is great watching also....
In it we find that the movie naming of the tunnels is wrong, they were named Tom, Dick and Harry in the movie with "Tom" being discovered by the Germans and Harry being opened up and finished. in the real version yes Tom was discovered but it wasn't under the stove in the barracks that was "Dick" "Tom" was in a corner of the hut closest to the forest. "Dick" in the movie (named incorrectly) was under the washroom floor thru the drain sump and was used for long term storage in real life. (and the panel hiding it was in the side of the sump not in the bottom) "Harry" in the movie was the tunnel under the stove and was the actual escape tunnel in real life. The real tunnel "Harry" in the washroom sump was never discovered by the Germans. This is what the Archeologists were going back to see if it still existed.
The accounts of the participants is riveting.
I give it a five star rating on entertainment value.