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The Great Escape (1963)

(Laserdisc)

This information is for the Laserdisc release, not a DVD release.

NOTE: This commentary is only available on the Criterion laserdisc release of "The Great Escape." This is a different commentary track than the one available on the "Collector's Set" DVD release.

Commentaries on this disc:

Commentary 1: Director John Sturges, composer Elmer Bernstein, and stunt man Bud Ekins Rating:8.7/10 (3 votes) [graph]Login to vote or review
Reviewed by Gavin Millarrrrrrrrrr on February 24th, 2008:Find all reviews by Gavin Millarrrrrrrrrr
It was a real coup for Criterion to get director John Sturges to talk at length about his best-loved film, and he rewards them with plenty of insights into the making of the film. [Incidentally, a few of the comments here are used in the RETURN TO THE GREAT ESCAPE documentary on the single disc DVD release of ESCAPE.]
Considering the film's instant and lasting success, it's surprising to learn it was a struggle from the start and Sturges admits it was only because he was coming off the back of the huge success of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN that the project was considered at all. Even then strict budget and time restraints were imposed and he delights in pointing out various minor characters who were played by crew members as money got tighter.
We also learn how the film was shaped and changed as it went along (the script extracts on Disc 2 confirm it was a darker more realistic piece to start with).
But what really shines through, and is stated several times, is Sturges's undiluted admiration for the real men involved.
Production Manager Robert Relyea also makes a telling contribution, and his story late on about the "Miss Prison Camp" telegram from the studio underlines their lack of faith in the project and misunderstanding of what they had.
Stunt man Bud Ekins is also good value (was this the first time it was revealed that he and not McQueen made the famous motorcycle jump at the film's finale? Either way it's great to hear the story direct from the horse's mouth), although Elmer Bernstein's comments on his score are less essential and likely to be of only limited interest to the general listener, especially as he mostly seems to be stating the obvious, saying what the music is trying achieve in a scene when if he's done his job right (which he had of course) it's doing just that so what he says is superfluous anyway!
The near 3-hours running time also allows space for film historian Bruce Eder to talk in detail of the real men portrayed and the real escape, and while interesting in its own right and certainly worth telling, you'd have thought that having got Sturges to talk they'd have got as much out of him as possible (of course he might have said all he wanted and this historical sidestep was added to avoid long silences).
Not perfect then, but still one to be treasured (Sturges died the year after it was released) and certainly far too good to languish in laserdisc limbo.
Reviewed by sedna on March 11th, 2013:Find all reviews by sedna
The commentary is more of an informative discussion of the actual even the film is based on, however there are bits and pieces from all commentators that discuss the making of the film. Elmer Bernstein's comments in the beginning and the end halves of the film were particularly illuminating about how music not only was used in the film but how it should be used in films. Sturges is not as chatty about the technical filmmaking here as he was on the Bad Day At Black Rock laserdisc commentary, but he does mention a few things about it. The Film Historian comes in around the mid-section of the film and talks at length about the event and the film - but I'll be honest, I wasn't much paying attention and mostly skipped these bits so I don't have much to say about his comments. Another good commentator that isn't mentioned in the details above is the second unit director. He has some good things to say as well as recalls a few on set stories, as does Sturges. Overall, you'll learn a lot about how this film was made.