The Great Escape

The Luftwaffe are having a hard time looking after their RAF prisoners of war, so they build a new camp with high security to put 'All their rotten eggs in one basket' as the German commander says. Unfortunately this brings together the greatest escape artists around and they work together building three tunnels, hatching escape plans and forging documents in ingenious ways, each man with a different task led by Roger Bartlett (Richard Attenbourgh) to take 250 men out of the camp, the largest ever escape attempt. Meanwhile American Captain Hilts (Steve McQueen) tries other escape attempts which repeatedly end him up in solitary confinement, and heroically he finds local information out for the others then deliberately gets caught. One of the tunnels is found and the effort is put into one tunnel. On the night of the escape they find the tunnel is 20 feet short of the safety of the woods and slowly they get out avoiding the searchlights. However one man gets impatient waiting and goes out while a German is looking and gets caught - 76 men have already escaped. The escapees disperse in various ways and most get caught, including Bartlett and Hilts, but not before the latter has had a long motorbike chase. The Germans shoot 50 men including Bartlet and return several others including Hilts. The camp commander is also relieved of duty. Only three are seen to escape, the two tunnel diggers and the manufacturer. Based on a true story.

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, a cut off sloppy Joe sweatshirt, both ridiculously anachronistic - Sixties hipster fashions - and nowhere even close to a World War 2 uniform. He is also wearing Army Type III Service boots - something that would never have been issued to a fighter pilot.

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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.

I've always assumed that the actor, Steve McQueen, insisted on the outfit so he would look hip per his image. He had a reputation for being a prima donna on set.

More mistakes in The Great Escape

Colonel Von Luger: Are all American officers so ill-mannered?
Hilts: Yeah, about ninety-nine percent.

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Question: In the scenes in which the POWs use the bags inside their trousers to distribute tunnel dirt over the compound, how do they put the pins back into the bags? It seems like a pain in the butt to have to take the bags out, just to put them back in, just to take them back out, etc.

Cubs Fan Premium member

Chosen answer: The movie is based on a true story and depicts actual events. After dispersing the dirt, the POWs simply removed the bags from their pants, reinserted the pins, and put the filled bags back inside their trousers again. Of course it was a pain, but what other options did they have? Little or none. Carrying out a secret operation in a POW camp with few resources, they worked with what they had, and made what they had work.

raywest Premium member

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