Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: The Great Escape [Blu-ray]
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VINE VOICEon April 28, 2000
The Great Escape certainly didn't get its due when it was released -- it wasn't even nominated for Best Picture, Director or any of the Acting awards. In fact, it was only nominated for Film Editing! It seems, however, that the film doesn't even get its proper due today as it was not on the American Film Institute's 100 Greatest Film list despite its large following.
The Great Escape is certainly one of the most memorable films I've ever seen. The cast includes the late great Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough (Director of Gandhi), Charles Bronson, James Coburn, James Donald (Bridge on the River Kwai), Donald Pleasance and David McCallum (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.). McQueen's performance is riveting and makes the viewer miss him all the more. Garner, who actually was a "Scrounger" during the Korean War, is terrific. It's also particularly nice to see a performance as a good guy from Pleasance and as a human being by Bronson (sorry, but Bronson truly wasted his talent in the Death Wish movies). And in an era when studios tried to substitute backlot sets for on location filming, the POW camp, which was built on location in Germany, looks completely authentic and makes the audience sympathize with the prisoners' plight even more. The DVD heightens the experience by presenting the film letterboxed in clear, vibrant colors. In addition, the DVD edition includes a documentary on both the real story and the making of the film. This film is a classic and the DVD edition does it great justice and makes you realize what a mistake the AFI made by excluding it from its list.
Here's to "the fifty."
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on January 11, 1999
I saw The Great Escape in the fall of 1963 when I was 8 years old. In my hometown during those days moviegoing was a family affair-- wear nice slacks and shirt etc. Seeing this grand movie with the macho stars on a big screen with booming sound made quite an impression on me. Steve McQueen was simply the "King Of Cool" and he became my favorite film star.
This movie has transcended generations -- my 18 year old son recently viewed it and he was totally engrossed in this fantastic true story of men seeking freedom under the most desperate circumstances. He agreed with me that "they don't make em like they used to" and that most of the films today can't hold a candle to The Great Escape.
The DVD is superb -- the color and picture quality is first rate -- looks just like when I saw it in the fall of 1963 at the old Capitol Theatre in Rome, NY. The featurette on the making of The Great Escape is a nice feature that I never saw before.
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on May 6, 2013
I received my Blu Ray copy of this classic film today, May 6, one day before the actual release day of May 7. Thank you, amazon!

I'd also mention that I pre-ordered this BD with Amazon's price guarantee. I noticed that the BD was put on sale yesterday morning at amazon for only $9.99, which was less than the $14.99 I had paid on pre-order. I assumed I would get the lower price, but when my BD shipped last night, it was at the higher price. I dashed off an e-mail to amazon's customer service last night, and by this morning, I had a response AND a credit of $6.71 toward my Visa card to give me the lower price of $9.99! Thank you AGAIN, amazon! Now, THAT'S customer service!

Props to amazon duly noted, on to the review:

I've now watched the BD of the film twice, and I find myself largely in agreement with the review that is up at Bluray.com. The soundtrack sounds very good, especially for a 50-year-old film. The music comes through powerfully, especially the bass end, which is smooth, not boomy. Dialogue is crisp and clear, which makes for a nice listening experience.

That's the good.

The bad - unfortunately - has to do with the picture quality. The opening credit shot is really excellent, and it got my hopes up that Fox had done a good job of cleaning up the film and sharpening the picture. Things continue in fine fettle as we reach the prison camp, with the opening scenes at the camp looking sharp. The initial scene of Hilts and Ives (The Mole) in the cooler looks good as well - I had forgotten about their extended dialogue in this opening scene in the cooler (is this scene sometimes cut when shown on TV?).

As the film progresses, the picture quality varies, most often being not much better than that which was on the DVD. The worst scene picture-quality-wise has to be the exterior footage in the 4th of July scene, where the prisoners imbibe in some moonshine and the "Tom" tunnel is discovered by the German guard, Werner. The interior shots in this scene are much crisper than the exterior shots, no doubt because they were shot on the sound stage while the exteriors obviously were not. The exterior shots are almost blurry at some points, at least to the extent that a Blu Ray image can be blurry. Perhaps this is an accurate representation of what was shot by John Sturges, but I'm not convinced. I had really hoped for something a bit better.

I'm no expert, but it looks to me like DNR has been used in the BD mastering of this film. I say that because the faces just don't have the kind of detail and rawness that one sees in the best 4K and 6K restorations. The faces aren't as washed out and waxy as I've seen on some BDs, but the detail just isn't there.

The above noted, the picture throughout the movie is still steadier, crisper and clearer than it was in the VHS and DVD versions, at least the ones I've owned (I never owned the 2-DVD CE). Maybe this is the best we can hope for in this age of BDs being shoved out the door ASAP before the hardcopy industry collapses and online/streaming video takes over. I just expected higher and more consistent picture quality for this 50th-Anniversary, initial BD release of this very popular film.

And so, the questions arise: why wasn't a major restoration done on this film? Why was DNR employed when I thought we'd gotten beyond that? Will the Steelbook version due out in June be any better visually than this just-released Blu Ray? The answers to those three questions are, sadly, 1. major restorations are very expensive; 2. if you're not going to do a real restoration, DNR is a cheap substitute that won't bother most people, and; 3. the Steelbook version will probably include this same BD.

As far as the extras on this BD, they're the same extras that were on the DVD, all 8 of them. One wishes that Fox had put the extras on a separate DVD and used the entire 50GBs of the dual-layer BD to allow more information for the movie itself. But I guess they didn't have to do that as they used DNR in the mastering process and didn't really have extra data to eat up the storage space on the BD.

One final note about the menus: the BD boots up and immediately goes right into playing the film. I prefer that over the endless previews that are loaded onto many BDs and DVDs - who is going to watch those previews once a BD is a few years old? The menus for the "extras" are all accessed while the film is starting to play, which feels sorta cheap. If one wants to back out of an extra, you're sent back to the film to access any other extras. It gives me more appreciation for the sophisticated menus one gets on, say, Disney product. But then, there aren't many Disney products around that get discounted to under $10.

I can muster only three stars for the BluRay of this classic movie: 4.5 stars for the big improvement in the soundtrack, mitigated by the visual issues noted above.
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on May 18, 2004
"The Great Escape" is a WWII story about a group of POW's trying to escape from a German concentration camp. It stars Steve McQueen is Virgil Hilts, a American prisoner who delights in tormenting his Nazi captors with the prospect that one day he will successfully escape from their strong hold. Of course, his attempts result in his being placed in solitary confinement throughout the film. But escape plans really get underway when Big X (Richard Attenborough)plans to dig three escape tunnels under the camp. Although this plan of action is successful at temporarily outsmarting the Nazis, but with a victory that is short lived, the outstanding sequence in the film remains McQueen's electric cross-country chase on a motorcycle. James Garder, Donald Pleasance, James Coburn and Charles Bronson round out the stellar cast.
THE TRANSFER: : Time has not been kind to the film elements. Although this 2-disc special edition DVD is anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions, thereby improving the over all resolution of the image, colors remain pasty and dated throughout most of the film. Flesh tones are either an unnatural looking orange or overly pink. Outdoor scenes often suffer from a muddy color scheme in which greens, browns, blacks and grays become undistiguished and filtered through a sort of milky haze. As a result, definition and fine details often suffer. There is considerable film grain present during the outdoor scenes as well as some age related artifacts. Edge enhancement is present in some of the wire and mesh detailing of the camp. Blacks are not very deep or solid. Whites are rather grayish for the most part. Truly, this is a just barely middle of the road visual presentation. The audio has been remixed to 5.1 but the dialogue remains hollow and strident sounding. The music has a better spread but it too seems to lack in tonal bass.
EXTRAS: Some very fine short featurettes narrated by Burt Reynolds that (for the life of me) I can't figure out, why they weren't woven into one comprehensive documentary. There's also another 60 min. documentary that was previously available on the non-anamorphic DVD release. Some theatrical trailers, a stills gallery and an audio commentary round out the extras.
BOTTOM LINE: "The Great Escape" is a genuine classic and it comes highly recommended. But the transfer remains something of a disappointment, although it is a marked improvement over the original DVD release.
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on September 18, 2001
This is one of the all-time classic war movies. The story of how the Nazis put "all the bad eggs in one basket": they built a special camp in which they incarcerated the Allied pilots shot down over occupied Europe who had made escape attempts from other camps. Filmed on location in Germany (although the real-life camp was in Poland), the film has an authentic feel, with quaint German cottages and the foothills of the Alps rising in the background. Add in the plethora of nationalities (there are American, English, Scottish, Polish, Aussie, and Canadian prisoners among the inmates, all with authentic accents), the well-researched uniforms and camp layout, and some great cinematography, and you have a classic WWII film that stands the test of time.
The performances are outstanding. Notable examples are James Gardner as a scounger and Charles Bronson (virtually unrecognisable) as the tunnelling expert. The big name (at the time) is, of course, Steve McQueen, here his usual brash self, fleeing a German squad on a merry motorcycle chase in one of the movie's most famous scenes. More interesting for me, however, is the care the actors, directors, and screenwriters took to set up the escape - we are brought through the division of labour in the camp, the problems that must be overcome (such as incompatible dirt colours), and the clautrophobia of digging. (This seems to be proof that 10 screenwriters can occasionally produce a good movie, in spite of Roger Ebert's "law" that quality of a screenplay is inversely proportional to the number of people working on it.) Finally, the musical score is rousing, sombre, or lighthearted when called for. It might be a little overbearing, but no more so than in The Empire Strikes Back, for instance.
The DVD quality is low, hence the 4-star rating I'm giving to the movie in this format. The picture quality is okay - clear and crisp, but the sound is not particularly good. Why is it that video is always cleaned up so much better than sound? There are few extras on the DVD, but the "Making of" featurette contains a lot of information in its 24 minutes. For example, James Garner reveals how he was a scrounger in real life for his unit in Korea, the cinematographer talks about scouting locations, building sets, etc. One of the most useful featurettes I've seen.
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on November 6, 2000
"The Great Escape" is director John Sturges' brilliant film presentation of the absorbing Paul Brickhill Book. John Sturges effectively retells the story from the script by James Clavell and W.R. Burnett, which is a condensation of events and people taken from the book. The film deals with the lives and efforts of the Allied POW's to escape from a German prison camp. We do not see John Sturges take any side in this film. Only near the end of the film does he begin to make a political statement on Nazism and its effect on traditional German military ethics and the lives of the captured Allies. Sturges' focus is more on the men caught in war and its effects on them. We see the men rely on dormant qualities they never knew existed until they put on a uniform and were captured and held in foreign territory. We see men going to extreme lengths to escape because of their inborn right to be free. This is represented by Steve McQueen's character Hilts otherwise known as the "Cooler King," Charles Bronson as Danny and Angus Lennie as Ives the "The Mole." We see other men going to equal lengths to escape and cause havoc behind enemy lines by diverting German troops from the front to recapture them. This is the main purpose of the escape and Richard Attenborough as the "Big X" orchestrates the overall plan. He calls upon every expertise of the prisoners to reach this one goal. He calls upon tailors, forgers, scroungers, tinkers, and engineers, just about anyone capable of getting the job done. These are portrayed by James Garner, Donald Pleasence, James Coburn, David McCallum, John Leyton, Gordon Jackson, Tom Adams, Nigel Stock and others.
For years this was considered a great World War II action adventure film, but John Sturges' reaches far above that mundane distinction. His style and ease of direction glosses over his own profound statements that he makes in this film. For example, James Garner cleverly befriends a German guard for the sole purpose of stealing his wallet so he can extort a 35-mm. camera and film from the guard. On the surface the audience is very amused at Garner's sly tactics, after all the Germans are the bad guys. However, subconsciously Sturges gave us enough personal information about the guard that we almost feel sympathy for him. This is reinforced by Sturges' choice of James Garner, one of the most likable actors in Hollywood, to perpetrate the deception on the unknowing guard. How can a nice guy like James Garner do this? As it works out Sturges lets the guard redeem himself. It is this guard that discovers the first tunnel when he spills some coffee on the floor and it disappears through the cracks. Now you the viewer are faced with a moral dilemma. Do I still feel sympathy for the guard? Do I still think that James Garner is a scoundrel? Or do I think that in war I have to do what is necessary? Garner's character did what he had to do and so did the guard.
Editor Ferris Webster did an excellent job of putting this complex story together giving it coherence and drive yet never sacrificing any of the wonderful characterizations that is the backbone of this film. Daniel Fapp's cinematography brilliantly gives us a feeling of claustrophobia while in the prison camp. Once the escape begins he gives us panoramas of landscapes which have a dual symbolism. On one emotional hand we are free and the far-off horizons elusively symbolize that freedom. On the other rational hand we know that we are still not free and the vastness of those landscapes only strengthens the reality that ultimate escape and freedom is improbable for the majority of the escapees. Composer Elmer Bernstein also has more to say than meets the ear. This film contains one of his two most recognizable themes in cinema history (The Magnificent Seven being the other) but that is an understatement. His main title theme is as much a tribute to the prisoners in this story as it is to all men who must overcome the odds through their own perseverance and unwillingness to bend to defeat to whatever noble end they strive for. Bernstein's complex score complements the theme by giving us passages and statements on the diversity of the individuals as well as their singular overall objective. Once "on the road" the music reaches exhilarating proportions unlike that of traditional action Hollywood scoring. Bernstein wants to put the audience through the same suspense and anticipation that the escapees feel and then unleashes our pent up emotions in a crescendo of rousing orchestrations that has us cheering them on. This was the same brilliant technique he employed in "The Magnificent Seven." I don't think many people give Elmer Berstein the credit for being the musical innovator that he was back in that period in his career.
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on May 8, 2013
I watched some of the Blu Ray and compared it to the 2 disk DVD set. All I can say is wow. The colors looked great on the Blu Ray.

The buildings are wood color on the Blu Ray, on the 2 disk DVD, they almost looked yellow.

The sound, DTS-HD Master 5.1, much better than the 2 disk DVD set, which is Mono.

I have not looked at the special features, but it looks all of the special features from the 2 disk DVD set is on the Blu-Ray.

I hope this helps you out.

**Update**

On the Blu Ray, there were some scenes that were filmed with a filter, those were not as clear as the rest of the film. The Blu Ray was so much better than the DVD.

This film I have owned from VHS, DVD, to the 2 disk DVD and now the Blu-Ray.

When I posted my review, Amazon did not have very much informtion about the Blu-Ray.

I feel that this is a worthy upgrade.
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on July 17, 2013
I'm not sure if MGM and Fox were plain lazy here or if the source material just wasn't that good to begin with. The video looks as if it was taken from a darker dupe print, rather than fully restored camera elements scanned at 6k, and then run through a digital, modern day "teal color timing machine."

For a 5.1 remix, Elmer Bernstein's mostly fun and jaunty marching band-esque score sounds practically monophonic when compared to the original stereo soundtrack recording. Except for a few brief instances of directionally placed dialog, the rest of the track seems pretty lifeless as well.

That's not to say everything is terrible like your typical Universal catalog title. There is natural looking grain and very little trace of digital noise reduction leading to smeared and waxy faces, and with somewhat of a bump up in resolution from the remastered DVD.

I was just expecting a little more effort from these two studios for such a beloved and timeless classic.
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on December 29, 2014
This is one of my all-time favorite movies and the presentation of it in this BluRay edition is sparkling. The picture is perfect (probably better than was seen by anyone at a theater when first released) and the sound quality couldn't be better!

James Garner has always been one of my favorite actors and he is on the top of his game as the scrounger Hendley. Steve McQueen is a scene-stealer, but in a great way. For a movie that could easily be a downer (the escape is not a success for most involved), Hilts (McQueen) refusing to be cowed even when tossed back in the cooler still puts a smile on my face every time I watch it.

As a personal aside, I remember coming home from work when my sons were 4 & 6 years old and they were playing in the backyard. I asked them what they were playing and my older son replied, "I'm Luke Skywalker and he's Danny the Tunnel King!"
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on May 23, 2013
First, the movie is superbly entertaining, exactly as I remembered it as a 12-year old in the early 60s. Unfortunately, I was extremely disappointed in the lack of visual detail, blurriness, inconsistent contrast and color saturation, and general lack of the pristine quality I have come to expect in a newly-released blu-ray. I have not checked this myself, but others have reported a 19 mbps bitrate, as a contributing factor to the softness of the image, but broadcast HD television at 10 to 19 mbps is much more detailed and resolute than this blu-ray production. Honestly, I thought my projector had lost focus, but that was not the case. MGM owes all buyers an apology and a free copy of a decent restoration of this film.
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