As of last month, The Great Escape is now fifty years old. First released in 1963, John Sturges’ World War II epic depicted the escape of seventy six airmen from the Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp in 1944.

Based loosely on Paul Brickhill’s book, which chronicled the actual happenings at the camp, the film garnered significant critical acclaim and earned three times its budget at the box office, and has since become the quintessential film in the prisoner-of-war genre (which includes other greats such as Stalag 17 and (for part of it at least) The Bridge on the River Kwai).

As the BBC gears up to produce a television dramatisation of the escape, let us have a nostalgic look back at several key elements of the film (which happens to be a favourite of mine, as well as Quentin Tarantino) over the next few pages. Be wary of spoilers, even if the film’s ending (which is described in detail) is common knowledge.

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This article was first posted on August 5, 2013