Earlier today we saw a fairly shocking image over at Sideburn Magazine. Did they really have the gal to imagine up a zombiefied version of Harvey Mushman? Heresy? A biting comment on the commercialization of a dead icon? An upcoming Gene Romero/Bruce Brown collab? Turns out it’s anything but. Gary Inman brings us the true story. — Ed.
“The Great Escape”, seems to end with a more grim and definitive full-stop. Captain Hiltz has escaped the POW camp, stolen a bike and found his way to the Swiss border. All that’s between him and safety is a double-row of 10ft tall pine-trunk and barbed wire fences, but Hitler’s infantry are on his tail. Hiltz guns his stolen outrider’s bike, hits a natural whoop and clears the first fence. He doesn’t have the run-up or time to jump the next fence, and skids into fence. The escape is over. It seems. Bloodied and tangled in German barbed wire, the American captain lies on the ground, cocked on a bruised elbow, the enemy point their MP40 machine guns, knuckles turning white as they grip the straight magazines.
What people, outside of director John Sturges’ close circle of confidantes, don’t know was always an alternative ending. See, Hiltz was a product of the American military’s secret testing programme. He’s been injected with various isotopes, before being exposed to levels of radiation that would kill any normal soldier. He was actually close to invincible.
While the German conscripts walked towards their unarmed enemy, Hiltz was just catching his breath, girding his loins, measuring his angles and preparing a plan. One of the soldiers pulls Hiltz out of the fence while three stormtroopers cover the injured man. Once freed from the wire, Hiltz springs on the first Nazi and rips out his jugular vein with his teeth then charges the stunned guards using the still warm corpse as a shield. Too shocked to shoot straight, the remaining guards are easily over-powered and gleefully dismembered or run for their lives.
Desperate for protein, Hiltz sucks a pint of fresh O-neg from one of the dead Germans. He yanks the still-hot bike from the under the barricade, kicks the steel handlebars straight and then picks up another dismembered cadaver before crudely tying it to his bike’s drab green petrol tank. Finally, he checks the pockets of the dead enemy for money, stashes a Luger down the back of his trousers, kickstarts the bike and rides a long lazy arc around the hillside before hitting the yump a good 15mph faster. This time he clears fence two. Next stop, the best whorehouse in Geneva, before being smuggled to his handlers who have flown from Washington to London. For his next mission, Hiltz was sent to Rome to punch Mussolini right in the nuts.
But, as you are all aware, the film studio and producers thought they knew better. Morons.