Okay, there is ‘Bend It Like Beckham‘, ‘Gregory’s Girl‘ and ‘Mike Basset England Manager‘, but these are hardly in the same league of Classic Sports Movies as John Frankenheimer‘s ‘Grand Prix‘, Martin Scorsese‘s ‘Raging Bull‘ or even Lindsay Anderson‘s ‘This Sporting Life‘.
It has been suggested that football movies can’t deliver “the one-man-battling-the-odds” as it is a team sport; but surely multiple narratives, from ‘Grand Prix‘ to more recently the social drama ‘Crash‘, can and do deliver an audience.
So, why are football films the equivalent of the novelty Christmas single?Why are there no great football movies?
For example, what was Hollywood thinking when they hedged their bets with a preposterous World War II, football, khaki and POW romp ‘Escape to Victory’?
On paper ‘Escape to Victory‘ sounds like it should have been the greatest football film ever made. Think of it, a war movie that follows the adventures of a bunch of plucky POWs who plan to escape during a must-win game in Paris, against the German national team in 1942. What’s not to like?
Even better, it was directed by John Huston, with a cast that included Michael Caine, Max von Sydow, er, Sylvetser Stallone, playing footie alongside legends Pele, Bobby Moore, Osvaldo Ardiles and..er, Scotland’s bewhiskered, John Wark.
It sounds perfect. Sadly, it wasn’t.
But like the runt of the litter, ‘Escape to Victory‘ has its good points in a ‘Roy of the Rovers‘ kind of way, which, as the years pass, make it just that little bit more enjoyable and an obvious target for a possible remake.
It will never be ‘The Great Escape‘ or ‘Stalag 17‘ or even a ‘Chariots of Fire‘, but what it does do is give a startling insight into the the minds and excesses of Hollywood producers prior to the death of John Belushi.