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  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Finnish: Dolby Digital Mono
  Subtitles
    English, French, Spanish
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Production notes
  • Filmographies

Victory

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . COLOR . 116 mins . PG . NTSC

  Feature
Contract

I guess it's almost inevitable that, as the 2002 World Cup of football (soccer) reaches the 'business' end, the marketing gurus go into extra time to get as much soccer product on the shelves as possible. Now this may be coincidence, and therefore a heavy dose of cynicism from me, but I am not convinced that it is. Whatever the reasons, it needs to be pointed out that this is not a movie about soccer exactly, and is more about the stupidity of war. It attempts to redress the machine-myth that war is really about the 'greater good', but as individuals all of us have basically the same desire to avoid conflict.

"If nations could settle their differences on the football pitch, wouldn't that be a challenge?"

Victory is set in a prisoner of war camp (POW) in Germany. Run like any other POW camp, the POWs are a mix of allied soldiers for whom the movie cliche "For you, the war is over," is simply provocation to escape. Like other POW camps (by the way, everything I know about POW camps I learned from films and Hogan's Heroes), there is an escape committee, a forged papers committee, a makeshift tailor shop, a printer's room, a library, gymnasium, sauna, cafe, more radios than at Harvey Norman, and an escape network that even Amway would be impressed by . No wonder the Nazis lost the war when they couldn't find this stuff right under their noses. Whilst I do exaggerate, I would never want to underplay the brilliance of the men in the real camps. The things they were able to do were quite staggering. It would be nice to think this filmed was based on a true incident like The Great Escape, but it is a work of fiction, and is entertaining nonetheless.

After witnessing the POWs' enthusiasm for soccer, former national German soccer player, Major Karl von Steiner (Max von Sydow - is everyone 'von' something in this film?), convinces Captain John Colby (Michael von Caine), former Westham United and England player, that a match between a hand picked POW team and a team of German soldiers from the nearby training barracks, would be a good morale boost for both sides. It is agreed, after some haggling, but their 'friendly' match is commandeered by the superiors of both sides and turned into a propaganda exercise - Aryan supremacy and all that. The game is to be played at a stadium in Paris, so that the French locals, and the world's media, can see that resistance is futile. The logic being if we can beat you at soccer, we can beat you at war too. The Allies, in the meantime, plan to use the match as a mass escape to really stick it up the Nazis, in full view of the world. They plan to escape from the dressing room at half time, with the aid of the underground Resistance. Captain Colby is none too keen on the idea of escape, after all, he gave von Steiner his word that this was about soccer.

The German team is not spotted until the big day (and none of them are blonde either - what say you, Mr Hitler?), and most of the movie is centred on the POWs in training, aided by their trainer-cum-eventual goalie, Robert Hatch (Sylvester von Stallone). He unwillingly becomes a go-between for the POWs and the Resistance, and in the space of about ten seconds falls in love with a French beauty working with Le Resistance. Now maybe I fell asleep and missed it, but they barely speak three sentences the first time they meet, yet the next time he sees her she has flowers, secret messages, and gasps every time the German team rough him up during the match. Quite bizarre for someone she has barely spoken to. This pointless love sub-plot aside, the film is riddled with holes, but still provides some tension and some truly amazing soccer skills from the likes of Pele (yes, the same one), Bobby Moore, and many other real soccer stars of the day. The Germans, of course, have rigged the game to ensure victory and avoid ridicule. The Allied players only learn of the escape plan at half time, and are faced with the dilemma of following orders and escaping, or salvaging their pride and returning for the second half. What to do?

If you can get past the biggest plot fault of all (there is no way even the Germans are going to take all those players and officers to the centre of Paris), then there is enough suspense, human drama, and fine acting (generally - I think Stallone was out of his depth, but then he'd be out of his depth in Home and Away), and some well filmed soccer sequences. A word of advice to Mr Pele - please, my friend, stick to what you know - soccer. Your acting is atrocious). The movie may centre around a much hyped soccer game, but it is far more about honour among sportsmen, even in war. It's a shame that same honour is not so evident today.

Trivia spot. One; Pele has honourary citizenship in more countries than any other person in history. Two; Stallone shed 41 pounds in weight so that he would look a bit more like a WWII POW - he still looks and mumbles like a prize fighter though, "Eee errr, walla walla walla". No wonder the Nazis never understood.

  Video
Contract

WARNING! This is an NTSC Region 4 release. Unless you have an NTSC compatible setup, you won't be able to watch this DVD. It seems Warners are starting to do more of this. Lazy, people. You didn't even bother to chop off the FBI piracy warning at the end. Tut tut. Plus, upon insertion, the movie kicks straight in after the Warner Bros logo.

This is a dual sided disc, with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio version on one side and a "standard" (pan and scanned) version on the other. I couldn't convince myself to even bother with that side. The 2.35:1 version is 16:9 enhanced. Colouring is good, though starting to look a little on the pale side due to its age. It has that typical war film colouring. There is no evidence of bleeding or noise The image is not particularly sharp, though acceptable. Black levels are on the greyish side, except the German Officer uniforms that appear late in the film. These were strikingly black. I can not be sure why this is. Shadow detail is fair, and quite a bit of the film is set indoors or in tunnels.

The main problem with this is film artefacts, and they are fairly frequent, and in many instances quite severe. There are many black spots that pop up frequently, and some rather large white blobs such as at 17:32, 24:05, and 53:12. If you don't notice such things, then you will not be concerned, but for those that like a clean transfer you are going to be disappointed.

  Audio
Contract

There is only one audio option, a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix, but this is surprisingly good. Sure a 5.1 mix would have been great as there are many times, especially in the match itself, where it would have made the game even more exciting. As it is, this is adequate, and the low-frequency sounds are as good and rich as any I have heard from a stereo mix. There is noticeable sound separation and panning of vehicles and the like, and the large crowd scenes during the match sound quite good. The high frequency sounds were, likewise, loud and clear. There are no problems with audio synch or clarity, and there are several language subtitles for those that like to read along.

Special mention must be made of Bill Conti's wonderful music score. Heavily orchestrated, Conti is a man who knows what is needed. The music is appropriately subtle in the quieter scenes, well used in the tense scenes, yet rousing in the big finale. No wonder this guy is first choice to score the Academy Awards each year.

  Extras
Contract

The Theatrical Trailer is the only flow-motion extra. There is no time display coded and it runs for approximately two minutes. It is in full frame (pan and scan) and is particularly soft, with dark colouring and shadows. There are also many film artefacts and it's not a great advert for the film.

There are several text only features such as Cast and Crew which gives a brief history of the main actors and a filmography. Fate Brings Victory to Stallone discusses the unlikely manner in which Sly got involved with the film. Stallone's Goalkeeping Preparation covers, as it suggests, the various things Sly did to get ready for the film, as he is no soccer player after all. Other Soccer Stars is a brief biography of the main players. On Location is a few brief pages about the choice of filming locations in an attempt to give the film the look of Paris, 1942. Recomendations is basically an advert for other releases, but as this is a direct copy of a Region 1 release, I wonder if any are actually available in Region 4 yet. As mentioned, you also get the FBI piracy warning which might be considered an extra if you've never seen it.

  Overall  
Contract

Victory has enough good points to recommend it. A big name cast, a good director (John Huston), and it's well filmed and edited. The action sequences are good, the storyline a little unlikely, but enjoyable all the same. The audio and video quality will not amaze, but are satisfactory. There are some interesting observations about human behaviour and the unwritten honour among sports people. The only real disappointment is that Warners see fit to dump NTSC copies into the Region 4 market, without any real effort. C'mon Warners, the buying public are not as stupid as you seem to think they are...


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      And I quote...
    "The Nazis take on the Allied POWs in WWII's equivalent of the World Cup Final. The umpiring was questionable even back then..."
    - Terry Kemp
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Akai
    • TV:
          TEAC CT-F803 80cm Super Flat Screen
    • Receiver:
          Pioneer VSX-D409
    • Speakers:
          Wellings
    • Centre Speaker:
          Wellings
    • Surrounds:
          Wellings
    • Subwoofer:
          Sherwood SP 210W
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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