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NOVA: The Great Escape

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Product Details

  • Actors: Richard Donat, Robert Krulwich
  • Directors: Mark Radice, Vincent Liota
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: February 22, 2005
  • Run Time: 60 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00067BC7W
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,672 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

New secrets revealed about World War II's most daring prison escape.The movie The Great Escape captured the courage and remarkable genius behind World War II's most infamous prison break. Now join three former Allied prisoners and a team of archaeologists as they travel back to the site of the high-security POW camp Stalag Luft III to search for the secret tunnel the Nazis never found. More than sixty years ago, over six hundred Allied prisoners banded together to dig three highly sophisticated tunnels, code-named Tom, Dick, and Harry. Each tunnel was outfitted with railways, electric lights, and underground air pumps-all under the noses of the German guards. The detainees were planning to spring two hundred men via Harry on the moonless night of March 24, 1944. Unfortunately, a guard spotted the seventy-seventh man as he exited the tunnel beyond the perimeter fence, but seventy-six managed to get away, fanning out in all directions and forcing the Germany army to undertake a massive manhunt. And in the ensuing search of the camp, the guards never found the ingeniously hidden tunnel called Dick.Today, a truly historic past is buried deep below the surface of the tranquil countryside of what was Stalag Luft III. As heavy equipment removes treacherously sandy soil, dramatic recreations and candid recollections from the veterans offer stunning details about the prisoners' ingenious and ambitious tunneling plans, and retells the tragic story of the many of the escapees who were recaptured by the Germans.Special DVD features include: materials and activities for educators; a link to the NOVA Web site; scene selections; closed captions; and described video for the visually impaired. On one DVD5 disc. Region coding: All regions. Audio: Dolby stereo. Screen format: Letterboxed.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Jan Peczkis on May 9, 2006
Who could imagine that, 60 years after the event, a home-made escape tunnel would still be recognizable? And in friable, sandy soil at that? Or that the rubber stamp made from a POW's heel, once used to make forged documents for the escapees, would still have the recognizable marking of German Nazi insignia? Or that a chain of Klim cans, once strung together to ventilate the tunnel, would still exist in spite of decades of corrosion?

This DVD shows this and more. Archeologists first determined, from old aerial photos of Stalag Luft III, the site of the onetime hut that contained tunnel Dick. Next, the trap of Dick was located. It had been designed and then cleverly concealed in a concrete draining pit by a POW who had been a Polish engineer in the RAF. The tunnel opening itself was just beyond a vertical slotted slab that had been fitted on the side of the draining pit (not the underside of the pit as erroneously shown in the film on the Great Escape). The corroded hooks once used to lift the slab were also found. Part of the electric wiring used in Dick was still visible. Most probably, it had been part of that waterproof wiring that a POW had stolen from a German electrician. The fact that Dick had been abandoned for escape purposes and had been converted into a storage chamber explains the fact that the forger's rubber stamp was also found in the upper part of the tunnel.

Because the tunnel had been dug thirty feet deep, a power shovel was used to dig a pit down to that level. One could at once appreciate the challenge to the tunnelers posed by the loose yellow sand. It kept cascading down into the pit.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Heather L. Parisi on December 14, 2005

This Nova documentary features the original and the actual site of "THE GREAT ESCAPE" as seen by "Battlefield Archaeologists" who uncover artifacts which fit together neatly with the story of "The Great Escape". Three survivors of the historic event are on hand at the site and provide first-hand insight to augment the theories and official record. The high-security POW camp, Stalag Luft III, in Zagon, Poland, was on March 24, 1944, the site of a daring mass escape where 76 allied prisoners got out, 50 were "killed while escaping" several weeks later after being captured, and 4 made it to safety.

Suffice it to say that the Nova battlefield archaelogical team, equipped with scientists, witnesses, engineers, and excavators, found the remains of one of the famous escape's tunnels along with a plethora of artifacts that support the historical and eyewitness accounts.


This Nova documentary makes an terrific companion to the 1963 Hollywood drama [filmed in Germany], ideally to be seen immediately before the movie to provide insight and perspective. It is nice to see that the famous 1963 war drama "THE GREAT ESCAPE" starring Steve McQueen and Richard Attenborough was very closely based on fact, much more so than most other war dramas from the era.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By critters VINE VOICE on September 19, 2008
This choice is not only interesting as far as the subject matter, but it has closed captions for the hearing impaired AND described video for the visually impaired. When the audio descriptions are turned on, a voice inserts verbal descriptions of on-screen action in the natural pauses in the dialog. Both seem to be well done, although I'm no expert on described video.
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