Posted at 8:46 AM on July 31, 2006
by Euan Kerr
Trying to escape the heat over the weekend I was flicking through the cable channels and stumbled across "The Great Escape" in progress. It was the scene where Captain Hilts, the Cooler King, (Steve McQueen) tosses his baseball near the prison fence to test whether the guard towers can see him when he goes to fetch it. He ends up in the cooler with Flying Officer Archibald Ives "The Mole" (Angus Lennie) next door. Ives is on his way to cracking up.
I only watched about five minutes but it made me sad. I read the book long before I saw the film and it's an intensely tragic story, filled with valor but ending in mindless brutality.
The film is a cult favorite, and seems to be remembered for McQueen's biking prowess more than anything. The all-star cast is impressive, pulling in big names from both sides of the pond: Attenborough, Bronson, Coburn, Pleasence, et al.
Yet I find myself wishing now that director John Sturges had used a cast of unknowns. It might have distracted the audience less from the fact that almost every one of the escapers died.