The McKenzie Break (1970)

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Released 18-Aug-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1970
Running Time 101:49
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (55:49) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Lamont Johnson

Starring Brian Keith
Helmut Griem
Ian Hendry
Jack Watson
Patrick O'Connell
Horst Janson
Alexander Allerson
John Abineri
Constantine Gregory
Tom Kempinski
Eric Allan
Caroline Mortimer
Mary Larkin
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Riz Ortolani

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This is the second World War II film which I reviewed in the last few days. I recently watched and reviewed The Devil's Brigade. This one is quite different. It is a UK rather than American production, despite starring and being directed and screenwritten by Americans. Rather than showing acts of heroism as the previous one did, this one focuses on a less than heroic escape attempt by Germans from a POW camp in Scotland. Also, this one is based on a novel rather than a true story like The Devil's Brigade. They do have one thing in common, a cast member, Jack Watson, who has been promoted from Corporal to General.

    The McKenzie Break (or Escape as it was known in the US) tells the story of the McKenzie POW Camp in Scotland during World War II. The camp is the home for a large number of German officers and men from many different branches of the military including the Luftwaffe, Navy & Army. A Navy Captain, Willi Schluter (Helmut Griem) has been appointed as the German's leader in the camp by Berlin, following the death of a General who used to be in charge. Schluter is a committed Nazi who controls the camp inside the wire, deciding who will do what, when. The camp is commanded by British Officer Major Perry (Ian Hendry), who is having great difficulty keeping order in the camp. Whilst trying to carry out his orders to shackle a number of the German officer, in retaliation for similar treatment of British POWs, he finds himself with a full scale riot on his hands, orchestrated by Schluter. General Kerr (Jack Watson) from Military Intelligence is concerned that something much bigger is planned, rather than just resisting the retaliatory shackling. He assigns Captain Jack Conner (Brian Keith) to go to the camp and discover what is going on. This begins a cat and mouse game between Schluter and Conner, both trying to outwit the other and stay one step ahead. Schluter and a select group of men are trying to escape and Conner is trying to stop them.

    This movie is interesting and reasonably entertaining but does not really rise above the average. The acting is quite reasonable, the movie moves along fairly briskly and the final scenes are quite exciting. One point which did stand out for me was that unlike many films with a lot of foreign language dialogue, the prisoners' dialogue was actually in German (with automatic subtitles) which added to the realism of the piece. Strangely for a film set in Scotland it was filmed in Turkey & Ireland, one assumes for budgetary reasons. There is nothing overly wrong with the film, it just leave you a little cold, perhaps because no-one really succeeds in what they are trying to achieve. Of course, the Germans are made out to be heartless brutes, however the British are made out to be incompetent so I suppose that squares the ledger.

    If you like POW camp escape films and want to see one from the other perspective, this film might be of interest, otherwise I cannot recommend it overly highly.

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Transfer Quality


    The video quality is decent but nothing special.

    The feature is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is the original aspect ratio. It is also encoded with automatic pan & scan information, if you don't like black bars.

    The picture was reasonably clear and sharp throughout although long shots were a little softer than close-ups. There was no evidence of low level noise. The shadow detail was OK but nothing special. The film was quite dark generally. The transfer has been done at quite a high bitrate which means there was only a very light grain throughout.

    The colour was reasonable, however it was a little dull. Skin tones were quite natural.

    Artefacts were quite plentiful with quite a few specks and flecks of both the black and white variety which were quite bad at 34:15. There were some white ones on show at 46:11. Reel change markers were in evidence throughout and I specifically noticed them at 56:10, 73:32 & 91:41. White vertical lines were also in evidence, for example at 91:10. From an MPEG perspective I noticed some aliasing on windows at 1:17 and a few jagged lines here and there.

    There are subtitles in 8 languages including English for the hearing impaired. The English subtitles were clear and easy to read. There was an extra ninth subtitle stream which was automatically turned on. This only translated the German spoken regularly in the film.

    The layer change occurs at 55:49 and caused a slight pause.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio quality is nothing special.

    This DVD contains five audio options, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s and the same in French, German, Italian & Spanish. Generally speaking the soundtrack was quiet and needed to be turned up above my reference level to be heard.

    Dialogue was a little muffled generally but not too bad and there was no problem with audio sync. The subtitles came in handy to understand what was being said.

    The score of this film by Riz Ortolani is pretty generic war film music.

    The surround speakers and subwoofer were not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu included stills, and the ability to select scenes, languages and subtitles.

Original Theatrical Trailer (3:19)

    Tries to make more of the film than there is there to make, so I suppose that means it does its job.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The film is available in the same format except for PAL/NTSC differences in Regions 1,2 & 4. Let's call it a draw.


    A mildly interesting but ultimately forgettable POW escape film with the twist that the escapees are German.

    The video quality is decent.

    The audio quality is reasonable but no more.

    The disc has only a theatrical trailer as an extra.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Saturday, February 26, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

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