The jump and the fence....

click on image....

Sturges and McQueen on location in southern Bavaria. Filming took place around the town of Fussen, with the Swiss border more than 100 kilometres away in reality.


The 'jump' and the 'fence' scenes were located in the hills around Pfronten.

More specifically in the Benken area in a field, alongside the small road between Rossmoos and Benken, with the Alps in the background.

It's a case of trying to match up stills from the scene with the landscape.

The heavy Triumph TR6 Trophy Birds were dressed up to look like BMW World War II bikes.

Josef is the present owner of the iconic 'jump' field....
Shooting at the "fence"

(McQueen would often relax by riding the bike up and down the 'jump' field...)

These two photographs are linked by the embankment....
In the distance is the embankment where Steve McQueen would have lunch while the filming and scene was arranged by the crew and Robert Reylea (who is seen below obtaining something from a box)
Credit: Marie Fotini...
McQueen enters the 'jump' field and this hut is where "The Stool is the craze" lives....
"In dividing up the post-escape work, I got most of the motorcycle chase, which meant moving my two Volkswagen buses into the hills around Fussen near the Austrian border. The sequences featured McQueen and his motorcycle pal from the States, Bud Ekins, choreographing and performing the bulk of the riding. Steve was an accomplished rider, which served him well because it wasn't easy handling the unusually heavy Triumph TR6 Trophy Birds, which were dressed up to look like BMW World War II bikes." (Not So Quiet On The Set p.188)
"McQueen's last day on the picture was the day we shot the jump sequence: Hilts attempts to gain his freedom by propelling his motorcycle over the barbed wire fences lining the Swiss border. The jump covered a spread of hillside that ran about sixty-five feet from start to finish, with the bike clearing twelve feet in the air at its highest point. Bud Ekins was the first to make the jump in rehearsals. Despite insurance restrictions prohibiting McQueen from attempting dangerous stunts, Steve jumped it next - just to show everyone he could. Both Ekins and McQueen appear in the shots leading up to the jump where Hilts races back and forth gauging the terrain, and it's Ekins who lays the motorcycle down into the wire when Hilts is captured." (p.189)
"Who makes the actual jump that appears in the film? Everyone involved seems to have their own version of what happened and which rider made the final cut. An Australian rider who McQueen and Elkins knew from the European motocross circuit also performed the jump. The guy just happened to be in Germany and was visiting Steve and Bud on location. In the spirit of everyone pitching in, we put him in costume and had him jump the fence. So we had three riders - McQueen, Ekins and the Australian - captured on film making the jump. My bet would be that Ekins' jump is in the final film - but, in truth, I'm not sure it wasn't an anonymous rider from Australia who is in the final cut performing one of the most memorable stunts in motion picture history." (pp.189-190)

Tim Gibbes was a german soldier in the film...

With the Germans closing in, Hilts tries to use a dip in the terrain as a ramp to jump the fence.
After heroically landing the first jump, Hilts turns around to attempt to jump the second part of the fence, only for a blast of machine gun fire to force him to crash into the barbed wire and for him to be recaptured.

(Photograph shows James Coburn talking to a friend with John Sturges talking to a German soldier)

The following series of photographs show the actual field used for the 'jump' and the 'fence' scenes in The Great Escape film. The jump covered a spread of hillside that ran about sixty-five feet from start to finish, with the bike clearing twelve feet in the air at its highest point.
The 'dip' area where the bike took off and nearby the part of the field where Steve McQueen crashed into the fence.... The small hamlet near where the bike crashed into the fence....

The photographs below is the field to the right of the above field.



When Steve McQueen crashes into the barbed wire, Oberkirch is the town seen in the background.

Bud Ekins....stuntman

Two feet, four, six . . . 7ft off the ground. After repeated nervous, muddy attempts, Bud Ekins, a motorcycle stunt rider, coaxed the old Triumph into the air, flew over the strands of fake barbed wire and into the history books. The sequence helped make The Great Escape a cinema classic and turn Steve McQueen into an international star. It also made Ekins, who doubled as McQueen, a legend among fellow riders.

In stunt-riding circles, the jump is still regarded as one of the most technically skilled, and controversial, performed for the big screen. Controversial because Ekins later claimed it was done on a standard, factory-built Triumph. Some film historians say such a jump could not have been accomplished except by special effects or on a highly modified machine.

In the film, Virgil Hilts, the Cooler King, played by McQueen, is fleeing from the Germans and trying to escape to Switzerland. He seizes a military motorbike and a high-speed chase ensues through the rolling fields near the Swiss border. Though McQueen did much of his own stunt riding, the jump was deemed too risky by the film studio’s insurers and McQueen nominated Ekins, a friend who ran a motorcycle repair shop in California, to do it.

The scene required propelling the heavy bike high enough to get it over the first of two fences that film crews had built to resemble the border.

For its day, it was a daring feat, no less so for the fact that the barbed wire was actually little strips of rubber tied around normal wire, made by the cast and crew in their free time. Even that concession to safety was not out of concern for Ekins, but because the script required McQueen to become entangled in the wire before surrendering.

The Great Escape chase continues (5:10)

A new house and road to BENKEN cut through here.


Bud's wife, Betty Ekins was on location the day of the jump, where she took a cine-film of the two friends during make-up before the scene. She filmed the transformation of Bud, a six-foot-four dark-haired man, into a five-foot-ten blonde. They did this with the use of masking tape around Bud's forehead, ears and neck- before using automotive paint in an aerosol can to spray his head gold. Makeup has come a long way...

One day the Ekins family may release this film of the guys laughing and behaving badly. Betty also managed to shoot the jump from another angle, that shows Bud coming towards the camera- and you can see how high he really jumps! Not an easy feat with only two inches of suspension and a combined bike and rider weight in excess of 600 lbs. 

Steve could have done it himself," said Bob Hoy, a stuntman friend of Ekins. "He did the lead-up to it, but Bud did the jump. It was a tough jump. You can only do that kind of thing once; you either make it or you don't make it." Susan Ekins, the stuntman's daughter and an executive film producer, said her father was "very proud" of the spectacular jump, shot on location in Germany. She said her father and McQueen dug out a ramp in the soil and practised jumping the motorcycle over a rope to see if it could clear the fence."

Steve was a capable rider, but they wouldn't let a star do a jump of that nature because they couldn't afford to have him hurt," she said.


(Bud & Betty Ekins, Steve McQueen and James Garner)

After the film was released, Ekins kept quiet about the jump. His silence helped perpetuate the widely held belief at the time that it was McQueen who had cleared the fence and not a stunt double, though McQueen never made this claim. Before his death in 2007, Ekins recounted the experience in a rare interview. “When I was in the air it was dead silent,” he said. “It was hard. It just went bang, then it bounced. I made it on the first pass. I filmed it. That was that.”
Ekins later admitted numerous practice attempts had failed. “The effects man put a piece of string across at all these different heights,” he recalled. “The first time, I’d take a run at it and jump maybe 2ft off the ground. Then we would take a shovel and dig this natural ramp, changing the angles on it.”


(This is the original 1962 Triumph that Bud Ekins used for the jump scene in The Great Escape)


Both Ekins and McQueen appear in the shots leading up to the jump where Hilts races back and forth gauging the terrain, and it's Ekins who lays the motorcycle down into the wire when Hilts is captured.

The 'fence' appears closer to the buildings in the background and may well have been a different location to where the bike was laid down.

Hilts attempts to jump the barbed wire Swiss-German border fence with a stolen Wehrmacht motorcycle, but his petrol tank is hit and he becomes entangled in the wire.

The Great Escape scene (6:20)
The video above details the route taken by McQueen from where he obtains the German bike and to the crash scene into the fence:

1. Wire tied to two roadside posts with Hopfen am See in the distance.

2. Rides towards Hopfen am See with the lake on the left.

3. Mouths 'Switzerland' with the lake now on the right and Hopfen am See in the distance.

3. Weissbach junction where McQueen kicks a German soldier in the stomach.

4. Rides off into the back streets of Weissbach and up through a hillside.

5. Arrives at a hut with Zell in the background and Pftonten-Berg on the other side of the hut.

6. SchieBstandingweg has a minor road where the 'poster' photograph was taken and a hut is passed with a swastika painted on it with Pftonten-Berg church is in the background.

7. Rides up steep hill and passes a hut with Pftonten-Berg in the background.

8. Germans on motorbikes are on the next tier down from the hut with Pftonten-Berg again in the background.

9. McQueen rides up a hill with a large mountain in the background with Weissbach to the right and Pftonten-Berg to the left.

10. Finally sweeps into the Benken area where the field and the fence await to be crashed into.......


Chad McQueen arrived at the 'jump scene' four weeks ago with a friend explained Josef on Thursday, 8th August 2013 to Kevin Payne


This scene starts at the roundabout near Pfronten-Berg

Seventy-six men got out that night. Only three made it out of Nazi occupied territory to freedom. By Hitler's orders, fifty were rounded up by the Gestapo and executed..........


In The Great Escape film, the German lorries carrying  the escaped prisoners, reach a 'mini' roundabout and each of the lorries peel away in different directions. A religious cross can be seen at the road side.

The following photographs are at the 'new' roundabout where the roads lead off to Pfronten- Berg and another road leads off to Weissbech. The road which has the cross on it leads down towards Zell and as you drive down this road the 'hut' scene is on your right immediately next to a tall electricity pylon.........

As the fifty escape prisoners walk across the darkened hill side, Pfronten-Berg's St.Nikolaus Church can be seen silhouetted in the distance.





'Stooling' is the craze