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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Music That Matters: Top 50 Movie Symphonies (#25 Theme From Victory by Bill Conti)

We are now half way through the countdown. At #25 is a classic score from Bill Conti from perhaps the greatest movie ever about soccer, Victory. This was one of my dad's favorite movies due to his love of soccer and because it featured his idol, Pele. His love for the movie rubbed off on me, even if soccer was the only thing from the film that I understood back in 1982. Remember,I was four years old and knew nothing about wars, POW's, Germans, and rescue missions at that time. Released in 1981, this movie was jam-packed with big name actors including Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine, and Max Von Sydow, and also legendary soccer stars including Pele and Bobby Moore. Victory, or Escape To Victory as it was called in Europe, is about a group of allied prisoners of war stuck in a German refugee camp during World War II. Michael Caine plays John Colby a former British footballer who makes conversation with an SS Major played by Max Von Sydow after the German recognizes him per his visit. Von Sydow's character decides to stage an exhibition soccer match between a German team and a team of allied prisoners led by Colby. The thought is that it might allow for the men to be freed from prison, but in actuality it's all one big publicity stunt in order to spread propaganda. Colby has to field a team and finds some major talents in his camp including the one and only Pele. I'm not quite sure how a Black dude from Brazil who can do amazing stuff with a soccer ball just happens to be in a German prisoner camp, but if it means we will see him performing bicycle kicks later on in the movie, that's fine with me. Then there is Sylvester Stallone who plays Robert Hatch, an American POW who sees a grand opportunity to try and get a spot on the team in order to hatch an escape plan. Although he has very limited skills, he cons his way onto the team as the goalie thanks to some good luck. The big game happens toward the end of the movie, and I don't think I have ever seen such a beautiful and realistic game of Hollywood soccer ever played on screen. The first half of the game is close even though the German team is playing dirty and the referees are penalizing the Allied team. At halftime, the score is close and while some of the players plan on escaping through the locker room per the arrangement made by Hatch, some others feel they can still win the game and want to compete. Rather than escape to sure freedom, the Allied team decides to take the field for the second half. Even with a banged-up Pele who can barely walk. One of the greatest movie moments ever and perhaps the first that I saw as a four year old was when Pele performs a signature bicycle kick which is then shown a few more times in different angles. The POW team actually takes the lead in the game, but due to the bullshit refs, the goal is disallowed due to a questionable offsides call. Tied 4-4 thanks to some outstanding goalkeeping work, the game is about to end on a penalty kick due to another bullshit call from the ref. Stallone saves the days causing a tie, and the crowd goes nuts. I won't give away the ending because I advise this movie for everybody, but it's pretty funny when Max Von Sydow gets up and applauds which would probably get him shot!

The best part of Victory is the final credits which features all of the actors and soccer legends through highlights from the movie over the brilliant score from Bill Conti. I can watch it over and over again, the music and the soccer scenes gel together nicely. The soundtrack from Victory is impossible to find. There has never been a Bill Conti greatest hits album either, so it took me years to add this song to my collection. I remember searching Sam Goody, Best Buy, and used records shops in hope of finding the soundtrack and this one song. Thanks to new technology, I was able to pull the theme from my DVD three years ago. Of all of the themes on this countdown, the theme from Victory is the one that might just mean the most to me on a personal level.

Ladies and gentlemen.. Another Bill Conti masterpiece... Theme From Victory

And of course, the magic scene from Victory featuring Pele!!!

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