Who knew that the quirky lot of soldiers featured in this film were actually inspired by battle-hardened prisoners of war?
This 1963 classic never ceases to amaze me. “The Great Escape” was not only a commercial success during that time, it also became an instant classic as far as war movies are concerned.
The title “The Great Escape” was inspired by a book written by an ex-prisoner of war (POW) Paul Brickhill. The book originally told the story of their escape from a POW camp in Poland during the 2nd world war. With moviemaking is concerned, it was the star studded international cast that helped make the movie a complete blockbuster.
In the movie, the POWs were played by huge stars such as Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Charles Bronson and James Garner. Each actor played a crucial role in the re-enactment of the original great escape, and this is one other thing that made the movie stand out. Each character was portrayed as described in the book but given additional flair for theatrical purposes. Aliases like the Scrounger, Tunnel King, Cooler King, Manufacturer, Forger sound like they were just made for the movies but were in fact based on real POWs who participated in the camp breakout.
The movie veered away from having a gloomy atmosphere that is almost always prevalent in war movies. Instead of employing dim overtones of what it was like being POWs during the World War, the film used comic relief in many portions to relieve pressure and give viewers a lighter take on the subject.
Steve McQueen’s jump (was actually done marvelously by legendary motorcycle stuntman Bud Ekins) over the barbed wire fence is probably the most memorable scene in the entire movie. Though it was added for flair, the jump became a poetic and visual display of freedom for the POWs involved in the breakout.
Breaking out of the prisoner camp was no easy task nor was it safe. The film ended with a caption as a tribute to the men of the original great escape. The caption read “This picture is dedicated to the fifty.”
Like this article? Check out our articles from the Friday Movie Flashback series in the Lomography magazine!