Great adventure, great entertainment with ‘The Great Escape’

Besides being an exciting and inspiring movie based on a real event, “The Great Escape” stars some of the coolest actors of the 1960s. Leading the pack was Mr. Cool himself, Steve McQueen. He was an outstanding actor and a great romantic lead; he was cool. Everyone knew it and everyone agreed. I would be interested in knowing what the younger generation thinks about Mr. McQueen after seeing this picture. Also starring as the charming scrounger, James Garner brings the same style and sense of humor as he did in his classic television roles as Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford. Finally, there was the tough guy, Charles Bronson in one of his most vulnerable roles of his acting career as the tunnel digger with claustrophobia. The mastermind of the escape is played by Richard Attenborough, most recently known for his role in the Jurassic Park trilogy. Donald Pleasant, widely remembered as the psychiatrist in the Friday the 13th films and as the villain in many other films, plays the forger who is responsible for the necessary papers. In the process he goes blind and must be escorted on the escape.

The plot of the movie is quite simple although the details of the plot are intriguing. The “great escape” revolved around a group of World War II Allied soldiers who decided to plan an escape from an “escape-proof” camp. What makes this escape is that the men attempted to break out hundreds of their fellow prisoners, not just one or two as was the custom. The plot was later somewhat adapted as the television comedy Hogan’s Heroes. The movie centers around the various aspects of the escape: forging the papers, making costumes for the hundreds of escapees and, finally, digging not one but two different tunnels under the camp and into the neighboring forest. Some of the most thrill-filled scenes center on the main characters using boats, trains and motorcycles to sneak out of Germany.

This weekend, see the big adventure on the big screen. Watch a huge movie that doesn’t depend on CSI special effects, aliens or high-tech weapons. This is a great movie from the creative mind and talents of director John Sturges. For a great weekend, check out “The Great Escape” this weekend at the Orpheum.

Show times are 7 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Visit the theater for tours and check out the gallery and exhibit hall which features Iowa stage and film memorabilia and information. Call the Orpheum Theater Center movie hotline at 641-844-5907 or visit

Tom LaVille is a retired Marshalltown drama and literature teacher. LaVille’s Critic’s Corner column appears Friday in the Times-Republican.