The Great Escape: Special Edition/Gold Edition (1963)

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Released 3-Jun-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Audio Commentary
Informational Subtitles
Featurette-Great Escape: The Untold Story
Featurette-Great Escape: The Untold Story - Additional Interviews
Featurette-The Great Escape: Heroes Underground
Featurette-A Man Called Jones... The Real Virgil Hilts
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1963
Running Time 165:05
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (87:28)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Sturges

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Steve McQueen
James Garner
Richard Attenborough
Donald Pleasence
Gordon Jackson
David McCallum
James Coburn
Charles Bronson
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Elmer Bernstein

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Information
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    The Great Escape is one of my all-time favourite movies. Along with other movie classics such as The Magnificent Seven and The Dirty Dozen, it never loses its appeal. This sumptuous two-disc Special Edition replaces the bare-bones, mono, non-16x9 enhanced DVD released in R4 a few years ago.

    The plot is based on a true story, as told in the novel The Great Escape, written by Australian WWII pilot and former POW Paul Brickhill. It is a truly remarkable and inspiring war story. The title of the book and movie refers to the fact that on March 24, 1944, 76 Allied POWs escaped from a German POW camp, Stalag Luft III in Poland. The intricate planning and fantastic execution of the 'Great Escape' is literally unbelievable, and it has to be seen to be believed. Brickhill helped plan the escape, but due to claustrophobia, he did not go through the tunnel. Instead he recorded a detailed account of events, which formed the basis of his enthralling novel, and later, a thoroughly engrossing movie.

    One of the many strengths of the movie is its authenticity. One of the co-screenwriters is James Clavell, a man who spent many years as a POW himself, in Changi. Clavell also wrote a novel based on his own experiences, King Rat. Through his writing, Clavell, like Brickhill before him, manages to effectively convey the feelings of isolation and desperation that I imagine human beings experience in captivity. Furthermore, The Great Escape was shot entirely on location in Germany, using authentic WWII German military hardware and vehicles. Quite a few of the cast and crew were POWs themselves (Allied and German), and others were WWII veterans. For example, Richard Attenborough had flown with the RAF in WWII, and he plays an RAF Officer.

    The movie boasts an all-star line up both on-screen, and behind the camera. The movie showcases an excellent script, outstanding production values, and attention to detail. In terms of the acting, the movie is a wonderful ensemble piece, and some of the great male US and UK movie actors of the 1960s are here. They include Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasance, James Coburn, David McCallum, and Gordon Jackson.

    This is a well-crafted and beautifully executed movie. In his review of the original DVD, Ian M remarked that "great films are distinguished by a number of things but two important ones are that no matter how many times you watch the film, you still enjoy it, and the film always seems to be over before it feels like it should be over." Spot on, Ian -- The Great Escape is truly a great film!

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Transfer Quality


    The transfer is fairly grainy throughout, but it is great for its age.

    The transfer is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer appears a little soft throughout, and sometimes it is very soft, such as the scenes at 45:30, 154:56, or the blurry image at 101:28. The quality of the shadow detail is variable -- at times it is quite good, for example, the interior of the 'cooler' at 22:12, but at other times such as at 36:04, it is not so good.

    The colour of the source material has aged a little, and the transfer is a bit murky at times. The skin tones often appear a little too orange or brown.

    MPEG artefacts were never a great problem, but the image is a little pixelated throughout. There is also some mild posterization at times, as seen with the Gestapo Officer's face at 134:40 or Richard Attenborough's face at 30:08.

    There are no film-to-video artefacts, such as aliasing or telecine wobble, to really complain of.

    Considering the age of this movie, there are relatively few film artefacts, but they do appear throughout. They are usually small, and examples can be seen at 32:07, 35:37 and 45:24.

   There are 16 sets of subtitles present on the DVD, and the English subtitles are slightly simplified, but accurate.

    This is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed during Chapter 19, at 87:28. I imagine that it takes place where the movie originally had an intermission. It is between scenes, and it is smooth and well placed.

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


    Originally released theatrically, and on DVD, in mono, the movie's audio has been remixed into Dolby Digital 5.1 for this Special Edition DVD.

    Apart from the English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, there is also an English Dolby Digital 2.0 commentary track.

    The dialogue quality and audio sync have no major problems on the default English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track.

    The musical score is credited to the legendary Elmer Bernstein, who, with his flair for the dramatic, has crafted yet another memorable and classic film score. Apart from the very recognisable theme music, Bernstein has composed a martial-music inspired score that teases out some very atmospheric passages, which in turn helps build the overall tension of the movie.

    Considering the mono source, the surround presence and activity is quite surprising. While the surround sound mix is quite front-heavy, the rear speakers are used effectively to help carry the score and provide ambience. This maintains a nice soundfield while keeping the viewer firmly focussed on the screen.

    The subwoofer is utilised very rarely and subtly.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    This DVD has the BEST selection of extras that I have ever come across in a review DVD so far!


    An animated and themed menu, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo audio.

Theatrical Trailer (2:36)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo audio.

Photo Gallery

    Many stills taken from various aspects of the production.

Audio Commentary

    Hosted by a film historian, this track features a great line-up of cast and crew, and includes comments from the late director, John Sturges, recorded in a 1974 interview. While many of the comments from the participants are not screen-specific, the commentary track is packed with great information and anecdotes.

Trivia Track

    This is a truly great screen-specific feature. Similar to a subtitle track, when activated 'subtitles' containing fascinating bits of information (either historical or about the production) appear on screen as you watch the movie. I hope this idea catches on.

The Great Escape -- The Untold Story (50:47)

    This wonderful Granada production is an expensive and very high quality documentary made about the real 'Great Escape'. It features interviews with quite a few POWs from the camp. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

The Great Escape -- The Untold Story, Additional Interviews (9:35)

    As the title suggests, this features material cut from the wonderful Granada documentary. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

The Great Escape -- Heroes Underground

    Good Lord -- another genuine documentary! Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, this documentary features letterboxed clips from the movie, and more interviews with POWs. Strangely, this documentary can only be viewed by selecting its individual chapters.

The Real Virgil Hilts (25:00)

    I don't believe it -- yet another genuine documentary! Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, this documentary is about the amazing life of Davey Jones, the man who Steve McQueen's character, Virgil Hilts, is based upon. Apart from a number of war-time adventures, ranging from partaking in the Doolittle Tokyo raid to being a POW, Jones went on to become a NATO commander and part of the space program for NASA before retiring as a General.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Great Escape was released on DVD in Region 1 in January 2001, but that was not a two disc Special Edition. That bare-bones, single disc, non-16x9 enhanced, mono R1 version has the same specifications as our original R4 version. If you are interested, further details about those two versions can be found in Ian M's review of the original DVD here.


    The Great Escape is a wonderful movie on a great DVD.

    The video quality is great considering its age.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras are marvellous!

Ratings (out of 5)


© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Wednesday, June 12, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Terry K
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Kevin S
The DVD Bits - Tim M

Comments (Add)
New Definitive edition same as the Gold edition. -