Monday, October 11, 2021

Movie Music: Elmer Bernstein's "The Great Escape" (1963)

Here I am again to discuss some more awesome movie music with you. Today I'm focusing on an iconic score from one of the best WWII movies ever: The Great Escape (1963).

Of course, it's by the master of exciting, manly movie music from the '60s, namely Elmer Bernstein. He's my absolute favorite movie composer, so you'll be hearing more of his music in this series, have no fear.

If you've never seen The Great Escape, do yourself a favor and go watch it, cuz it's a classic war movie that blends caper films and prison escapes, and stars so many wonderful actors I get a little dizzy thinking of all that talent in one place. Steve McQueen. James Garner. James Coborn. Charles Bronson. Richard Attenborough. David McCallum. Directed by John Sturges! Based on a true story! Like I said, go watch it.

"On the Road" is one of my favorite tracks because it weaves together so many character themes, which means you get a really good taste of the range of this score in one three-minute chunk.  

But my favorite track might be "The Chase" because it starts out exciting, gets a little bright and happy, then pulls out all the excitement and builds tension up and up, really making us feel like someone is sneaking and hiding and racing toward freedom.  

I totally recommend getting the full soundtrack on CD, the version with 3 discs.  It makes for a wonderful background to your day!

(The bulk of this review originally appeared here at J and J Productions on June 15, 2015.)

8 comments:

  1. I have often been energized by Bernstein's music and doubly so this morning with your thoughts behind this magnificent score.

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    1. He really knew how to use music to get your blood pumping, didn't he? So masterful.

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  2. I revisited this incredible score in full the other day after seeing your post pop up. It somewhat surprises me with the levity of the main theme since the film has such a heavy tone. Maybe the director wanted to balance the tone with the music? If would be interesting to hear how they came to the decision! Love this.

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    1. Muse, I think that the optimism and even a bit of whimsy in the main theme is really important because it clues us in to the kind of guys these are. They are not depressed (well, not most of them) and they are not going to give up. They find ways to have fun even in prison, and no one is going to stop them. That's what I get from the main theme, anyway. Jaunty determination.

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    2. Great description! It's been a while since I've seen the film, but your description sets off some ringing bells :)

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    3. Thanks, Muse! Something to keep in mind next time you rewatch the movie, maybe?

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  3. The Great Escape is such a good movie! I couldn't remember the score all that well. I need to rewatch it at some point and pay more attention to it

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    1. Elizabeth, it is marvelous! Definitely worth a rewatch :-)

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