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The Great Escape

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Steve McQueen, The Great Escape
The Great Escape: Everett Collection

Is there a movie that owes as much to one scene as The Great Escape does to Steve McQueen leaping the fence? The moment is like a masterful guitar solo that turns a good song by a good band into a classic. But guess what? That’s not McQueen. We learn in the commentary accompanying this stunning two-disc collector’s set — released in honor of the 60th anniversary of D-Day — that director John Sturges knew McQueen was good on motorcycles, and intended to capitalize on that ability. McQueen was so good, in fact, that he not only led the chase but in some scenes also played his pursuers. However, for insurance purposes, the iconic leap itself ended up being executed by stuntman Bud Ekins, which irked McQueen throughout his life. Nonetheless, this is no one-note film: The stellar combination of Sturges’ pacing, Elmer Bernstein’s score, and strong performances by actors as varied as Donald Pleasence and Charles Bronson earns this DVD prime real estate on any shelf.