The stars that shimmered throughout the film were also true to themselves. McQueen has never been Lawrence Olivier, but what he lacked in method, he more than made up in charisma and his baseball-bouncing. His cooler stints from this flick have become one of the most parodied and imitated scenes in movies. The other most familiar tough dude was the sadly departed Bronson, who impressed Sturges with his great performance in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and went on to become a cinematic icon. It's no small feat of the actors, and of Sturges, to be able to keep your interest during almost three hours with a story that essentially takes place in only one location until all heck breaks loose toward the conclusion. There's a lot of content and it's all so well played out that you hardly realize that you'd probably have time to tunnel out of your own basement between the opening and closing credits. There's nothing particularly stunning about the visuals. As mentioned above, most of the action takes place in a prison camp with standard wooden barracks and a bunch of ragged uniformed men loitering about aimlessly like Indiana Sev playing hockey. There is, however, the characteristic musical theme by Elmer Bernstein which everyone in the world has probably hummed at one point or another (the theme, not Bernstein!) THE GREAT ESCAPE will give you all that you're looking for in an adventure film: drama, tragedy, action and some great acting to boot. Make sure you catch this one, especially if you're into war movies.
Trivia Track: Along with the audio commentary, you can play this text track which will display info about the film, the shoot, the stars and a slew of other topics in little boxes on the screen. There's enough content on this to make it worthwhile.
Featurettes: The following featurettes go into varying levels of detail about the story and the making of the film. They're narrated by Burt Reynolds with additional comments from Burt Reynolds' hairpiece.
The Great Escape: Bringing Fact to Fiction (12 minutes): This feature deals with some of the adaptation work that was done to the real-life tale to bring it to cinema. There's also a bit about the construction of the prison camp set and some comments by some of the actual participants in the escape including Paul Brickhill who later wrote the book on which this film is based.
The Great Escape: Preparations for Freedom (20 minutes): Again, some of the actual ex-POW's show up and present the actual escape plan as it was hatched back in '43. Very interesting if you're into the historical aspect of the movie or if you just want to hear about some men who gave their all so we could enjoy our freedom today.
The Great Escape: The Flight to Freedom (10 minutes): This deals with the aftermath of the escape and the considerable havoc it played at the time with German troops in the area. Although the escape wasn't as successful as hoped for, in terms of people being set free, it was however most successful in driving the Germans nuts.
The Great Escape: A Standing Ovation (6 minutes): A small clip discussing the critical acclaim the movie garnered when it premiered as well as some thoughts from vets who lived the war.
Return to The Great Escape (20 minutes): This one isn't narrated by Burt Reynolds and the domesticated ferret which resides on his scalp. Instead, it features many of the movie's aging stars recalling some memories from the shoot and their fellow cast and crewmembers. Among them are Garner, Pleasance, Coburn and Sturges.
Documentaries: Two longer documentaries which deal with history rather than the movie it inspired. They're both quite well made and very informative.
The Great Escape: The Untold Story (50 minutes): While the Escape did accomplish its goal of distracting the Germans and using up their manpower, its results in terms of human costs were much more dire. This documentary deals with the grim treatment that was afforded the recaptured escapers and the war crimes investigation that followed. Without spoiling the movie for those who have yet to see it, one can only say that the escape required a much larger sacrifice than mere sweat and muscle power. It also comes with a 9-minute clip of some additional interviews with some veterans and ex-POW's who discuss the aftermath in more detail.
The Real Virgil Hilts: A Man Called Jones (25 minutes): Narrated by James Coburn, this documentary deals with an American pilot named David M. Jones, who participated in the Doolittle raid which followed the attack on Pearl Harbor and was eventually shot down over Tunisia before being taken to Stalag Luft II as a prisoner of war. Sturges used him as a loose frame on which he built McQueen's rambunctious character. If anything, you'll find out listening to this that some people can sit there waiting for their time to come with the full knowledge that their life made a difference. Mr. Jones can definitely say that.
There's a bit more added in the form of a very well-stocked Photo Gallery and the Original Theatrical Trailer.