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  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
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  • English: Dolby Digital Mono
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    English
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  • Theatrical trailer
  • Production notes
  • Booklet
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The Great Escape

Warner Bros./Warner Bros. . R4 . COLOR . 165 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Some films are just cool. From the very first scene they strut and swagger, waving their metaphorical nasty bits at other films, smirking devilishly and throwing a sideways glance at the girls that look on longingly.

The Great Escape laughs at these films. If 'The Fonz' from Happy Days were a film, he'd bow his head and offer to buy it a drink.

The film is based on a true story, and concerns a maximum security POW camp created by the Germans to contain the most troublesome escape artists. As the blurb on the pack so elequently states, in doing so, the Nazis unwittingly assembled the finest escape team in military history. The prisoners waste no time in orchestrating the biggest escape attempt ever, with three separate tunnels and a planned number of 250 escapees!

Few films run almost three hours yet seem to take no time at all. This is helped by great performances from a top cast: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Donald Plesence, Charles Bronson and Richard Attenborough, to name a few. Think of Hogan's Heroes (except good), add a score you'll be humming on the way to work and top it off with one of cinemas' most famous scenes, the climactic motorcycle escape!

You gotta have this film. You simply gotta.

  Video
Contract

This film is from 1963? Then where the hell is the grain and the film dirt? What's going on?!

Yep, the 2.35:1 image looks remarkably clean and free from artifacts - it even looks better than the recent CE of The Thing, which is 21 years younger! Of course, the image suffers its fair share of defects as well, because it has been transferred from a theatrical print. Theatrical prints suffer in comparison to internegatives and interpositives because there is degradation with each stage of the process. Shadow detail is not as impressive as it could be, but is acceptable. Colour is somewhat faded also, but detail is good.

The real problem this transfer has, however, is that it is not anamorphically encoded, and there are several scenes that exhibit nasty aliasing. The planks on the sides of prison huts, the barbed wire fences, every horizontal line exhibits shimmer at some point or another, and I know this will drive some people batty.

Then why have I given the video 7/10 with all these problems? Simply because I am surprised the disc looks as good as it does, considering how old it is, and because (despite the problematic transfer) the film still captivates!

The disc is dual-layered and the layer change must be well placed, because I can't remember where it is!

  Audio
Contract

A solid mono presentation, with no hiss, good dialogue intelligibility, and a great score by Elmer Bernstein (who, according to the IMDB, has worked on 225 pictures!). There's little stopping you from enjoying the film at reference level either; the sound is quite well balanced, without horrible shrillness. Considering the vintage, a fine effort.

  Extras
Contract

There's not much here, but I wasn't expecting there to be on a film this old:

  • Theatrical Trailer - presented in 1.85:1, and it looks how I would expect a transfer of a film this old to look. Lousy colour, contrast and detail; it would look subpar on VHS.
  • Return to The Great Escape - a 24 minute documentary on the creation of the film, and worth watching. I always assumed McQueen performed the classic motorcycle jump, but apparently union laws forebade it (damn those unions!).
  • 8 page booklet - normally, I wouldn't mention this, but there's some cool info in there, and I'm feeling generous.

  Overall  
Contract

Yes, the transfer could be better. But why do you buy films, because they have pretty pictures and sounds (coughFifth Element), or because the film is great?

The film ROCKS. Buy.


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