I’ve lamented the end of summer movie graveyard before. Releases are slow and weekends are long. Thankfully, I live in a town that’s rich with Hollywood culture, and there are lots of little independent theaters and venues that will show classic films. Just as I was thinking that I might have a sadly movie free weekend, I get an email from one such theater. This cute little independent in Santa Monica that I’d been meaning to visit would be showing The Great Escape. This is one of those “movies I should know”. I’d tried watching it once some time back (I think it was when I was making another round thru House and I wanted to familiarize myself with the Steve McQueen that House named his mouse after), but some movies just don’t work at home. I wasn’t focused and couldn’t get into it. As Friday night began approaching, I was worried about the nearly 3 hour run time combined with that previous experience. I was not gonna fall asleep. So I chugged a cold brew on my way out the door. I had the worst headache all thru the movie (this is why I avoid caffeine) but it was absolutely worth it. This ended up being one of the best movie watching experiences I’ve ever had, solely because of the movie itself.
We went straight into the movie, no trailers (although luckily on my way in I noticed their Mad Max poster and will be back there next week for their Max Max triple feature). As each famous name rolled across the screen, the audience erupted in applause. I dug it. An audience who respects the greats (that sure as hell would never happen back home). Other key moments were met with similar adulation as was the ending and end credits. Srsly excited for next week.
Anyways for those of you whose knowlege of film history is unfortunately lacking (hey, that was me a couple days ago), The Great Escape stars Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, Donald Pleasance, James Garner, Charles Bronson among others as Allied prisoners in a German camp during WWII. Each of them has a history of escaping their captivity, so they’re rounded up in a new facility with even more security. Of course they’re all instantly plotting an elaborate plan to escape. Even if they’re not successful, they can at least hope to occupy a large part of the enemy troops who would then be forced to round them up or fortify the camp rather than continue to fight in battle. Win win.
I don’t know what was wrong with my when I’d previously tried to watch this because I was instantly hooked from the first few minutes. This movie is timeless and holds up like it was made yesterday. There’s a great humor throughout the whole thing that’s delicately balanced with the darker events.
But mostly, I loved the characters. They were truly geniuses, showing some incredible ingenuity in their respective responsibilities in the plan. Plus their loyalty to each other and their cause was beautiful. I would love to have spent even more time with them than the short three hours we had together.
And I totally get the Steve McQueen thing. I was cheering for him throughout the whole movie, and immediately when I got home I played my McQueen DVD 4pack back in my watch queue.
Usually when I think about the best movie watching experiences I’ve ever had, it has to do with special circumstances around the film or the screening. This one I would consider among the best simply because the movie was that good, and it was shown in an environment where it was truly respected and appreciated. Don’t be surprised if you suddenly find me chasing down more screenings like this one