Reviewer's Rating 5 out of 5   User Rating 5 out of 5
The Great Escape SE DVD (1963)

If you've only ever watched "The Great Escape" in a turkey-stuffed heap on TV every Christmas, you really should revisit it on this new DVD release that'll change the way you appreciate the movie forever.

TECHNICAL FEATURES

Picture Apart from a few slightly grainy moments, you can look forward to a vibrant transfer of this old classic.

Sound The 5.1 sound mix is quite tame in what it offers, but there's good bass support for the music score, and Steven McQueen's motorbike certainly has an added roar to it.

SPECIAL FEATURES

Audio Commentary (Disc One) This hosted audio commentary features extracts from actors James Garner, James Coburn, Donald Pleasence, Jud Taylor, and David McCallum, production executive Robert Relyea and Bud Ekins (stuntman). Many aspects of the production are covered, but an overriding theme that keeps cropping up is the insecurities of Steve McQueen. Coburn seems to sum others' opinions up with, "He was very private and paranoid about people."

Disc Two Special Features

The Great Escape: The Untold Story This is the first of a number of documentaries on disc two that are well worth watching as they uncover the facts that inspired the movie. "The Untold Story" is a 50-minute programme that features interviews with survivors of the camp. They tell of how the plans for the escape went wrong from the start, and just how difficult it was to escape from Germany at the time. Their comments add a vivid edge to the events that unfold in the motion picture.

The Untold Story: Additional Interviews In this section you'll find nine minutes of interview footage not used in the documentary. It's equally fascinating material, particularly thanks to the comments of Alex Castle, who was a key member of the forgery team.

The Great Escape: Heroes Underground Burt Reynolds narrates a series of five featurettes that cover everything from the initial development of the film, to its accuracy, and the reaction of the PoWs when they saw it. MGM rejected the project, so it took the combined forces of the Mirisch Bros and United Artists to make a film that they originally planned to shoot around the hills of LA! This was never going to look realistic, so the filming was moved to Bavaria, where they had to distil a long and complex story into an acceptable running time for a movie. Despite the changes they made, the surviving camp members were very pleased with the result.

A Man Called Jones... The Real Virgil Hilts In order for the film to be attractive to US audiences, an American character was needed. Steve McQueen's role was based upon US airman Virgil Hilts, whose character was not that far removed from the persistent escape artist that McQueen plays. Interestingly, you couldn't just execute your own plans. You had to get your attempt approved by a camp committee, who would then back you if they deemed your plan workable.

Additional Extra Features Also on the disc is an extensive treasure trove of picture galleries, and the original theatrical release trailer.

Limited Edition Release As the World Cup looms, there's also a limited edition release of this classic, with the two discs covered here, and an additional Umbro football promo DVD.

Region: 2
Chapters: 32
Ratio: 2.35:1 (anamorphic)
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Technical Features: Scene selection, animated menus, multiple languages and subtitles, and German captions for the hearing impaired.

This DVD was reviewed on a JVC XV-S57 DVD player.

End Credits

Director: John Sturges

Writer: James Clavell, WR Burnett

Stars: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence, James Coburn, David McCallum, James Donald

Genre: Action, War

Length: 173 minutes

Cinema: 1963

DVD: 20 May 2002

Country: USA