Neshaminy grad brings you ‘The Coolest Guy Movie Ever’

by June Portnoy

Guys, are you ready to watch the “The Coolest Guy Movie Ever”?

If so, you’re in luck because this “cool guy” movie, a forensic documentary about the making of the classic World War II adventure film, “The Great Escape,” is now available on DVD and digital HD.

Virgil Films & Entertainment acquired this movie for your viewing enjoyment, enabling you to revisit the set of “The Great Escape.”

This documentary takes you to all the locations in Germany where the 1963 film was made, while offering you unknown facts, behind-the-scenes stories and inside information about how the film was produced.

Joe Amodei, founder of Virgil Films & Entertainment, is a Langhorne resident and a Neshaminy High School graduate.

He readily admits to being a “film geek” since he was young, routinely patronizing the two movie theaters in walking distance from his home.

Joe entered the entertainment industry in the early 1980s working at Video Village, one of the first video stores in the Philadelphia area. Later he worked for Turner Films, ultimately moving up in rank to the VP of Sales.

He then worked at USA Films as President of the USA Home and Entertainment Division.

In 2003, Joe and two partners started their own film distribution company in New York.

They had the fortune of acquiring “Super Size Me,” a documentary about a man who eats nothing but McDonald’s food for 30 days. “This critically acclaimed documentary put our company on the map,” described Joe.

In 2008, Joe acquired this company, naming it Virgil Films & Entertainment.

Why Virgil, you might ask?

Easy answer for you guys who are fans of “The Great Escape,” since Steve McQueen’s character in this movie was USAAF Captain Virgil Hilts.

Yes, Joe named his company after this iconic character, so it came as no surprise that when Chris Espenan, filmmaker of “The Coolest Guy Movie,” approached Joe to distribute and executive produce this film, Joe eagerly accepted the offer.

Joe brought in fellow Bucks County friend, Mike Meister of Wrightstown, to co-executive produce the film with him.

Mike helped finance the completion of the documentary and also financed the special screening of the film earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival.

If you’re an avid fan of “The Great Escape” you’ll immediately recognize the Bavarian town of Fussen in the documentary where much of this legendary film was shot.

The film goes to great lengths to retrace the steps of this production, including a visit to the lodge in Fussen where actors Steve McQueen, James Garner, and Charles Bronson stayed for about six weeks while production was taking place.

In the documentary the lodge owner’s son, who was in college at the time of the film, recounts vivid memories of the production.

According to Joe, this man verified that Steve McQueen was just as cool in real life as in the movies.

Joe also spoke about the famous scene in which McQueen’s character jumped a fence on his motorcycle.

This scene took place on a farm in Bavaria, and the owner of the farm still resides there.

Although the owner only speaks German, a translator explained in English the owner’s memories of that scene, as owner points to the exact spot where they built the fence.

Other people who were present for that scene were also interviewed to capture their memories on film.

In another scene from “The Great Escape,” a British character played by Gordon Jackson tries to escape by running away, but he ends up colliding into a man riding a bicycle.

While showing this scene on a big screen at the exact location where it took place, a man yelled out, ”That’s my father on that bike.” Apparently during filming, the man’s father had been chosen to ride that bike.

“This is precisely the kind of unique information you could only get by returning to the original location where this film was shot,” explained Joe.

During the documentary footage of the actual film is interspersed with current footage taken for the documentary

Yet another highlight is an interview conducted with McQueen on the set of “The Great Escape” for German television that has never been seen in this country.

The interview includes McQueen doing tricks on his motorcycle.

When asked why the documentary is called “The Coolest Guy Movie Ever,” Joe responded, “When guys are flicking the TV remote and ‘The Great Escape’ appears on the screen, the majority of them will stop to watch it even if they have seen it 15 times before. Unlike females who are typically satisfied seeing it once, guys tend to watch this film whenever it appears on TV.

“’The Great Escape’” was clearly a guy movie, and therefore, who better to watch a documentary about the production of this movie than a guy?”

So guys, get ready for “The Coolest Guy Movie Ever.”

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PHOTO CAP: Joe Amodei (right) and Mike Meister