John Sturges’s “The Great Escape” is easily one of my favorite action movies of all time, and one of my top five McQueen pictures (“The Getaway” takes the number one prize). It’s legacy and influence on pop culture and action cinema as a whole has been lasting, with John Sturges presenting a slew of brilliant actors at the top of their games in what is a very intriguing tale about escaping Nazi clutches, and fighting for freedom. “The Coolest Guy Movie Ever” is a fine and entertaining historical documentary for anyone that fancies themselves a fan of the movie. It’s exhaustive, meticulous in its detail, and we even get some candid stories about the cast.
The 1971 feature Le Mans is mostly notable as the rare commercial flop during the height of Steve McQueen’s box office reign. Gabriel Clark and John McKenna’s documentary on the making of Le Mans offers an intriguing look at why the film failed, with most blame going on the star.
John Sturges’ “The Magnificent Seven” is such a pitch perfect example of how to accomplish a remake. And Sturges has his work cut out for him as “The Magnificent Seven” is a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai.” Kurosawa’s film was already considered a classic by 1960, and was a juggernaut of foreign cinema that influenced filmmakers and studios worldwide. Even today its influence over cinema is immense. So it’s no small feat that “The Magnificent Seven” is just as good as the original and can stand side by side with it as another version of the tale that is as compelling and action packed. In fact Kurosawa loved it so much he allegedly sent Sturges a ceremonial sword as a bid a token of approval for his version.
From Mill Creek comes the complete collection of the Steve McQueen star making television series “Wanted: Dead or Alive.” Easily one of my favorite Western action series of all time, Steve McQueen plays the complex and often swift anti-hero and bounty hunter Josh Randall. Brandishing his trademark sawed off shotgun named “The Mare’s Leg,” Randall travels across the country capturing his latest bounties and being forced to often travel alongside them.
“The Great Escape” is mostly known these days for the iconic imagery of Steve McQueen riding his motorbike trying to escape the clutches of German soldiers. As a hardcore McQueen fan, I am all for giving him his due, but “The Great Escape” offers so much more than McQueen on a motorbike telling Nazis to fuck off as he desperately attempts escaping their forces. “The Great Escape” is a classic man film about a group of soldiers bonding to escape their prison, and garners an immense cast of acting heavyweights.
It’s well documented that Steve McQueen sported a hefty resentment toward Paul Newman and viewed him as a rival until the day he died. Though McQueen was known for being petty and resentful toward anyone who challenged his position as an actor, McQueen mostly aimed for Paul Newman. Naturally, since Newman was known for his iconic role as Fast Eddie Felson, a pool hustler battling against the one and only Jackie Gleason, a pool master named Minnesota Fats, McQueen followed up with his own version of the film, except with poker, and upped the ante by going up against Edward G. Robinson.
“The Getaway” was the film that turned me on to McQueen and introduced me to a new form of coolness, McQueen, who was a bad-ass as an action star as much he was an actor. Steve McQueen is just about larger than life in anything he was in, and with “The Getaway” he manages to elevate himself above the crime thriller, and helps Ali McGraw become his ultimate assailant in crime.
“I think if I wasn’t acting, I’d be a street hood.”
Everyone has their Steve McQueen. It’s a prevailing theme throughout the world of movie fandom, be you a man or woman, that everyone has their action icon upon which they find comfort in. It’s a common fact that there’s someone for every movie fan, and it gets weird on many occasions (Van Damne, Vin Diesel, Ben Affleck, Casper Van Dien).
My uncle loves Clint Eastwood, my brother loves Jet Li, and my dad loves Sonny Chiba. Oddly enough, everyone has their story upon which they remember first being obsessed or intrigued by said action star.
For me, there’s Steve McQueen, and I’m not overstepping my bounds in declaring that there’s never been anyone cooler than Steve McQueen. Hey, Eastwood is great, Bronson is nice, and I’m sure Chiba is incredible, and sure, you can debate that Eastwood and Bronson were better actors, and even more important to the film world, but there’s never been anyone cooler.
It’s just fact. Case closed. And you’d better not tell me otherwise.