Classics is a term now used when referring to any movie from a certain era. Usually pre-1980, sometimes pre-1970. But as with films made today, they can’t all really be classics. Surely there are a great wealth of films that can truly hold the title; Citizen Kane, Psycho, Lawrence of Arabia, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The African Queen, It’s A Wonderful Life, The Godfather, Gone with the Wind, Star Wars, the list goes on and on. One such film has finally been released on Blu-ray after an excruciating wait, John Sturges’ The Great Escape.
Based on a true story, The Great Escape tells the tale of a group of allied POW’s in a German camp during World War II. The camp thought to be escape proof and is made for high risk prisoners who have escaped before and been recaptured. When one of the most famous organizer of escapes, RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett (Richard Attenborough) is brought to the camp, the prisoners devise a plan to allow 250 prisoners to escape through a detailed tunnel system.
The Great Escape chronicles not only the escape, but the journey of those who made it as they try to get to a neutral country. The story is an incredible one and John Sturges has created one of the greatest adventure films of all time from the true accounts of what happened. The cast is pretty much one of the most spectacular ensemble casts ever assembled including Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, James Garner, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence, James Coburn, and David McCallum. Although many true to life horrible events are depicted in the film, the filmmakers still manage to keep the feel of the film adventurous and fun for the most part without downplaying the tragedy and sacrifice of the real soldiers that the story is about. This is perfectly balanced filmmaking at its best.
The Blu-ray from MGM is a very nice upgrade from the old DVD counterpart, but still doesn’t reach the level of many other recent classic restorations. Colors are solid but a little washed out, clarity and detail is good as well, but not up to the levels of other films of this time period released recently. There also seems to be some noise in the picture, but I didn’t find it distracting. Overall, this is an improvement over previous editions, but I couldn’t help but wish more attention was given to it to give it the restoration it deserved. Still, with a low price point, this is a must have until they give it another shot.
Available now on Blu-ray and DVD.