The Great Escape – A Movie Review

The Great Escape came out in 1963.  It’s based on an actual World War II large scale escape by British Commonwealth soldiers from a German POW camp during World War II.  Some American actors were added in to increase the interest for American audiences but for the most part the details of the story are true.

There’s an all-star cast including Steve McQueen, James Garner, Charles Bronson and James Coburn.  On the British side there’s Richard Attenborough, Donald Pleasence and a bunch of Brits I never heard of.

The plan is to build a tunnel out of the camp and provide clothes and identification papers for 250 men to scatter over the countryside and escape out of Germany.  Each of the men has a particular skill; tunnellers, scroungers of supplies, document forgers, tailors, etc.  The ingenuity they use to perform this seemingly impossible series of operations is remarkable.  They begin building three tunnels (Tom, Dick and Harry) and accumulating their supplies.  There are setbacks and delays.  The first tunnel is discovered and one of the men despairs and is shot down rushing the fence in broad daylight.  Stress builds up and some of the men crack.  Finally, the escape is run and disaster occurs.  Seventy-six men get out of the camp and we follow them as they attempt the escape from Germany.  Some make it, some are caught and some are killed.

It is an amazing story.  Even if it were just fiction it would be entertaining.  But knowing it actually happened is mind-boggling.  And the movie is well done.  The plot and dialog are good and sometimes quite compelling.  The actors are sympathetic characters and even some of the Germans come across as interesting humans.

If you like war stories and especially if you like history this is a movie you might want to see.  Highly recommended.

The Twilight Zone Revisited

My hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Last July I posted a review of the Twilight Zone in which I stated unequivocally that all but a handful of the episodes are unwatchable.  Once again, the SyFy Channel featured a marathon of the episodes around the holidays and once again, I found myself watching way too many of them.  I recorded about fifteen of them on the cable box and proceeded to replay them almost obsessively over the last few weeks.  I did find a couple more that I had forgotten were pretty good and kept re-watching the few that I do enjoy.  But what became intolerable was having to deal with the commercials from the SyFy Channel each time I watched.  Even fast forwarding through became so painful I finally deleted all the episodes in disgust.

The one episode that I had forgotten I liked was “Two.”  Charles Bronson and Elizabeth Montgomery are soldiers from opposing armies that wander into a deserted city five years after a war has depopulated the world.  Surprisingly, the sparse dialog and minimal action work remarkably well and create a genuinely affecting moment.

Anyway, I buckled under the pressure.  I went on Amazon and bought the whole series on blu-ray, all one hundred and sixty odd, mostly awful shows.  I guess this proves I’m a hopeless addict to bad television.

It showed up tonight and I put on “To Serve Man.”  Oh well, at least there are no SyFy Channel commercials.  That’s one nightmare I won’t have to face again.  That’s at least an improvement.

“Mr. Chambers, don’t get on that ship!  “To Serve Man,” it’s a cookbook!”  Ahhhh, ain’t it grand!