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NOVA: The Great Escape
NOVA The Great Escape
Actor: Richard Donat; Robert Krulwich
Director: Mark Radice; Vincent Liota
Genres: Television, Educational, Documentary
NR     2005     1hr 0min

New secrets revealed about World War II's most daring prison escape. The movie The Great Escape captured the courage and remarkable genius behind World War II's most infamous prison break. Now join three former Allied pris...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: Richard Donat; Robert Krulwich
Director: Mark Radice; Vincent Liota
Genres: Television, Educational, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Television, Educational, History, Military History
Studio: WGBH Boston
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 02/22/2005
Original Release Date: 01/01/2004
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2004
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 0min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 6
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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The Great Escape
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Movie Reviews

A Fascinating Discovery
Jan Peczkis | Chicago IL, USA | 05/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

Who could imagine that, 60 years after the event, a home-made escape tunnel would still be recognizable? And in friable, sandy soil at that? Or that the rubber stamp made from a POW's heel, once used to make forged documents for the escapees, would still have the recognizable marking of German Nazi insignia? Or that a chain of Klim cans, once strung together to ventilate the tunnel, would still exist in spite of decades of corrosion?

This DVD shows this and more. Archeologists first determined, from old aerial photos of Stalag Luft III, the site of the onetime hut that contained tunnel Dick. Next, the trap of Dick was located. It had been designed and then cleverly concealed in a concrete draining pit by a POW who had been a Polish engineer in the RAF. The tunnel opening itself was just beyond a vertical slotted slab that had been fitted on the side of the draining pit (not the underside of the pit as erroneously shown in the film on the Great Escape). The corroded hooks once used to lift the slab were also found. Part of the electric wiring used in Dick was still visible. Most probably, it had been part of that waterproof wiring that a POW had stolen from a German electrician. The fact that Dick had been abandoned for escape purposes and had been converted into a storage chamber explains the fact that the forger's rubber stamp was also found in the upper part of the tunnel.

Because the tunnel had been dug thirty feet deep, a power shovel was used to dig a pit down to that level. One could at once appreciate the challenge to the tunnelers posed by the loose yellow sand. It kept cascading down into the pit. However, even though Dick had long since collapsed and the shoring boards rotted away, the crisp linear outline of the tunnel could still be clearly seen at the bottom of the pit. Further probing revealed the chain of Klim cans once used to ventilate this tunnel. Unfortunately, the increasing danger of the sand collapsing caused further excavation to be called off.

A number of ageing veterans of Stalag Luft III were on hand to observe the excavation. One of them was Jimmy James. The scenes of the excavation of Dick were interspersed with scenes showing old photos of the camp as well as descriptions of the Great Escape itself. It would be interesting if there were a followup dig to the site of Harry. After the Great Escape, the Germans had poured sewage into the tunnel but, unlike Tom, did not blow it up. At very least the concrete plugs poured in by the Germans, into both the exit and entry shafts of Harry, should be readily findable.
Heather L. Parisi | St. Augustine, FL USA | 12/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)


This Nova documentary features the original and the actual site of "THE GREAT ESCAPE" as seen by "Battlefield Archaeologists" who uncover artifacts which fit together neatly with the story of "The Great Escape". Three survivors of the historic event are on hand at the site and provide first-hand insight to augment the theories and official record. The high-security POW camp, Stalag Luft III, in Zagon, Poland, was on March 24, 1944, the site of a daring mass escape where 76 allied prisoners got out, 50 were "killed while escaping" several weeks later after being captured, and 4 made it to safety.

Suffice it to say that the Nova battlefield archaelogical team, equipped with scientists, witnesses, engineers, and excavators, found the remains of one of the famous escape's tunnels along with a plethora of artifacts that support the historical and eyewitness accounts.


This Nova documentary makes an terrific companion to the 1963 Hollywood drama [filmed in Germany], ideally to be seen immediately before the movie to provide insight and perspective. It is nice to see that the famous 1963 war drama "THE GREAT ESCAPE" starring Steve McQueen and Richard Attenborough was very closely based on fact, much more so than most other war dramas from the era."
Not only closed captions but described video for the visuall
critters | 09/19/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This choice is not only interesting as far as the subject matter, but it has closed captions for the hearing impaired AND described video for the visually impaired. When the audio descriptions are turned on, a voice inserts verbal descriptions of on-screen action in the natural pauses in the dialog. Both seem to be well done, although I'm no expert on described video."