The Great Escape Special Edition


It's not easy being part of the holy trinity of Bank Holiday movies. Endless repeat telly showings of The Great Escape (like The Wizard Of Oz and The Sound Of Music) mean that John Sturges' 1963 film is treated with the air of casual contempt that only excessive familiarity can breed. "Bloody hell!" people bleat. "Not this old rubbish again." A million remote buttons click and the audience figures for Beadles' Funniest Road Fatalities and I Love 20 Minutes Ago sky rockets...

The reality is that The Great Escape is belting Hollywood entertainment. The attempt to dig 250 men out of a German Prisoner Of War camp has everything: drama, conflict, a smattering of laughs, a bucketload of bitter irony and some unavoidable tragedy.

Sturges draws memorable turns from his Magnificent Seven trio of McQueen, James Coburn and Charles Bronson (bolstered by James Garner's laconic scrounger), mixes in a host of quality British faces from Richard Attenborough on down, and simply lets the set-pieces roll. Smack Elmer Bernstein's thumpingly-hummable terrace anthem over the top and you've got a movie for any day of the year.

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