Sunday, July 5, 2015

New Addition: The Beautiful Game on Celluloid, Part one

A new addition about Soccer related films
Spoiler Alert: I assume most people have already seen these films, as a result I discuss the plot as much as I can. I will not try to go into every detail but generalize as much as possible.

Film:   Escape to Victory (1981)
The problem with Soccer related movies (or any sport for that matter) is that they are cliché ridden. The last second goal, overturning a seemingly lost deficit, the unsung hero who makes the crucial play, etc..
‘Escape To Victory’ (titled ‘Victory’ in USA) has some of those elements.
The movie was directed by legendary Hollywood director John Huston and filmed on location in Budapest, Hungary.

Photo From: Mondial, new series, issue 19, October 1981
(Pele and John Huston)

The stars of the film are Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine and Max Von Sydow.
It also includes then current and recently retired players such as Pele, Bobby Moore, Osvaldo Ardiles, John Wark, Paul van Himst and Kazimierz Deyna.
The film is set during World War II in a German Prison Camp for Allied Prisoners of War.
Max von Sydow plays a German Officer and Soccer fan, who recognizes Michael Caine’s character, who was a former English Professional.
He organizes a match between the Germans and the prisoners that his superiors want to use as a propaganda tool.
John Colby (Michael Caine) acts as the Player Manager of the Allies.
The most talented player of the team is naturally Pele, who plays a Trinidad and Tobago National.

Photo From: Mondial, new series, issue 19, October 1981
(Pele in the POW camp)

Stallone is an American POW (Robert Hatch) who has been in contact with the French Resistance to plan an escape attempt for the team. Though he has no experience in playing soccer, he convinces the manager to be in the team as his presence is crucial for the escape. As a result he becomes the team’s goalkeeper.
The French resistance are planning to tunnel to the players locker room to help them escape during the halftime of the match with the Germans.
Onto the big match at Paris’ Stade Colombes, predictably the Germans with the complicity of the referee built up a 4-1 halftime lead and clobber Pele’s character (shades of Portugal 1966).

Photo From: Onze, Issue 57, September 1980
(Pele during the match with the Germans)

At halftime, the Resistance has tunneled in and are ready to rescue the players. However, the players want to remain and win the match. They try to convince Hatch (Stallone), who is the most reluctant. Naturally, he comes back and plays the second half along with the rest of the team.
The Allies reduce the deficit and tie up the match with the most dramatic scene of the film (or the most predictable/unbelievable, your preference), when Pele with a scissor kick ties up the match (shown in slow motion and different angles).
At this moment, Max Von Sydow’s character refuses to follow the party line and in admiration stands up and claps.
The stage is set for the final dramatic act, when the Germans are awarded a penalty kick (naturally awarded under dubious circumstances).
Hatch (Stallone) saves the penalty kick (big surprise) with the entire stadium singing ‘La Marseillaise’.

Photo From: Onze, Issue 57, September 1980
(Sylvester Stallone after the crucial penalty kick save)

At this point the fans rush onto the field and hide the players and usher them to safety and THE END.
This was the first movie I saw as a full fledged soccer fan and as a ten year old, I was dazzled at seeing all those big name players as actors in a movie.
However, the adult in me would have frowned upon the utter lack of any surprise. 

Photo From: Onze, Issue 57, September 1980
(The Allies team with John Huston)

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