DVD Review: The Coolest Guy Movie Ever

STUDIO: Virgil | DIRECTOR: Chistophe Espanen
RELEASE DATE: Aug. 21, 2018 | PRICE: DVD $14.90
SPECS: NR | 57 min. | Documentary | stereo

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video  | Overall

There’s little doubt that the 1963 war adventure The Great Escape is one of the most testosterone-fueled films of all time. With a cast that includes Steve McQueen, James Garner, James Coburn and Charles Bronson how could it not be? Directed by John Sturges of The Magnificent Seven and Gunfight at the OK Corral fame, the movie has been a perennial guy classic since its release in 1963, and now The Coolest Guy Movie Ever pays tribute to it in a style that fans will likely appreciate.

Here, director Chris Espanen, himself obviously a huge fan, visits the setting of The Great Escape’s studio shoot in Munich and location filming near a quaint Bavarian village in the summer of 196t2.  The filmmaker checks out the spots where the movie’s iconic scenes were shot and talks to locals who recall the shooting more than a half-century ago. Of course, some of the people interviewed were mere tykes at the time, but their recollections are vivid as is their recounting of events told to them by their parents and neighbors.

Richard Attenborough and Steve McQueen in a scene from 1963’s The Great Escape.

Interspersed with modern-day footage are photos, film clips and archival behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the picture which make for engaging surveys of the contemporary locations and how they looked all those years ago. Adding to the fascination factor are stories from some of the people involved in the film’s stunts, which showcased the famous Steve McQueen motorcycle stunt in which McQueen, as Virgil “The Cooler King” Hilts, jumps a Triumph TRG (disguised as a BMW R75) over a six-foot barbed wire fence as he flees the encroaching Nazi troops following the titular P.O.W. breakout.

The secrets behind that iconic sequence are fascinating and they set the records straight on some of the fictional stories that have swirled around the film since its release. What solidifies their truth are testimonials from key stuntmen, including Bud Etkins, McQueen’s handpicked master of motion tricks, who also worked on Bullitt, featuring the star’s hair-raising Mustang chase across the hills of San Francisco.

Some of the more humorous parts of The Coolest Guy Movie Ever, which is narrated by original cast member Lawrence Montaigne (who passed away in 2017), derive from the stories about the cast. There’s a loving memory of McQueen befriending a kid during the filming, impressing him with his Ferrari, and mentions of how the notoriously craggy Charles Bronson remained anti-social throughout the shoot. Others who recall the experience speak of the warmth of Coburn, Garner, Richard Attenborough and the other cast members.

Serious Steve-o-philes and “Great Escapees” may be interested in adding this collectible title to their collection, as it offers a nifty supplement to the ultimate macho movie’s legacy.

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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.