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The Ten Percent: The Great Escape (1963)


Original poster for The Great Escape, 1963.

“Ninety percent of everything is crud.” – Theodore Sturgeon

Welcome back to “The Ten Percent,” a regular column where every other week K. Dale Koontz and I take a look at the inverse of Sturgeon’s Law; in other words, the small portion of everything which is not crud. So many films premiere each year, but only a very few are remembered and revered years later. That’s not a matter of genre – the Ten Percent is a big tent, with plenty of room for comedy, drama, horror, animation, musical, science fiction and many more. But admission into the tent is not easy to come by. Films in this category last because they are high quality productions which demand more of their viewer than simple passive reception.

Before I talk about why 1963’s The Great Escape belongs in the Ten Percent, it’s worth taking the time to point out the film’s flaws. First, neither bicycles nor motorcycles were used in the 1943 escape from Stalag Luft III. Second, the “Great Escape” of 76 Allied POWs took place in unseasonably cold weather during one of the worst winters seen in Eastern Poland in 30 years. Third, there were no Americans among the escapees who were mostly British and Canadian. Finally, there was never any regulation which stated that Allied prisoners were duty-bound to attempt to escape. In fact, many, perhaps most, American and British POWs were generally leery of escape attempts.

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By the Book: The Magnificent Seven


John Sturges’ 1960 western The Magnificent Seven is considered to be a masterpiece. The movie, based on Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai,  is one of the American Film Institutes top 100 films, and was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry. It spawned three forgettable sequels (Return of the Seven [1966], Guns of the Magnificent Seven [1969], and The Magnificent Seven Ride [1972]), and a television series (1998-2000),  but its trope featuring a bunch of ragtag malcontents has been copied hundreds of times, everywhere from Sam Pekinpah’s The Wild Bunch to this summer’s Suicide Squad.  After 56 years, it finally got its big Hollywood remake.  How did it hold up nearly six decades later?  Find out after the break (and spoilers, of course).

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Action Heroes: Too Old to Rock and Roll?

old1As I write this, Black Sabbath has just announced a new album and tour. David Bowie has released a new single after more than a few years in isolated retirement. The Who, the Rolling Stones, and even Paul McCartney are still out there rocking. It’s obvious that you can never be too old to rock and roll, but we’ll find out if the same is true of action heroes, after the jump.

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