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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

The Great Escape To Premier on FilmStruck

February programming on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck includes 100 years of Olympic Glory, Night of the Living Dead, Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love, and Howard Hawks' His Girl Friday. And premiering in February on the online channel is the WWII escape caper film, The Great Escape.

Based on the true story of an elaborately coordinated attempt to break out of a Nazi POW camp, director John Sturges's The Great Escape is one of the most rousing adventure films of all time. That may sound like publicity hype, but it really is an exciting film with a terrific cast. Legendary king of cool, Steve McQueen (Bullitt) is the anchor of this all-star cast. His turn as the rebellious "Cooler King" Captain Virgil Hilts defines his unequalled screen personae. The rest of the powerful ensemble includes a charming James Garner (TV's The Rockford Files), Charles Bronson (Death Wish), and James Coburn (The Magnificent Seven). The film pulses with the humor of the prisoners' camaraderie and the relentless suspense of their plan. It really is a must see, especially for those who love a good caper. Oh, and if you've ever see the animated film Chicken Run you'll recognize the influences this film had on that film's plot.

Never released on DVD or Blu-ray, this 1993 "Criterion" laserdisc edition includes a long-unavailable commentary featuring the director Sturges, the famed composer Elmer Bernstein, legendary stuntman Bud Ekins (the one who really jumps the barbed wire), and film historian Bruce Eder. Seriously, with films like this with commentary like that, FilmStruck could register themselves as a film school. Put in that perspective, the low monthly cost is well worth the investment.

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