Sporting film of the day

From robo-heavyweights to angry ice-skaters, sports movies occupy a peculiar and often frankly unwatchable place in the annals of Hollywood history. Amid global lockdown, the PA news agency runs a daily rule over some of the films that might provide that much-needed sporting fix – and those that absolutely shouldn’t.

ESCAPE TO VICTORY (1981)

Summary

Sylvester Stallone
Forget Rocky and Rambo. Sylvester Stallone was a goalkeeping great (Ian West/PA Archive)

There is simply nowhere else to start than this much-repeated movie about a bunch of allied POWs who seek to play their way out of captivity. Eyeing a propaganda coup, the Germans are only too happy to put winning the war to one side for a moment and polish off their pesky opponents. Unfortunately for the Germans, they fail to realise that the allied team has an improbable galaxy of global football stars at their disposal. Oh, and Sylvester Stallone, who demands to play in goal. The rest, as they say, is highly predictable.

Cast

John Wark
John Wark was one of many Ipswich players to star in the film (PA Archive)

Released in 1981, ‘Escape To Victory’ coincided with Ipswich’s improbable ascent to the top of the European game, thus a number of Portman Road greats appear in the movie, including John Wark, Russell Osman and Kevin O’Callaghan. The stellar football cast also includes Bobby Moore, Ossie Ardiles, Mike Summerbee and even a brief appearance from Pele. First-time watchers can spend their time star-spotting and conveniently forget about the preposterous plot.

Did you know?

Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo would be ideal for a remake (Mike Egerton/PA)

Frequent remakes of ‘Escape To Victory’ have been mooted, with the most recent, in 2019, suggesting Jaume Collet-Serra is set to direct. Which of course begs the intriguing question of which current stars would sign up to be part of the essential all-star cast: Charlie Adam as Captain John Colby? Cristiano Ronaldo as Ardiles’ character, Carlos Rey?

Review

Pele
Pele also featured in ‘Escape To Victory’ (PA Archive)

For years, groans would greet the film’s annual appearance on the festive TV schedules, and ‘Escape To Victory’ briefly became as big a part of Christmas unpalatability as inviting round the mother-in-law. But then a strange thing happened, and as the film entered its vintage era, so recognition increased, to the point today where it is seen as somewhat of a so-bad-it’s-good classic of the sports film genre. It’s the heady blend of preposterousness and unlikely star quality that makes ‘Escape To Victory’ a must-watch.

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