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GREAT ESCAPE - TRANSFER, A MODEST IMPROVEMENT!
on May 18, 2004
"The Great Escape" is a WWII story about a group of POW's trying to escape from a German concentration camp. It stars Steve McQueen is Virgil Hilts, a American prisoner who delights in tormenting his Nazi captors with the prospect that one day he will successfully escape from their strong hold. Of course, his attempts result in his being placed in solitary confinement throughout the film. But escape plans really get underway when Big X (Richard Attenborough)plans to dig three escape tunnels under the camp. Although this plan of action is successful at temporarily outsmarting the Nazis, but with a victory that is short lived, the outstanding sequence in the film remains McQueen's electric cross-country chase on a motorcycle. James Garder, Donald Pleasance, James Coburn and Charles Bronson round out the stellar cast.
THE TRANSFER: : Time has not been kind to the film elements. Although this 2-disc special edition DVD is anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions, thereby improving the over all resolution of the image, colors remain pasty and dated throughout most of the film. Flesh tones are either an unnatural looking orange or overly pink. Outdoor scenes often suffer from a muddy color scheme in which greens, browns, blacks and grays become undistiguished and filtered through a sort of milky haze. As a result, definition and fine details often suffer. There is considerable film grain present during the outdoor scenes as well as some age related artifacts. Edge enhancement is present in some of the wire and mesh detailing of the camp. Blacks are not very deep or solid. Whites are rather grayish for the most part. Truly, this is a just barely middle of the road visual presentation. The audio has been remixed to 5.1 but the dialogue remains hollow and strident sounding. The music has a better spread but it too seems to lack in tonal bass.
EXTRAS: Some very fine short featurettes narrated by Burt Reynolds that (for the life of me) I can't figure out, why they weren't woven into one comprehensive documentary. There's also another 60 min. documentary that was previously available on the non-anamorphic DVD release. Some theatrical trailers, a stills gallery and an audio commentary round out the extras.
BOTTOM LINE: "The Great Escape" is a genuine classic and it comes highly recommended. But the transfer remains something of a disappointment, although it is a marked improvement over the original DVD release.