Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB. USA, 1981. Lorimar Film Entertainment, Victory Company, New Gold Entertainment. Story by Yabo Yablonsky, Djordje Milicevic, Jeff Maguire, Screenplay by Evan Jones, Yabo Yablonsky. Cinematography by Gerry Fisher. Produced by Freddie Fields. Music by Bill Conti. Production Design by J. Dennis Washington. Costume Design by Tom Bronson. Film Editing by Roberto Silvi.
A year after this film’s release, Sylvester Stallone would win the Vietnam War single-handedly with a machine gun, but did you know that before this he settled World War II with a soccer game? That’s the strange set-up to this dull adventure by John Huston, one that lacks the thrills of The Great Escape or Soldier Of Orange but also isn’t self-consciously ridiculous enough to be the conclusion of MASH. Stallone is an American soldier imprisoned with British POWs in a German camp (because he enlisted in Canada), whose commandant (Max von Sydow) strikes up a bargain with fellow inmate and former soccer coach Michael Caine to pit their best German players against his own fine athletes. Caine agrees to the match provided that his team has access to better living conditions than they have already been used to, while his fellow prisoners discover that this is the perfect opportunity to stage an escape concurrent with the game. When they get to the big match, which does have some exciting moments and great footage of its professional athlete cast members doing their finest work (including Pelé and his marvelous bicycle kick), their opportunities for self-preservation are pitted, quite ridiculously, against their desire to be heroes for a depressed population. It would be a lot more moving if its vision of the era wasn’t somewhere on par with Hogan’s Heroes, not to mention a cast of good actors playing dull roles and the barely visible direction by Huston.