The Great Escape

Factual error: Many of the prisoners are wearing watches, which is incorrect. Upon arrest a prisoner's watch was confiscated. This prevented them using them to bribe or barter with corrupt guards (and as this film acknowledges, there were plenty of those) as well as making coordination of meetings or escape plans difficult.

Factual error: A convoy of open trucks arrive at the camp bringing the latest batch of prisoners, many of whom are carrying rucksacks and tote bags of clothing and other possessions. Where did they come from? Combat servicemen in World War Two did not carry overnight bags with them - a change of clothes or a handy supply of toiletries was the least of their concerns. A prisoner of war arrived in the camp with the clothes he stood up in and nothing else.

Factual error: Why is Hilts not wearing a uniform? A serving officer captured behind enemy lines in civilian clothing risked being shot as a spy. If a prisoner's uniform was too worn or damaged to wear, it was routine for the German authorities to replace it - a P.O.W. in civilian clothes is an obvious escape risk. He is wearing a pair of tan chinos and a cut off sloppy Joe sweatshirt, both ridiculously anachronistic - Sixties hipster fashions - and nowhere even close to a World War 2 uniform.

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Suggested correction: The character of Hilts was based (in part) on the life of a British OSS agent who managed to pass as pilot by stealing a flight jacket (revealed in the DVD). We can only assume that since the Germans believed the camp was escape-proof, it didn't matter what Hilts was wearing, since he wouldn't be going anywhere.

Cobblers. Hilts is wearing casual clothing typical of the time the film was shot, not when it was set. No prisoner of war would be dressed the way he was. The posting is correct.

Other mistake: When Hilts and Ives are taken down to the cooler for the very first time, just after arriving at the camp, watch the wall as the door is closed by the guard behind Ives - it very obviously moves as the door slams shut.

Continuity mistake: When Roger is in the van talking to Macdonald, his face is deliberately dirty and stubbled - but when they are about to shoot him, he is clean-shaven. similarly with his bruises which seem to magically disappear by the evening of the first day.

Visible crew/equipment: The first time Hilts (Steve McQueen) is locked up, you can clearly see the edge of the wall, and to the left a stage hand moving. (00:23:25)

Character mistake: The scene in the outdoor Parisian cafe is incredibly daft. First, the cafe owners call James Coburn's bizarrely-accented Australian to the telephone to keep him out of the way as their accomplices assassinate three uniformed German officers seated in the cafe in a drive by shooting. They then toast the killings with cognac, and that is the mistake - not the shootings, not the luring away of Coburn - the mistake is that the cafe proprietors celebrate the assassination of the German officers in broad daylight, in the open, without even stopping to think that such an action would have them shot, because all of this is done in the direct view of passers-by in broad daylight. Do they think those three German officers were the only ones in Paris? How did they know Coburn wasn't an undercover Gestapo agent or a French collaborator? Don't they stop to consider that in an occupied city machine gun fire is going to draw some attention from the authorities, who might just wonder what a couple of bullet riddled corpses are doing lying about the place?

Factual error: When McQueen steals the motorbike from the German soldiers and rides off it is clearly a Triumph, a British make, not a BMW or Zundapp which was what the German army used. More to the point it looks like a 1960s model.

Visible crew/equipment: In the scene where everyone is lining up to receive the moonshine that the Americans made you can see a crew member on the left hand side. He is wearing a red baseball cap and modern clothes. He is motioning for the extras to go into the main shot to get the alcohol. (Widescreen edition).

Continuity mistake: Check out the memorable scene when Hendley and Blythe, trying to reach Switzerland in a stolen training aircraft, fly over marvellous Castle Neuschwanstein. According to Hendley, they've almost made it, just 20 minutes of flight and one mountain range left to cross. This is quite funny because the Neuschwanstein shot reveals that they're actually flying straight in the wrong direction. The camera faces south, the plane moves from right to left, meaning they're heading east, straight away from the Swiss border which is just 50 kilometers west of the famous castle.

The Great Escape mistake picture

Continuity mistake: In the end of the movie, Hilts (Steve McQueen) is returned to the camp - he is dirty and his shirt is torn. When he enters the cooler, after being tossed his baseball glove, he is clean and his shirt is no longer torn. (02:49:50)

Revealing mistake: Towards the end of the film, when Hilts (Steve McQueen) is in a motorcycle chase with the German guards, if you watch closely, when the camera cuts away from Hilts and to the German motorcyclists, you might be able to notice that one of the guards chasing McQueen IS actually McQueen! They used him to play one (or maybe more) of the guards because of the experience he had with motorcycles. This can also be seen in some behind the scenes footage on the DVD version of the film.

Continuity mistake: When Hendley and Blythe emergency-land their plane, it dashes into a copse. Both wings are cut off by trees and stay behind, while the fuselage runs on for several meters, finally coming to a halt with the tail facing down and the cockpit up. Next shot (pilots exiting the plane), the crash site looks very different: The tail now points into the air, cockpit down. And even worse, the wings have returned to the plane, I mean they are still cut off, but now positioned neatly on both sides of the fuselage instead of all those meters behind where you'd expect them.

Continuity mistake: When Blythe starts to lose his eye sight, he tests his eyes by closely examining the forged document. But the document he holds up is different from the document we see in the later shots.

thedoorman

Continuity mistake: In the scene where Steve McQueen is pulling wire across the road, and attaching the end to the pole to trip up the motorcycle rider you can clearly see two shadows on the ground of Steve in opposite directions due to the camera lights.

Continuity mistake: In the scene in which the POWs are distributing the tunnel dirt over the compound, Hendley is leading a group of POWs in a soldier's march. In one shot, dirt is coming out from the bags inside their trousers, but their hands are visibly swinging back and forth; they can't be pulling the strings in their pockets to release the dirt. (00:53:50)

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Continuity mistake: After Ramsay, Bartlett and MacDonald drink the American moonshine, Ramsay's collar and neck change between shots. (01:20:30)

Blibbetyblip

Continuity mistake: When Hilts and Ives are put back in the cooler after their first escape attempt, the dirt on their faces in the corridor outside their cells doesn't show up in the same places when they are actually in their cells.

Continuity mistake: Just after Ashley-Pitt has worked out how to hide the dirt, we see Ramsay raking the dirt and Bartlett and MacDonald walk out from behind a building and look at him, but in the next shot, Bartlett and MacDonald are looking at each other.

Blibbetyblip

Plot hole: Roger's initial briefing at the beginning of the film states that 'Tom' goes out from 104 and 'Harry' from 105. Despite this the goons are said to be in 105 when they find the entrance to Tom.

Continuity mistake: When Bartlett is on the run in the town a car containing Germans pulls up near him. Bartlett stops on the pavement but in the next shot he is standing in the middle of the road. (02:31:57)

Revealing mistake: When James Coburn and Charles Bronson are pretending to be Russian prisoners and attempting to walk out of the camp, if you look in the open windows of the huts in the background (past the men leaning out the windows), in several of the huts you can see that there is nothing inside, with wooden beams/braces visible to hold up the walls.

Visible crew/equipment: Late in the film, when the two escapees are boarding a bus, there's a studio lamp on a scissor-lift in plain sight at the left side of the screen. (02:37:00)

Continuity mistake: When Hilts draws his gun to shoot at the motorbikes, he steadies his gun-holding hand with his other hand, but in the next shot, he is holding his hand in a different way. (02:14:05)

Blibbetyblip

Factual error: As Steve McQueen is making his 'great escape', he drives his motorcycle through a gap which a chasing motorcycle and sidecar can't squeeze through, so it crashes. Cut to a crane shot of the retreating McQueen racing into the distance. Keep your eye on the left of frame and into view, on top of a building, is a distinctly un-1940s TV aerial. It's there for a full 7 seconds.

The Great Escape mistake picture

Continuity mistake: The position of the propeller crank changes between when Hendley first hands it to Colin and when Colin begins to crank it.

Continuity mistake: When Willie is disguising the tunnel by mopping the floor and the Nazi comes in and bothers them, the way that Willie is holding the mop changes between shots. (00:44:10)

Blibbetyblip

Visible crew/equipment: In the scene where the POW's are lined up outside the next day after the escape, several large movie lamps are visible on the left side (widescreen DVD version only - at 2:05:51 to 2:06:16 and again at 2:06:36 to 2:06:40). (02:05:50 - 02:06:35)

Chris in Texas

Continuity mistake: When Henley attacks the guard at the airport, the back of his jacket gets wet from rolling around on the ground fighting the guard (there are puddles visible). Yet a few moments later, when he is walking towards the plane, his jacket is dry. (Visible in widescreen DVD version - 2:25:26 to 2:25:56). (02:25:25 - 02:25:55)

Chris in Texas

Continuity mistake: In the scene where Ives attempts to climb over the barbed wire fence, a long shot shows Ives in foreground and a line of men, including Hilts, in the background. In this shot, Hilts notices Ives and begins to run towards him. In the next shot, a close up of the line, we see Hilts still standing motionless, before noticing Ives and beginning to run towards him. Again.

Continuity mistake: While describing the escape process, Roger says that "Tom will run north from the 105." He is interrupted, then says, "as I said, Tom will run north from 104."

Audio problem: The sounds of the prisoners laughing and bantering about during the 4th of July moonshine scene is obviously a looped soundtrack as the same exact sounds and volume are heard at least four times during this scene.

Scott215

Character mistake: When Sedgwick is bringing the cement tunnel lid to Willy, somebody yells out "Hey Hendley" and Sedgwick answers "Hello boys". He was called by the wrong name.

Other mistake: Ramsay sports on his tunic the ribbons for the Distinguished Service Order, the Military Cross, either the 1914 or 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. Unfortunately, the ribbon bar for the last three has been sewn onto his tunic upside-down - it reads, left to right as seen, VM, BWM, Star, when it should read Star, BWM, VM.

The Great Escape mistake picture

Continuity mistake: In the scene where Roger, Mac, Danny, and Willie are trying to figure out how to dispose of the dirt from the escape tunnels, Willie's motionless hand on the tabletop jumps from the supine position to the prone position between shots. (00:51:10)

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Plot hole: The officers arrived in separate vehicles where they could view the countryside and the road leading to the camp, yet they later claimed to Hilts they knew nothing about the area.

Factual error: When the SS and Gestapo are leaving Bartlett in Von Luger's office on his arrival in the camp, they all give the Nazi salute with bent arms. The correct form was a straight outstretched arm and hand: only Hitler himself was allowed to give the Hitler salute so sloppily.

tobyduckett

Continuity mistake: After Hilts is dismissed from the cooler for the second time, he tells Bartlett about his escape plan, to which Bartlett replies, "Is Ives going with you?" After he says this, his hands change position in relation to his mug. (01:04:05)

Blibbetyblip

Character mistake: When Werner goes to see Hedley for helping finding his "lost" papers, Hedley is playing chess. The chess set is set up incorrectly. When the men are set up properly, each player has a light colored square in the right-hand corner. In the movie, the game is set up so that the light-colored square is in each player's left-hand corner. This "beginner" mistake puts the king and queen in the wrong positions.

Revealing mistake: When Hilts is first locked in the cooler he turns to verify the door is locked. Apparently the set wall was so flimsy the stage hand seen on the left was required to hold the wall as Hilts pushed the door, to prevent it from moving. The stage hand looks like the German guard without his rifle.

Factual error: The entrance to tunnel Dick is shown improperly; the trap door was on the side of the drain basin, not the bottom. This was discussed in the Brickhill book, and subsequently verified by research on the site (shown on the US television program NOVA) which found the original door and its lifting handles.

Continuity mistake: When Hendley and Blythe get into the German aircraft first, the cockpit is tiny and cramped, like you'd expect. However, when they cut to the studio-done flying scenes, it suddenly becomes much larger, nice and roomy.

Revealing mistake: When McQueen is jumping the fence on the motorcycle, it can clearly be seen the machine used for the jump is in fact a modern offroad model, with long travel suspension, in camouflage guise.

Revealing mistake: In the scene where the goons find 'Tom', the water that is poured down the hole is not steaming, even though the water burnt his hand.

The Great Escape mistake picture

Continuity mistake: In the scene involving Hilts and his baseball directly after Sedgwick and Haynes have their sham fight, Hilts drops his canvas bag with his name on it on the ground. When Goff comes to join Hilts, however, the canvas bag is nowhere to be seen. Despite the angle it would have been seen as the bag was placed down horizontally. (00:13:35)

Other mistake: When the three Americans invite the British to join their 4th of July celebration, Hilts plays the flute with his right hand the wrong way round on the instrument.

Continuity mistake: In the scene where Hilts is first locked in the cooler, he is eventually let out. It shows him walking out from a view that is inside the cooler, and his coat is on one arm (I forget which arm it is). Then it shows a view from outside of the cooler,of him walking out, and his jacket is on the other arm. He didn't switch it while walking, because the clip is about 2 seconds long.

Continuity mistake: In the famous scene when Steve McQueen jumps the fence, the stuntman riding the motorcycle loses control of the motorcycle shortly after landing and he obviously fell off the motorcycle. They then cut to a scene of Steve McQueen riding off.

Character mistake: When Werner asks Hendley why, as an American, he fights alongside Britain, he mentions that the British burned down the U.S. capital in 1812. While it happened during the War of 1812, the burning of Washington actually occurred in 1814. (00:11:10)

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Suggested correction: The question was intended to demonstrate how far out-of-touch Werner was with United States history.

Charles Austin Miller

You're misreading the entry. Werner's question in and of itself is not the mistake; it's merely a point of contextual reference. The mistake is him giving the incorrect date of a historical event he claims to have read about in history books; his use of the plural suggests he's read more than one. It's hard to believe every book he might have read all have the same inaccurate information, so he must be remembering, and thus repeating it, incorrectly.

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Revealing mistake: The searchlights in the guard boxes which overlook the camp are arc lights (studio lights) and not search lights.

TrevorM
The Great Escape mistake picture

Continuity mistake: When Hilts tests his blind spot theory at the wire and is caught by the German guards, in one shot he points at the wire with his thumb. In the very next shot, his arm is instantly resting on his hip. (00:20:00)

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More for The Great Escape

Quotes

Col. Von Luger: Group Captain Ramsey, in the past four years the Reich has been forced to spend an enormous amount of time, energy, manpower and equipment hunting down prisoner of war officers.
Group Capt. Ramsey: At least it's rather nice to know you're wanted, isn't it?

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Trivia

While Steve McQueen performed most of his own stunts, the only stunt he didn't perform was the 60 foot jump over the Austrian-Swiss border fence. The jump was performed by stuntman Bud Ekins, who later doubled for McQueen in "Bullitt."

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