Escape from “Escape from Germany”

Patrick Koske-McBride
11 min readMay 21, 2024


As an elder Millennial, I grew up with Joel, Mike, and the ‘Bots in Mystery Science 3000. As such, I am now an involuntary expert in bad films. Tragically, Hollywood continues to make terrible films, and continue to make terrible movies with all of my personal hallmarks/red flags for bad films. I bring it up because if you watch Escape from Germany with someone who has survived The Giant Gila Monster (or Escape from L.A., come to it), expect a LOT of nudging and winking, because this film blows through almost every hallmark of incompetent story-telling.

The TLDR version of this review is; I’ve been to church services that were more interesting than this film. And I don’t even mean the creepy megachurch service that put the fear of human sacrifice in me. I mean Sunday morning Catholic Mass, an event that lasts 3–5 years, and makes the DMV look riveting. Nothing against Mass, for those of you who enjoy it, but nobody in their right mind would walk out of one and say, “I’ve got an idea for a film.”

Similarly, as white and delightsome as I find my friends in the Latter Day Saints Church (my semi-apologies, folks, but your otherwise great religion ruined a Saturday afternoon, so, I’m going to be snide about your beliefs), I wouldn’t make a film about them. And not just because that’s unethical, it’s also because, as great as they are, I don’t think they’re interesting enough to watch two hours about. Again, nothing against them, but you can’t really tell an interesting, nuanced, gripping tale with emotionally mature, functioning people. By definition, they have the tools to readily solve almost every problem they encounter. That’s why they’re functional.

Escape from Germany asks, “Well, what if those same people were almost stranded in Nazi Germany?” As it turns out, that situation is exactly as-interesting as my LDS friends navigating a trip to the DMV. And, if this film is accurate, for the exact same stakes. Arguably, the stakes for the DMV are greater, because there are consequences for your actions, whereas the characters in this dreadful film are motivated by directions from their leaders, who have suspiciously bad and vague feelings about the situation in 1939 Germany (the leaders; the characters exhibit absolutely no personal agency apart from pausing to pray during climactic sequences, so there are breaks in the action).

The film is summarized as the effort to save the missionaries serving the Mormon Church in Germany in 1939. As the infamous bootheel of fascism is being shifted onto Europe, the President of the Mission receives a revelation (maybe; the film invokes both Divine Will and intelligence sources in that scene) that Germany will invade Poland, and permanently close its borders. Because this is before the advent of modern telecommunications technology, the Mission President has 30-odd young missionaries who haven’t received news to evacuate, so he dispatches a young missionary named Anderson to retrieve the remaining missionaries.

So, full disclosure; I’m currently watching We Were the Lucky Ones and World War 2 in Color (which are both superb), so, I’m inclined to judge films which are sympathetic to the Reich in the harshest terms. Escape from Germany is not Triumph of the Will — and that’s the point. During America’s ongoing civil unrest, someone pointed out that racism rarely looks like someone in Klan robes — it usually looks like local news anchors casually slandering the character of Black and brown kids shot by kops. Escape from Germany is in the same vein — we, the audience, know that the Nazis are the villains because they shout and bully Jewish refugees on their way to Denmark. The Jewish family in question are in the background of most of the major scenes in this tooth-grindingly slow film. I’m no historian, but I feel very safe in saying that the Jewish citizens of the Reich did not enjoy freedom of movement. Similarly, the worst we see of actual Gestapo agents is them glowering at doughy white men and stealing their money. And, to drive home the point that there are good people on both sides, one of the conscripted Wehrmacht soldiers is a good Mormon boy, too! Yeah, this whole film is riddled with these bizarre emotional flips that undercut anything that might be construed as an open condemnation of fascism or Nazi policies.

This film did give me a unique sensation. I was diagnosed with my very first brain tumor at age 17, so, my entire life has been lived as a minority member with passing privilege — I’m aware that I’m just an insurance claims denial away from death. Because this film is allergic to anything negative, the Nazis are never portrayed doing anything like violent. One of the protagonists arrives in Germany to a book burning, during which a Bad German burns The Book of Mormon (or one of its variations, I’m assuming, based on the context). That’s literally the very worst thing a Nazi is shown doing on film. For the rest of the film, the Nazis are laughable. You may remember Jewish people having something of a rough time in that particular time and place, so, you would be amazed that the very worst on-screen suffering the poor, background Jewish family is subjected to are having their effects scattered around them. Which is cruel and unpleasant, but at the exact same level of menace as, “8–year-old in the principal’s office.” There’s a scene later in the film in which Wehrmacht soldiers shoot at escaping group of Mormon refugees, but they’re so ineffective that, on-screen, an elderly man successfully evades the bullets, with two massive suitcases. The most-menacing thing the other Nazis do on-screen is glower at the protagonists, and attempt to steal their (the heroes’) money. On a scale of terror, the Nazi Menace, in this film, is less-menacing than literally any librarian (especially if the librarian’s attractive, because then there’s inappropriate arousal in the mix). It occurred to me, 90 hours into the film, whilst watching characters compile lists of missing missionaries, that this must be what being a majority member in America must be like — you’re aware terrible events are effecting other people, but the worst you have to worry about is being mugged. Which is definitely a traumatic experience, but it kind of pales in comparison to Dachau. And, while the LDS missionaries probably would have found themselves in a death camp, there is absolutely no indication of that from the film. One very quick fix to add some stakes to this film would be someone discovering, during one of the interminable office clerking scenes (again, if you have a 5 minute sequence that serves to deliver the line, “He’s got all the missionaries,” you have too much movie on your hands, and should have a professional screenwriter edit it), the existence of Dachau. As it is; these characters are simply enduring what most people who’ve toured other countries have: incompetent, corrupt local officials, cruel customs/border administrators, and baksheesh. That’s an article in a travel magazine, not a 97 minute film. I understand that Navigating Difficult Customs Agents is a film nobody wants to see, but that perfectly encapsulates the film.

And the film is weirdly religious. And I do mean weird. I fully understand that modern Christendom has learned that the approach used in Passion of the Christ is more-likely to scare small children (for anyone wondering why I’m deeply cynical about religion, it might have to do with the unfortunate fact that an alleged Lutheran minister told me, at age 4, that I would burn in hell if I didn’t accept White Republican Jebus as my personal Lord and Savior), so, most congregations rarely go in-depth into theology in their pop cultural aspirations; it’s usually a more subtle, Thom Robb approach about wholesome moral values we can all agree upon, then insert Jebus into the conversation. Remember that creepy megachurch service? Yeah, they used to be my neighbors, before I upgraded to the Mormons (oddly enough, despite the missionaries, my neighbors are decent enough to leave me alone when uninvited to spiritual affairs)(there’s also a 50% chance they know I’d be spiteful and start sacrificing goats in the yard). The Chreepy Christians and the Mormons have both prayed over me, because I’m a chronic cancer patient and need all the help I can get. The Chreepy Christians just got to prayin’ right then and there, and prayed what I can only call “The Panicked 6th Grade Overdue Oral Report and Christ-o-riffic Free Verse Rsp.” It was deeply awkward and aggressively awful, to say the least. My Mormon friends, on the other hand, actually scheduled a time to come pray over me, explained that prayer wasn’t a substitute for medicine, but meant to convey that the entire community, and, ideally God, were behind me in my efforts. It was actually a comforting experience. I bring those two examples up because, despite being of the same religion as my neighbors (admittedly, 90-ish years ago, so, something’s probably changed), the LDS missionaries in this film infrequently pause, in public, to pray the Panicked 6th Grader’s prayer, as Jebus instructed. Again, I understand that this film is meant to portray the LDS Church in a positive light, but stopping the entire film so that we can see the missionaries PRAY! made me yearn for the scenes of double-checking lists. It’s just weird and off-putting, and, again; I live next door to Mormons, I have never, ever seen them praying in public (which I do appreciate guys). Again, it’s a weird mash-up message of, “Ours is the one, true religion, but it’s populated by people you’d cross the street to avoid.”

Analyzing a film for cryptofascist and/or religious messaging whilst watching it is a powerful indicator of how mind-numbingly boring this whole, plodding mess is. Remember my mention of MST3K earlier? Corroding my teen mind with Arizona Werewolf and This Island Earth gave me some diagnostic criteria for bad films — from unwatchable drek like this (and Cry Wilderness) to the “So bad, it’s kind of good” films like Road House (a film which is so unapologetically and relentlessly awful that it’s Oscar-worthy). The hall-mark scene is always two generically-attractive burly men, discussing a mundane house/work chore, dissecting how they will perform said chore, then the film-makers will include a scene of the characters doing the task. You can, if inclined, plan out house chores or work tasks with the characters and do it with them, in real time. This specific example came to mind because the main characters spend a shocking amount of time performing clerical work, and discussing their clerical work. Admittedly, “Attempting to keep track of 30–ish missing missionaries” will require lists and phone calls, but that takes up either 5 minutes or 5 hours of this film. The film clumsily attempts to justify this flagrant time-wasting writing by pointing out that one of the (female) secretaries who seems clairvoyant in the film, because she can read the contents at a glance, and she went on to develop speed-reading, and, although I have no problem with another woman getting a speaking role (seriously, the cast is a sea of white, doughy guys with some blonde women thrown in for diversity), I have to wonder what the bizarre list-making and list-keeping had to do with the plot. Unless this is some bizarre, pro-Christian remake of Schindler’s List, in which the target demographic is more-interested in a film without any swearing, violence, or well-developed characters than they are historical accuracy or content.

Speaking of historical accuracy, the film uses accuracy in very specific, unbelievably weird ways. According to the film — and the post-film title cards (which are much more interesting than anything in the film) all of the local LDS leaderships’ predictions about Germany and the Church were completely accurate, and, allegedly, Hitler loved the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint’s principles and ideals regarding genealogy (no surprise) and the LDS view on Divine Right (I have Mormon friends, they all absolutely believe in some form of democracy, so, I don’t have any insight on that). So, the viewer (sleeper, by this point in the film) is left with the bizarre opinion that the LDS Church is the one, true church, and it’s also innately appealing to Nazis. I understand the former — nobody but me wants to join a false church (and I’m only an adherent to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster because it lends an odd certainty to theology — the certainty that, if there is one true church, I’m not a member), but the latter point is bizarre. I have an uncle who loves The Donald, is virulently racist, and believes in deeply antiSemitic conspiracy theories (and I don’t mean the “AIPAC is illegally and unethically influencing foreign policy” kind, I mean “Blood Libel”). We all pretend he’s dead, because nobody needs the tsuris. Why a Mormon cinematographer-director would go out of his way to associate LDS ideals with Hitler is off-putting and bizarre.

Apart from the deep tragedy that I paid good money to see this film, and was unfortunately sober and alert throughout, the real tragedy of this film is that the real story is undoubtedly fascinating and compelling, and deserves better than this film.


  1. The Great Escape — Steve McQueen endures significantly more hardship than the protagonists of this film, simply by virtue that his actions have negative consequences. Also, this film is a staple of 20th century cinema.
  2. Escape from New York — This film features John Carpenter and Kurt Russel at the height of their respective Carpenterdom and Russell-ness. It’s also a subtle satire of White Flight and fears about violent crime that Nixon highlighted in his political campaigns. And the opening scene is an absolutely insane little time capsule of White America’s fears about urban areas.
  3. Escape from L.A. — This is the sequel to the above film. It’s basically “Escape from New York Goes Hollywood,” and it is an aggressively mediocre film. Having said that, there are some subtle jabs at the rise of Newt Gingrich and the Moral Majority, and those messages are obvious, so there’s at least a clarity to this film that is absent from Escape from Germany. And it isn’t boring.
  4. No Escape — This film is about an oddly-beautiful Ray Liotta who is sentenced to serve time on a penal colony on an island in… the future? The question mark is because the first scene of this mostly-unwatchable film establishes that stellar travel exists in this story, but they’re sending convicts to Molokai. Roger Ebert described this film as, “Mad Max Goes Hawaiian,” and that’s an accurate summary. It does, however, feature Dennis Hopper completely devouring all the beautiful tropical scenery, which, again, is objectively better than anything in Escape from Germany.
  5. Escape from Planet of the Apes — Full disclosure, I have not seen this film, BUT, I would wager it features actors in unconvincing ape costumes. In my personal calculus, “Actors in cheap monkey outfits do literally anything in the world” is far better than, “Actors in cheap suits do absolutely nothing but visit train stations for 90 minutes.” Unless the monkeys are in a budget meeting to demolish the head of the Statue of Liberty, it’s a better film.
  6. Escape to Witch Mountain — I think I was 9 or 10 when I saw this, and it could very well be far worse than Escape from Germany, but my memories of it are centered on a corrupt millionaire who wants to use Magic Twins to find uranium deposits to mine. Unless the Magic Twins spent the entire film reviewing maps and exclaiming, “There’s Uranium in these here hills!” it’s probably a better film.
  7. Escape from Mogadishu — I have not seen this Korean film, but it’s available via streaming services, so, I could, theoretically, watch this without putting on pants and shoes, which is where Escape from Germany set the bar. Honestly, EG is so egregiously awful that the bar is set at, “Literally any activity into which I don’t have to put any time and effort into is preferable to this terrible film.”



Patrick Koske-McBride

Science journalist, cancer survivor, biomedical consultant, the “Wednesday Addams of travel writers.”