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Old December 27th, 2016, 09:27 PM   #1
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"The Great Escape" from reality! LOL


So I watched the movie The Great Escape the other night.

Hadn't seen it in many years. Probably since I was in my early 20s. And before I became a serious history freak. It used to be one of my favorite WWII flicks. And I probably would have called it my favorite POW escape yarn. Up until now, that is.

Funny how I nver noticed before, and also funny how much having some education on a topic can alter your previous opinion of a movie.

I now see how silly and preposterous the plot was. I mean, c'mon, guys. Here we are supposed to believe that the POW camp they were in was one especially designed to incarcerate the most wily and dangerous escape artists that the Nazis had ever tried to hold. And the staff--which would have been SS, BTW--was handpicked so as to deal with these guys and keep them under wraps.

LOL...but yet, the prisoners are given work details with shovels and picks and other tools and allowed to roam all over the grounds. And the camp is set in a woodsy idyllic area that is ripe for blending into after escape. And worse, AFTER a failed escape attempt, no penalizing sanctions are added, save for a stint in the "cooler." (where you can even bring your ball and glove and have a nice game of catch!)

The movie played more like a comedy to me now. And I'm not sure that the whole thing was not originally intended to be a sort of satire on the whole WWII POW escape yarn. An I am wondering now if perhaps "Hogan's Heroes" might've used TGE for a template?

Not to say the flick is not still entertaining. So long as you file your brain away while watching and expect no real historical detail.

But if you're after a more fact-based movie in that genre, me thinks you would be better served watching Stalag 17 or King Rat.

So, I can't be the only one to notice the logical shortcomings and plot holes in this allegedly great movie, can I? Who else finds the movie to have gone a bit too far with artistic license?
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Old December 28th, 2016, 03:19 AM   #2
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Based on this real event:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalag...reat_Escape.22

Hollywooded up a bit to be sure, but by and large, looks they got it mostly right.
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Old December 28th, 2016, 07:00 AM   #3

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Its a camp for airforce prisoners. Therefore it was guarded by the German airforce, it was a point of principle for them!

It was also 'woodsy' because it was in the middle of a German/Polish forest, seperated from the resistance and intelligence contacts who could have aided in their escape by several thousand miles.

The locals arent going to help them, theyre in the middle of a forest where they are either going to starve or be picked up quickly by dog patrols, its built on sand which is impossible to tunnel through because it collapses instantly unless you shore it up.

Its not a bad plan.
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Old December 28th, 2016, 07:13 AM   #4

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yossarian View Post
Here we are supposed to believe that the POW camp they were in was one especially designed to incarcerate the most wily and dangerous escape artists that the Nazis had ever tried to hold.

I believe that was the case for Colditz, not sure if they made a movie about it but there is a tv show.

The POWs were busy building a glider to fly out but then the war ended.
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Old December 28th, 2016, 12:34 PM   #5

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Originally Posted by Earl_of_Rochester View Post
I believe that was the case for Colditz, not sure if they made a movie about it but there is a tv show.

The POWs were busy building a glider to fly out but then the war ended.
There was a film--but a bit "jolly good show" early 1950s low budget Lion films production with----who else, John Mills. Lionel Jeffries played Pat Reid on whose book the script was based. A bit too much played for laughs.
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Old December 28th, 2016, 01:26 PM   #6

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yossarian View Post
So I watched the movie The Great Escape the other night.

Hadn't seen it in many years. Probably since I was in my early 20s. And before I became a serious history freak. It used to be one of my favorite WWII flicks. And I probably would have called it my favorite POW escape yarn. Up until now, that is.

Funny how I nver noticed before, and also funny how much having some education on a topic can alter your previous opinion of a movie.

I now see how silly and preposterous the plot was. I mean, c'mon, guys. Here we are supposed to believe that the POW camp they were in was one especially designed to incarcerate the most wily and dangerous escape artists that the Nazis had ever tried to hold. And the staff--which would have been SS, BTW--was handpicked so as to deal with these guys and keep them under wraps.

LOL...but yet, the prisoners are given work details with shovels and picks and other tools and allowed to roam all over the grounds. And the camp is set in a woodsy idyllic area that is ripe for blending into after escape. And worse, AFTER a failed escape attempt, no penalizing sanctions are added, save for a stint in the "cooler." (where you can even bring your ball and glove and have a nice game of catch!)

The movie played more like a comedy to me now. And I'm not sure that the whole thing was not originally intended to be a sort of satire on the whole WWII POW escape yarn. An I am wondering now if perhaps "Hogan's Heroes" might've used TGE for a template?

Not to say the flick is not still entertaining. So long as you file your brain away while watching and expect no real historical detail.

But if you're after a more fact-based movie in that genre, me thinks you would be better served watching Stalag 17 or King Rat.

So, I can't be the only one to notice the logical shortcomings and plot holes in this allegedly great movie, can I? Who else finds the movie to have gone a bit too far with artistic license?
Bad news--it was very much a true story and far more accurate than King Rat which, although drawing on James Clavell's time in Changi, was total fiction, although the bit about eating the dog (which belonged to a civilan internee) and the rats sold as venison was true.
The main deviations from real life in TGE were that there was no Hilts, indeed no Americans in on the escape at all, although some Americans were involved in "goon watching" during the tunnel construction, the American officers had been moved to separate compound before the escape itself. Major John 'Johnnie' Bigelow Dodge DSO DSC MC, one of the few Army Officers in Luftwaffe camps had been born in America but was naturalised when he joined the British Army in WW1.
No Hilts of course means no motorcycle chase, just as well as the Triumph 650 was very much post-war. there was however a "cooler-king", Flight Lieutenant Barry Mahon made over 25 attempted escapes from Stalag Luft III in eight months, rarely getting further than the inner wire and thus spending most of his time in solitary.
The theft of the aircraft did happen--but not that escape, but during one a year earlier--Donald Pleasance, who played the blind forger, had actually spent 8 months in Stalag Luft I during WW2 after being shot down over France.
The forgery of passes, rail warrants and Identity documents is a bit overegged. Roger Bushnell ( a South African, by the way, not a pukka pom like Attenborough) was part of MI-9, the unit engaged with escape and evasion and gathering intelligence in enemy territory. Like so many WW2 operations this was kept secret for years and years and was still secret when the "Great Escape" was made. Many officers were trained to take up MI-9 duties if they were captured and some even infiltrated deliberately. They set up a network within PoW and internment camps and had civilian contacts who were willing, bribed or co-erced into providing materials, money and documents. MI-9 also sent the famous escape aids, like maps, compasses and tools smuggled through Red Cross parcels and disguised as board games or parts of clothing.
So to imagine that the inmates did all that stuff themselves is Hollywoodization.
The plan was for 200 prisoners to escape--76 got out, 3 made home runs and forty-nine were shot by the Germans--not all together but in twos and threes in woods and barns.
The Germans, even though the camp was run by the Luftwaffe DID mistreat the prisoners immediately after the escape. An uncle of mine (well, my Dad's cousin actually) was in the NCO Aircrew section of the camp next door. The NCOs were not involved in the escape but they were subject to short-rations, no red cross parcels, withdrawal of recreational facilities, extra working hours (the enlisted men had to do labouring) and midnight searches for some months afterwards.
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Old December 28th, 2016, 01:44 PM   #7

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ancientgeezer View Post
There was a film--but a bit "jolly good show" early 1950s low budget Lion films production with----who else, John Mills. Lionel Jeffries played Pat Reid on whose book the script was based. A bit too much played for laughs.
I think you'll find John Mills played Pat Reid in "The Colditz Story"http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047945/.
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Old December 28th, 2016, 01:53 PM   #8

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Originally Posted by Belisarius View Post
I think you'll find John Mills played Pat Reid in "The Colditz Story"http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047945/.
Oops. Slip of the memory--Lionel Jeffries played Harry Tyler. Of course, it would be a good guess to say John Mills for any lead character in any B&W British WW2 film.
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Old December 28th, 2016, 02:32 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Ancientgeezer View Post
Bad news--it was very much a true story and far more accurate than King Rat which, although drawing on James Clavell's time in Changi, was total fiction, although the bit about eating the dog (which belonged to a civilan internee) and the rats sold as venison was true.
The main deviations from real life in TGE were that there was no Hilts, indeed no Americans in on the escape at all, although some Americans were involved in "goon watching" during the tunnel construction, the American officers had been moved to separate compound before the escape itself. Major John 'Johnnie' Bigelow Dodge DSO DSC MC, one of the few Army Officers in Luftwaffe camps had been born in America but was naturalised when he joined the British Army in WW1.
No Hilts of course means no motorcycle chase, just as well as the Triumph 650 was very much post-war. there was however a "cooler-king", Flight Lieutenant Barry Mahon made over 25 attempted escapes from Stalag Luft III in eight months, rarely getting further than the inner wire and thus spending most of his time in solitary.
The theft of the aircraft did happen--but not that escape, but during one a year earlier--Donald Pleasance, who played the blind forger, had actually spent 8 months in Stalag Luft I during WW2 after being shot down over France.
The forgery of passes, rail warrants and Identity documents is a bit overegged. Roger Bushnell ( a South African, by the way, not a pukka pom like Attenborough) was part of MI-9, the unit engaged with escape and evasion and gathering intelligence in enemy territory. Like so many WW2 operations this was kept secret for years and years and was still secret when the "Great Escape" was made. Many officers were trained to take up MI-9 duties if they were captured and some even infiltrated deliberately. They set up a network within PoW and internment camps and had civilian contacts who were willing, bribed or co-erced into providing materials, money and documents. MI-9 also sent the famous escape aids, like maps, compasses and tools smuggled through Red Cross parcels and disguised as board games or parts of clothing.
So to imagine that the inmates did all that stuff themselves is Hollywoodization.
The plan was for 200 prisoners to escape--76 got out, 3 made home runs and forty-nine were shot by the Germans--not all together but in twos and threes in woods and barns.
The Germans, even though the camp was run by the Luftwaffe DID mistreat the prisoners immediately after the escape. An uncle of mine (well, my Dad's cousin actually) was in the NCO Aircrew section of the camp next door. The NCOs were not involved in the escape but they were subject to short-rations, no red cross parcels, withdrawal of recreational facilities, extra working hours (the enlisted men had to do labouring) and midnight searches for some months afterwards.

Wow...That's a great post, Geezer. Thanks for the schooling. You know your stuff....And I stand corrected.
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Old December 29th, 2016, 07:27 AM   #10

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There's also a fascinating documentary about a recent archeological survey and excavation of the camp at Sagan, you can probably find it on YouTube. There are trees all over, now, but the sandy soil is painfully evident. They found the washroom tunnel entrance, still in place, with one of the hooks used to lift out the slab. They also brought in machinery to excavate a length of the tunnel itself, and you could see the wood supports, air duct, etc. It was REALLY DEEP, and they had to dig a huge hole to get to it. And it was still caving in and very dangerous! Just nuts. A couple of the veterans were there to see it. Very cool.

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