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PCR 520

Album cover copyright (c) 1981 Warner Bros.; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall



Wonderfully rousing WW2 heroics from Conti


John Huston.  One of Hollywood's most legendary figures.  The man who brought us The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen, The Night of the Iguana, The Man Who Would Be King.  Noah Cross in Chinatown.  One of the least likely people I can imagine to have directed Escape to Victory, the 1981 WW2 football film (proper football, folks, not the pansy version played in the US).  Still, bizarre though it seems, he did.  It's obviously designed as a crowd-pleasing movie along the lines of The Great Escape, with one of the most bizarre castlists imaginable, as some Hollywood heavyweights (Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine, Max Von Sydow) play alongside some of the greatest footballers (Pele, Bobby Moore, Ossie Ardiles).  (A nice story about Pele.  My late grandfather always insisted on pronouncing foreign names phonetically, as they were spelt, even though he knew he was wrong.  Therefore he referred to the greatest footballer in the history of the game as "Peel" rather than "Pellay".)

Bill Conti was brought on board to provide the score, and was a natural choice.  His delightfully unsubtle approach to film scoring was perfectly suited to the film.  In some ways it's a bit like Maurice Jarre's approach to the brilliant The Man Who Would be King by Huston, with larger-than-life music which doesn't take itself too seriously and provides perfect accompaniment to the visuals.  The most obvious inspiration, though, is The Great Escape, with Conti perfectly capturing the same spirit of high adventure as Elmer Bernstein had done two decades earlier.  Of course, there's a serious side too (a film about prisoners of war could hardly not have a serious side) and Conti provides appropriately earnest (though still delightfully over-the-top) material in cues such as the wonderful "Krauts on a Roll".  There's a huge, crowd-pleasing version of the main theme in "The Team Uniforms"; and a wonderfully clustered piece of action music in "Don't Leave".

The opening bars of "Let's Go Guys" provide something of a surprise; one listen to the echoing trumpets and stirring march theme, and you'd swear you'd heard it somewhere before...  Conti should be given a big pat on (hmm... pat on... patton... wait a second!) the back for the way he turned it into another rousing, impossibly heroic piece though, and it's probably the standout piece on the album.  This is a wonderful effort from Bill Conti, a brilliantly old-fashioned film score.  With all the dreck being written today, it's tragic that composers like Conti - hardly the most original in the world, but one whose music is so busy and so completely the opposite of the bland fare being served up by most composers today that it is virtually impossible not to love it - don't get any work worth speaking about.  This album from Prometheus presents a real crowd-pleaser of a score by one of the most underrated film composers there has been; there are brief notes about film and score, though sadly the sound quality isn't what you might expect for a score recorded as recently as 1981.  That's a small complaint though and shouldn't detract from a great album.

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  1. Main Title (3:27)
  2. The Team Uniforms (2:11)
  3. Match's Getaway (2:29)
  4. The Paris Express (3:29)
  5. Team Outing (4:13)
  6. Krauts on a Roll (2:02)
  7. Don't Leave (2:15)
  8. Let's Go Guys (4:54)
  9. Start Kick (1:18)
  10. Match's Revenge (2:42)
  11. End Credits (3:39)
  12. The Team Uniforms (alternate) (2:12)
  13. Let's Go Guys (alternate) (4:54)
  14. Match's Revenge (alternate) (2:42)