am 20. Oktober 2014
THE GREAT ESCAPE  [50th Anniversary Edition] [Limited Edition SteelBook] [Blu-ray] [UK Release] The Great Adventure! The Great Entertainment!
In 1943, the Germans opened Stalag Luft III, a maximum-security prisoner-of-war camp designed to hold even the craftiest escape artists. In doing so, however, the Nazis unwittingly assembled the finest escape team in military history and were brilliantly portrayed here by Steve McQueen, James Garner, Charles Bronson and James Coburn who worked on what, became the largest prison breakout ever attempted. One of the most ingenious and suspenseful adventure films of all time, ‘The Great Escape’ is a masterful collaboration between director John Sturges [The Magnificent Seven], screenwriters James Clavell [Shogun] and W.R. Burnett [Little Caesar]. Furthermore, Elmer Bernstein's brilliant classic film score has rarely sounded better. Backed up by an interesting package of extra features, ‘The Great Escape’ Blu-ray is a fittingly strong disc for an excellent piece of cinema.
FILM FACT: Awards and Honours: Academy Awards®: Nominated: Film Editing for Ferris Webster. Golden Globe® Award: Nominated: Best Picture. Winner Moscow International Film Festival: Win: Best Actor for Steve McQueen. Nominated: Grand Prix for John Sturges. National Board of Review: Selected: Top Ten Films of Year. Writers Guild of America: Nominated: Best Written American Drama for James Clavell and W.R. Burnett for Screenplay Adaptation. The film had its Royal World Premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square in London's West End on 20 June 1963.
Cast: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Sir Richard Attenborough, James Donald, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence, James Coburn, Hannes Messemer, David McCallum, Gordon Jackson, John Leyton, Angus Lennie, Nigel Stock, Robert Graf, Jud Taylor, Hans Reiser, Harry Riebauer, William Russell, Robert Freitag, Ulrich Beiger, George Mikell, Lawrence Montaigne, Robert Desmond, Til Kiwe, Heinz Weiss, Tom Adams, Karl-Otto Alberty, Arthur Atkinson (uncredited) and William Hoehne Jr. (uncredited)
Director: John Sturges
Producers: James Clavell (uncredited), John Sturges and Walter Mirisch (uncredited)
Screenplay: James Clavell, W. R. Burnett and Paul Brickhill (book)
Composer: Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography: Daniel L. Fapp
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French: 5.1 DTS-HD, German: 5.1 DTS-HD, Italian: 5.1 DTS-HD, Spanish: 5.1 DTS-HD, Polish: 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono and Japanese: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, German, Cantonese, Czech, Dutch, Greek, Italian, Korean, Mandarin (Traditional), Polish and Thai
Running Time: 172 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: 20th Century Fox / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: With a story based on an actual POW breakout in 1943 wartime Germany, director John Sturges brought to audiences The Great Escape, a 1963 box office smash that has since joined the ranks of other POW classics, such as ‘Grand Illusion’  and ‘The Bridge On the River Kwai’ . While the film was blessed with a cast that boasted some of the best actors working in the movies, none was hotter than Steve McQueen, who had the starring role as the camp cynic and American rebel, "Cooler King" Hilts. In less flashy roles, James Garner and Donald Pleasance provide strong dramatic support as cellmates who attempt an equally daring escape from the camp.
Fifty years after the release of the iconic 1963 World War II POW film ‘The Great Escape’ which permanently etched the rebellious screen image of Steve McQueen in moviegoers' heads, it is still easy to see why this film was so revered back in its day. Director/Producer John Sturges (who also did ‘The Magnificent Seven’) epic adventure film is nearly three hours long and sometimes it feels that way, but its underdog mentality and triumph-of-the-spirit narrative make it virtually irresistible. The stunning new Blu-ray 50th Anniversary Edition Limited Edition Steelbook presentation, featuring all of the insightful extra features from the 2004 two-disc Collector's Edition DVD set, plus other extra Documentaries.
The setup is brilliant in its simplicity and surprising ultimately in how tragic it can be. Nazis have rounded up all of their Allied problem prisoners into one prison camp, including US Air Force Captain Steve McQueen, Royal Air Force officers James Garner, Charles Bronson, Richard Attenborough, Donald Pleasence, and Royal Australian Air Force officer James Coburn. The idea is that they will all be held under the strictest security possible, but inadvertently, this also means all the best escapists are in one spot.
Adapted from the nonfiction book by Paul Brickhill about a 1944 escape, the characters in the film are composites of the ones in the book. This is startling because one of the things that the screenplay which was written by James Clavell and W.R. Burnett, gets so right is the characters. If a film like this were filmed today, perhaps it would ramp up the action and leave some of the rousing character development on the cutting room floor, but John Sturges employs classic Hollywood film language and takes time with his ensemble to this story. Each group of characters get their own riveting planning sequences, all skilfully told. This is one "heist" film where knowing the details of how the escape is supposed to go down before it happens only strengthens the suspense further, especially when things go wrong. Steve McQueen infamous motorcycle chase scene, which also gives the film its defining moment, is its own mini-chapter, and it's still exciting as hell.
Of course, this all leads up to the big event, but ‘The Great Escape’ has one more trick up its sleeve. Following the events of the escape itself play out, the film continues and takes on a more sombre tone. After all the time invested in the story of the POWs and all their careful planning, the straightforward storytelling takes on a cumulative and emotionally resonant tone.
Surprisingly, ‘The Great Escape’ went virtually ignored at OSCAR® time except for a sole nomination for Best Editing. What about a special award for Best Stunts? Or how about Best Picture, Best Director, or Best Music Score? The latter, by Elmer Bernstein, cleverly weaves together military marches, taut suspense music, and a title tune you can whistle. Instead, the Academy nominated the scores for ‘Cleopatra,’ ‘55 Days at Peking,’ ‘How the West Was Won,’ ‘It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’ and ‘Tom Jones,’ with the latter winning for composer John Addison.
Blu-ray Video Quality – The transfer seems to be relatively new for an M-G-M catalogue property, likely made a few years ago. The transfer has likely been long-pass/low-pass filtered, stripping out some level of resolution. ‘The Great Escape’ 1080p encoded image is very reasonable for its age, especially if people who look after the negatives do not treat it with some respect, but it’s certainly not a true film-like experience as it was seen in cinemas on its first release. There is also some visible sharpening, which does give the image more dimensionality and depth than I expected on Blu-ray. They also seem to have tweaked the colour timing, enhancing contrast and dialling up the greens. Those moves improve the film’s appearance from what I’ve seen of it before in prior incarnations, appearing washed-out and lifeless on the inferior DVD release. I would call this 1080p image very watchable, despite its age, with considerable room for improvement, if they had handled the digital tinkering with more grace.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – According to IMDb ‘The Great Escape’ was initially released to cinemas in both Mono and four-track stereo. Previous iterations on inferior DVD discs have run the gamut. M-G-M's initial release in 1998 offered a stereo track in Dolby Digital. It’s more elaborate "collector's edition" six years later offered a choice between 5.1 and mono tracks, also in Dolby Digital. The Blu-ray offers a single option in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (along with numerous tracks dubbed in other languages). The mix for this track is presumably the same as that offered on the 2004 inferior DVD and is probably based on the four-track stereo source. From the opening bars of Elmer Bernstein's memorable score, the Blu-ray's track reveals very good dynamic range for a recording of this vintage, with excellent bass extension that supplies genuine punch to the martial beat of the bass drums. The dialogue with its variety of accents and intonations is distinct and crisp, and the sense of stereo separation is often helpful when multiple characters are arrayed across the screen. Signature effects like the roar of Hilts's motorcycle or the bounce of his baseball register with the necessary impact, and the sounds of camp life are both legitimate and clandestine and punctuate the action as necessary. While it would be a stretch to claim that the track creates a surround field comparable to what one might expect from a contemporary mix, the sound editing is sufficiently detailed and the reproduction of sufficient quality to more than make up for the lack of rear channel activity.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
1974 Audio Commentary with Director John Sturges, Cast and Crew interviews: This isn't so much a commentary, it is more like a series of interviews edited together. The interviews were done by Steven Jay Rubin, director and co-writer of the documentary, "Return to The Great Escape" which is also included and listed below, who serves as a sort of moderator. Steven Jay Rubin also provides additional commentary, derived from his book Combat Films: American Realism, 1945-1970. The following is a list of the commentary participants: John Sturges the director (interviewed in 1974); James Coburn; James Garner; David McCallum; Donald Pleasance; Jud Taylor; Robert Relyea [former assistant to John Sturges]; Bud Ekins[motorcycle stuntman]; Fernando Carrere [art director] and Hilly Elkins [former manager for Steve McQueen].
Special Feature: The Great Escape: Bringing Fact to Fiction  [480i] [12:21] One of a group of short documentaries is produced for M-G-M and narrated by Burt Reynolds. This feature focuses on the differences between the real history and the film and also on the contributions of technical advisor Wally Floody. We also get contributions from Alex Cassie, Arthur Durand, Elizabeth Floody, Robert E. Relyea, Jonathan Vance and John Weir. Directed by Frankie Glass.
Special Feature: The Great Escape: Preparations for Freedom  [480i] [19:50] This second short documentary is produced for M-G-M and narrated by Burt Reynolds. This particular feature details the real escape efforts by the prisoners at Stalag Luft III, which were accurately depicted in the film, and also addresses the decision by the filmmakers to include Americans among the escapees, despite the fact that all of the American officers had been transferred from the camp. We also get contributions from Alex Cassie, Arthur Durand, Elizabeth Floody, Robert E. Relyea, Jonathan Vance and John Weir. Directed by Frankie Glass.
Special Feature: The Great Escape: The Flight to Freedom  [480i] [9:22] This third short documentary is produced for M-G-M and narrated by Burt Reynolds. It feature compares the film's account of the escapees flight after their exit from the tunnel with the less sensational, but no less dramatic experiences of the real fugitives. We also get contributions from Alex Cassie, Arthur Durand, Elizabeth Floody, Robert E. Relyea, Jonathan Vance and John Weir. Directed by Frankie Glass.
Special Feature: The Great Escape: A Standing Ovation  [480i] [5:58] This third short documentary is produced for M-G-M and narrated by Burt Reynolds. This feature focuses on the film's reception, especially by former POWs. We also get contributions from Alex Cassie, Arthur Durand, Elizabeth Floody, Robert E. Relyea and Jonathan Vance. Directed by Frankie Glass.
Special Feature: The Great Escape: The Untold Story  [480i] [50:47] This documentary made for British Television for Granada Television. Using interviews and re-enactments, it chronicles the successful Allied effort, after the war's end, to identify and prosecute members of the Gestapo responsible for casualties among the escaped prisoners. We also get contributions from Derek Jacobi, Connor Williams, Richard Campbell, Mark Wainwright, Christopher Harper, Andrew Piper, Ben Tolley, Andrew MacBean, Simon Armstrong, Nick Atkinson, Oliver Chatham, Paul Critoph, Matthew Douglas, James Gillmoore and Bruce Godfree. Directed by Steven Clarke.
Special Feature: The Great Escape: The Untold Story [Additional Interviews]  [480i] [9:35] The previous documentary had a few deleted scenes of its own, which are shown in the special feature.
Special Feature: The Real Virgil Hilts: A Man Called Jones  [480i] [25:01] A portrait of American Army pilot David Jones, who served as the inspiration for Steve McQueen's character, told through interviews with Jones in 2001 , historical photos and excerpts from The Great Escape. Among his other exploits, Jones was one of the pilots chosen for the Doolittle Raid that constituted the immediate U.S. response to Pearl Harbor. He was later shot down and spent time at Stalag Luft III. After the war, he served as a pilot for NATO and as a test pilot for advanced bombers. He also worked with NASA.
Special Feature: Return to The Great Escape  [480i] [24:09] This Showtime documentary features retrospective interviews with Neile Adams, Fernando Carrere, James Coburn, Bud Ekins, James Garner, David McCallum, Chad McQueen, Donald Pleasence (archive footage), Robert E. Relyea, John Sturges (archive sound) and Jud Taylor. It also provides an effective overview of the making of the film. Narrated by Miguel Ferrer. Director: Steven Jay Rubin. Screenplay: Deborah Goodwin and Steven Jay Rubin
Original Theatrical Trailer  [1080p] [2:42] Anyone who thinks that giving away important plot points in a trailer is a recent phenomenon should find this one an eye-opener.
Finally, as an iconic suspense thriller, 'The Great Escape' is always a massive delight. The all-star cast and the filmmakers effortlessly bounce between taught drama, wise-ass comedy, and heart-breaking tragedy. Despite its length, this is one of those pictures that sucks you in and never let’s go. As a Blu-ray Disc, true fans will be excited to finally own this classic in high definition, but the HD transfer is often soft and flat. The obvious upgrade on the disc is the stunning 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, though purists will malign the missing Mono audio presentation. For Special Features fans, everything from the 2004 two-disc inferior DVD Collector's Set appears to be on this Blu-ray, which is great. However, other than the HD theatrical trailer, the bonus material is all in standard definition. You should definitely give it an upgrade from your inferior DVD to the ultimate Blu-ray format, as I would recommend this Blu-ray to fans who consider this a Must Own title. For everyone else, including those who have never seen this classic war film, you will not go wrong, as this is a fantastic package and definitely puts the icing on the cake. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom