Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Great Escape

John Sturges (1963) (7.6*)
Veteran director John Sturges (Bad Day at Black Rock, The Magnificent Seven) made a WW2 pow film that’s enjoyable by injecting a little humor, likeable characters, and providing a variety of heroes, especially the Americans (!). This is a glorified big budget, big cast, Hollywood version of a real Allied pow escape from a German prison for US officers, mostly downed airmen, and we don't mean 2-3 men either, but hundreds, so Sturges used a big and varied cast of popular actors, both British and American. We see, in painstaking detail, how the escape tunnel is dug and what happens afterwards to each character, which makes the film more accurate but a little lengthy.

Steve McQueen (don't be misled by the dvd cover, he's just one actor of many here) would only take his part if he could “do something heroic”, so he gets to not only escape just to get info and come back, but also make a daring getaway on a motorcycle, complete with stunts. James Garner, James Coburn, Richard Attenborough, Donald Pleasance, and Charles Bronson all get to play likeable characters (only Nazis had jerks in some films). Entertaining and fun, especially when compared to dark films like Stalag-17.

Down one star for slow pacing and length, needs a half hour trim..


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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