ESCAPE TO VICTORY (1981)
Music composed and conducted by Bill Conti
14 Tracks (Playing Time = 42:57)
Performed by the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra. Recording Engineer: Dan Wallin. Executive Producer: Luc Van de Ven. CD release produced for Prometheus by Ford A. Thaxton. Album Edited and Mixed by James Nelson. Liner Notes by Dan Goldwasser.
Prometheus Records PCR 520
Limited edition of 3000 copies.
I don't know if Bill Conti is still actively involved with film scoring. I do know he has been an active conductor, including many years directing the orchestra at the annual Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood. In the 78th Academy Awards (Oscar) telecast he was even given a special mention.
This VICTORY soundtrack is for a 1981 film directed by John Huston about a group of Allied POWs prearing for a football (or soccer) match against a German team. The film stars Sylvester Stallone and Michael Caine, and there are appearances by well known football stars such as Pele, Bobby Moore and Osvaldo Ardilles.
The soundtrack begins with a bold and brassy Main Title (3:27) for VICTORY which sounds a bit like something from Jerry Goldsmith but that's not meant to criticize Bill Conti. He has done his job of creating a good Main Title theme. It's what comes after that which bothered me.
Unfortunately, the remainder of the soundtrack dwells too much on the same sort of material and doesn't have much variety. There's lots of horns and strings but not much melodic interest going on. For example, the overly repetitious and rather listless cue "The Paris Express" (track 4, 3:49), which goes nowhere. The next track, "Team Outing" (4:13) is no better with some static punctuated chords and lots of sliding strings but not much of real melodic interest.
Then there's the obvious nod to Goldsmith's theme from PATTON in "Let's Go Guys" (track 8, 4:54). I susppose that's meant to pay homage to the great American military general from World War II. But then the cue rambles on with not much else happening until near its end when it reaches a good conclusion.
What about "Match's Revenge" (track 10, 2:42)? There's more of that repeated rhythmic thing and then it ends with a quote so close to the finale of Dimitri Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony that it should have been given a CD credit. It's hard to believe that this was just a coincidence. Perhaps Conti intended to pay homage to Shostakovich. If so, it should have been mentioned in the notes. As it is, there is no mention of the Goldsmith or Shostakovich quotes anywhere in the CD notes.
The End Credits (track 11, 3:39) once again repeats the opening Main Title with just a touch of alteration. By this time, I had heard more than enough of that theme, even though it's a good one.
The remainder of the CD is padded with three tracks of second dubs of tracks 2, 8, and 10.
Because of licensing restrictions there is no studio artwork included so the four page CD booklet is definitely on the skimpy side. Yet Dan Goldwasser's notes are worth reading because he provides a good description about the film and score and also the difficulties in getting the large orchestra recorded in a suitable studio.
Even though Bill Conti has composed some enjoyable film scores over the years, I don't think that ESCAPE TO VICTORY is one of his best efforts.
This is an okay score if you're a fan of action music.
As for that Main Title theme, it just got on my nerves after hearing it so much. That's my honest reaction to it. Your reaction might be different.
--Roger Hall, 9 March 2006
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