Now let me explain why I’m watching a film that is some 28 years old. As I suspect is true of most parents, I’m living vicariously through my children. From visiting lower league football grounds to watching old films unwatched in decades, I’m using the fact that I have a 12-year old son as an excuse for some fairly juvenile behaviour. I am in that halcyon window between the kids being too young to appreciate anything I show them and that teenage period where I will be too embarrassing to be seen with.
So it was that Escape to Victory went on the DVD last night during an expected evening where only the men of the house had access to the remote. It is the story of a football match between allied POWs and a German army team, the latter seeing a propaganda opportunity and the former a means of escape as the game assumes ever greater significance for both sides.
I’m not expecting Citizen Kane here, but I’d forgotten just how bad the film is. Caine is wooden at the best of times, but he really stinks here. The climax, as the players refuse an easy escape in favour of trying to overturn a 4-1 half time deficit, is so ridiculous it undermines any entertainment on offer. You know things are not as they should be when Sylvester Stallone steals the movie as the American football player drafted in as goalkeeper at the last minute. Perhaps his generally ham acting doesn’t show quite so much amidst the work of late-70s footie stars. Having said all that, the crowd’s rendition of La Marseillaise is quite uplifting and Pele’s overhead kick is rather splendid (clearly the director thinks so too, as we are treated to slow-mos from all angles).
So, how many football stars of the time can you spot as the film progresses? A disproportionate number were Ipswich Town players at the time, the club allegedly approached by the producers to supply extras. All the players apparently refused until they saw a cast-list that included Bobby Moore and Pele, after that they were falling over themselves. Which is, coincidentally, what they spent most of the film doing too.