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1981 Movie Reviews – Escape to Victory and Under the Rainbow

by Sean P. Aune | July 31, 2021July 31, 2021 11:21 am EDT

Welcome to an exciting year-long project here at The Nerdy. 1981 was an exciting year for films giving us a lot of films that would go on to be beloved favorites and cult classics. It was also the start to a major shift in cultural and societal norms, and some of those still reverberate to this day.

We’re going to pick and choose which movies we hit, but right now the list stands at nearly three dozen.

Yes, we’re insane, but 1981 was that great of a year for film.

The articles will come out – in most cases – on the same day the films hit theaters in 1981 so that it is their true 40th anniversary. All films are also watched again for the purposes of these reviews and are not being done from memory. In some cases, it truly will be the first time we’ve seen them.

This time around it’s July 31, 1981, and we’re off to see Escape to Victory and Under the Rainbow!

Quick side note: Since we launched this series this year, we’ve discovered that Vintage Video Podcast is doing the exact same project with two differences: First, it’s audio (naturally), and second, they are doing every major film. We’ve listened to numerous episodes and it’s fun checking off their thoughts against my own. Check them out over at Vintage Video Podcast.

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Escape to Victory

You got your World War II escape movie in my soccer movie!

Well, you got your soccer movie in my World War II escape movie!

Yes, it’s two movies in one, and that leads to both of them being underserved.

Escape to Victory tells the fictional tale of a football/soccer match played between prisoners of war and the German national team. It was seen as a way to boost morale for both sides, although everyone knew it was propaganda for the Germans in the end.

Using a mix of actors and actual football masters such as Pele and Bobby Moore, gives the film an interesting heft of reality. Although, beyond one scorpion kick by Pele, the soccer play is rather subdued.

None of that is to say it’s a bad movie, but just as you get interested in one side of the story, it’s time to switch back to the other. As a soccer fan, that was where my interest resided for sure, but the prison escape portion was fine as well.

It’s an entertaining movie to be sure, but certainly inconsequential to the history of the time period of cinema.

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Under the Rainbow

I remember watching Under the Rainbow as a child because I was obsessed with anyone that had been in a Star Wars movie. So Carrie Fisher being in this meant I had to watch it. I unfortunately also remember laughing at the movie which now just makes me feel dirty.

The film tells the story of all the little people brought to Hollywood to be in The Wizard of Oz and they end up staying in a hotel with a Japanese tourist group and spies for the Axis Powers of World War II. At the end of the film it is revealed to have been a dream similar to the film it is based around, but it still makes for an odd story.

There are points where it feels like the film makers were trying to harken back to a bygone era similar to slapstick comedies of the 1930s and early 1940s. It may have worked in 1981, but watching it now just feels wrong on every level you can think of.

Under the Rainbow, unsurprisingly, has not aged well. From racist comments about the Japanese, to a series of really dated ‘jokes’ about little people, this film is just a relic that should be confined to the trash heap of celluloid history.

The 1981 movie reviews will return on Aug. 7 with Heavy Metal and Student Bodies!

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Sean P. Aune

Sean Aune has been a pop culture aficionado since before there was even a term for pop culture. From the time his father brought home Amazing