Brian Keith leads an acclaimed international cast in this poignant and powerful WW II drama fraughtwith action, suspense and the haunting reality of war. Keith stars as Captain Jack Connor,a fast-talking, hard-drinking, t... more »ough-as-nails Irishman assigned to investigate an impending escape by a group of German POWs led by the charismatic Kapitan Schleutter (Helmut Griem). The camp commander (Ian Hendry) has been unable to contain the prisoners, but Connor's brash and unusual approach solves the problem...for a while. In a race against timeand with growing animosity from the commanderConnor surpasses even his own previous unorthodox methods when he devises a scheme so daring that it will either make him a hero or prove to be the most fatal mistake of his career.« less
Angela F. from CHARLOTTESVLE, VA Reviewed on 5/27/2010...
Perhaps one of Brian Keith's best performances. A smart, entertaining escape story. Well-acted, believable, and well-written. Worth watching.
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A solid war movie with an unusual twist!
Roger J. Buffington | Huntington Beach, CA United States | 02/02/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of my favorite war movies, although it certainly never got the acclaim that many bigger-budget films have received. "The McKenzie Break" is the story of a remote British-run POW camp for German Kriegsmariners and Luftwaffe officers in Scotland. The Germans are of course planning an escape, led by the ruthless Captain Schlutter, (a U-Boat Captain determined to get his trained men "back into the war") competently played by Helmut Griem. Brian Keith plays the British intelligence officer given a special assignment to deal with the situation at Camp McKenzie.Of course, the notion of German POWs plotting to escape an Allied POW camp puts a unique twist on the usual POW theme, and in my opinion it works well in this film. The storyline moves along briskly and holds the viewer's interest. Bravo performances by Brian Keith and Helmut Griem carry the movie, and I felt that the cinematography and the on-location filming gave the film an excellent aura of authenticity. All in all there is a great deal about this film to like.Don't compare this one to "The Great Escape" or any other POW film, because it isn't like any of them. "The McKenzie Break" stands on its own, and in my opinion does so very well."
Exciting Escape-From-POW-Camp film
email@example.com | Bellingham, Wa | 02/28/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Personally, I thought that this gritty film was a lot better than the splashy, silly and more expensive "The Great Escape". It is definitely more suspenseful and a lot more realistic. Worth watching."
Excellent, Realistic POW Film
firstname.lastname@example.org | 09/07/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A film in the tradition of The Great Escape, although this one is much better in my opinion. It's the flip side of the coin. The German's are the POW's. A must see."
Not Quite The Great Escape
Kevin R. Austra | Delaware Valley, USA | 10/28/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"THE MCKENZIE BREAK had potential in focusing on German POWs held in the United Kingdom. The production team did a great job uniforming a multitude of extras in assorted German military uniforms thus representing prisoners of war captured from various Wehrmacht services on different fronts. This could have been the DAS BOOT of Geramn POW movies except that it strayed from the straight formula. Much like HART'S WAR, THE MCKENZIE BREAK begins as a realistic and straight-forward film about life in a prison camp. The plot then makes an about-face and becomes a chase 'em and shoot 'em up movie.
The story: Captain Jack Connor (Brian Keith) is a British officer with little future in the army. His combative personality, heavy drinking, and general rule-breaking attitude have all but led to his being ushered out of the service. Fortunately for Connor his superiors have decided that his rough personality is just the cure for a troublesome POW camp in Scotland. The captive Germans, led by U-Boat Kapitan-Leutnant Schleutter, have thwarted almost every attempt to bring discipline into the compound.
In dealing with Connor, Schleutter has met his match. However, Schleutter has more on his mind than activities within the compound. The U-Boat commander is a fanatic who assembles a mass escape for members of the Kriegsmarine. Fearful that his plot will be betrayed by his Luftwaffe comrades, Schleutter murders a Luftwaffe officer and sabotages a Luftwaffe prison barracks to cover his escape.
Schleutter and the escapees are aided by sympathetic locals and escorted to the coast where they paddle out to meet a U-Boat. En route the escapees, armed with Sterling submachine guns, shoot it out against an unarmed spotter aircraft.
The U-Boat men escape is based on an actual plan devised by the German high commmand to encourage mass escapes by German POWs in France, Britain, Canada, and the USA just prior to the 1944 Battle of the Bulge. Unfortunately MCKENZIE BREAK becomes a sensational VON RYAN'S EXPRESS wanna-be. Once the Germans are out of the camp the remainder of the screenplay relies on hopes that audiences will not ponder too many questions. The support by the sympathetic locals is never explained. Not only did this group provide trucks for the escape, they also armed the Germans with submachine guns. We also find poor Captain Connor limited to chasing after the Germans in a solitary unarmed spotter plane. Where was the RAF while all this was happening? Apparently all the coast watchers went home on this particular day. Eventually one Royal Navy subchaser forces the rescuing U-Boat to dive and leave Kapital-Leutnant Schleutter behind. All in all a poor showing that late in the war.
Yes this is a good movie, but would be even better if the phony armed escape plot was removed from the film."
Steven Hellerstedt | 07/01/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There's a riot going on in Scotland during the waning years of World War II. The German prisoners in an Allied POW camp are laying siege to the compound and the War Office is getting a little frustrated and more than a little worried. To investigate and quell the situation they decide to send the hard-living, hard-loving, rule-breaking Irish Captain Jack Connor to the scene. Brian Keith plays Connor in this odd POW drama that more or less turns the genre on its head. The inmates, led by U-boat commander Kapitänleutnant Willi Schlüter (Helmut Griem), are clearly in charge of the situation (darn those Geneva Convention rules!) and the Brits are a whisker away from having a Major Situation on their hands. Enter Jack Connor, a man not only with a plan but enough insight to perhaps do more for the war effort than bring order and discipline to an isolated prison camp. You see, this is a POW movie, so there are tunnels being dug and breaks being plotted. And there's a big, iron fish to land at the end of that break. If only.... I'm a big fan of Brian Keith and, having watched and loved the first season dvd-set of `Have Gun, Will Travel,' most episodes of which were directed by Lamont Johnson, I was pretty excited about THE MCKENZIE BREAK. Keith is fine in this - as is Griem as his major nemesis, I hasten to add - and Johnson ably handles the action. I wanted to love a movie that turns a genre inside-out, but I ended up only liking it. I thought it something a little more than improbable that the Allies would be so delicate about Geneva Convention rules that they would so lose control of a prison camp. That was the big improbability hurdle I had to overcome, although this movie is studded with them. Add to that a rather ambiguous and inconclusive ending and I can't help feeling disappointed. Considering the talent involved, this one should have soared. As it is, THE MCKENZIE BREAK is a solid, albeit unspectacular, movie. "