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The Great Escape Criterion Blu-ray Review


“The Great Escape” is one of the best John Sturges films.

Loosely based on the nonfiction book of the same name about Stalag Luft III, the 1942 set “The Great Escape” takes place at a German POW camp for Allied Forces. The simple story involves the prisoners plotting an ambitious and daring escape in which the tunnel their way out of the camp. Can the escape be carried out or is it doomed to fail?

1963’s “The Great Escape” is one of those movies that can’t be boiled down into one genre. It’s a prison escape movie, it’s a war film, it’s an action film (that motorcycle scene!), it’s an ensemble piece, and it’s a men on a mission film all rolled into one. It may sound overly ambitious on paper, but this story of rebellion and the pursuit of freedom all clicks together thanks to the assured direction by veteran John Sturges (best known for other classics like “The Magnificent Seven” and “Bad Day At Block Rock.”

What makes ‘Escape’ such an engrossing cinematic tale is that it’s a high stakes movie which means you are already invested in who lives, who dies, and who manages to get away. It doesn’t hurt that the cast is nothing short of all-star level with The King of Cool (Steve McQueen), James Garner, Charles Bronson (in arguably his best role), James Coburn, Donald Pleasence, Richard Attenborough, and so many more. Casts just don’t get much better than that PLUS you get to see McQueen at his best. 


Presentation: 2.35:1 1080p. How does it look? “The Great Escape” has been restored from a 4K digital transfer and what a transfer it is. The colors of this Panavision feature have never looked so sharp and bright. 

Audio Track: 5.1 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? Elmer Bernstein’s instantly recognizable score has never sounded better than it does here. Plus all the dialogue and action sound FX too.

*A booklet featuring credits and an essay by film critic Sheila O’Malley
* “The Great Escape” trailer
* A new 23 minute interview with film critic Michael Sragow about director John Sturges and the making of “The Great Escape.”
* “Return To The Great Escape”- A 1993 24 minute special about the real events that inspired the film and “The Great Escape.” Interviews with cast members are included.
* “The Real Virgil Hilts: A Man Called Jones”- A 2001 documentary about Army Air Forces pilot David M. Jones who served as the inspiration for Steve McQueen’s Virgil Hilts character.
* “The Great Escape: Heroes Under Ground”- A highly informative 4 part extra from 2001 about the real Stalag Luft III, the differences between the film and the real events that took place, and audience and POW reactions to “The Great Escape.”
* A 1991 commentary hosted by Bruce Eder that contains John Sturges, Elmer Bernstein, Robert E. Relyea, and Bud ekins.
* A 2003 commentary hosted by author Steven Jay Rubin. Expect a 1974 interview with Sturges, James Coburn, Donald Pleasence, James Garner among others.

June 6, 2020 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , , , ,

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