/ DVD. Arrow Video (UK) / Severin Films (USA)
a number of years, The Wild Geese seemed set
to be as much a part of the collective British consciousness as
The Italian Job – a perennial TV favourite
(albeit a much censored one) that everyone had seen and loved.
In the last couple of decades though, it seems to have somewhat
slipped out of mainstream view, possibly because its unashamedly
gung-ho and rightwing perspective doesn’t play well with
most TV schedulers. So a new Blu-ray edition is welcome indeed,
because dodgy politics or not, there’s no denying that this
is a hugely entertaining film.
The all-star cast is headed by Richard Burton as mercenary Allen
Faulkner hired by shifty banker and mogul Sir Edward Matheson
(Stewart Granger) to rescue African leader Julius Limbani (Winston
Ntshona), who has been deposed and imprisoned by his own army.
To do so, Faulkner recruits old colleagues Rafer Janders (Richard
Harris), Shawn Fynn (Roger Moore) and South African Pieter Coetzee
(Hardy Kruger), alongside a small army of former soldiers. Their
mission in ‘Zembela’ goes according to plan at first,
but it soon becomes clear that the mercenaries have been double-crossed
and they are abandoned to fight their way out of the hostile country.
is no-nonsense action of the sort that British cinema is no longer
capable of delivering, with a steady build-up introducing the
characters before the explosive finale, with a body count to rival
any movie. The big names don’t feel too out of place (Moore
perhaps is too smooth and British for the character he’s
playing, but he does a solid job anyway) and are mostly convincing
– though audiences might find Kruger’s accent a bit
distracting, as it wanders from South African to German before
settling into an uncomfortable combination. More sensitive viewers
might find the relentless racism spewed by his character to be
a bit hard to sit through too, though his character is eventually
redeemed through his philosophical conversations with Lambani.
The scenes where he carries the ill president on his back through
the bush are loaded with whatever right or left wing symbolism
you care to place on them (the white man carrying the blacks of
Africa on their backs, or the black man now the ruler and the
white man the) – and the film is not shy of exploiting racial
tensions in rather ham-fisted debates between the two characters.
Still, this is not a film with any political axe to grind really.
Instead, it’s a lively, violent and surprisingly grim action
movie that holds up surprisingly well. If you haven’t seen
it for some reason, this is the ideal opportunity to do so.
The Arrow Blu-ray comes with a commentary track, vintage newsreel
footage of the premiere and a bonus feature, Codename:
Wild Geese, one of the Erwin C. Dietrich/Antonio Margheriti
films starring Lewis Collins that appeared in the late 1980s.
It has much the same cast and pretty much the same plot as The
Commander, but manages to be both incoherent and
dull. A nice addition perhaps, but not one you’ll be in
a hurry to watch.
Films drop The Commander, but do include a couple
of exclusive featurettes, including an interview with director
Andrew V. MgLaghlen, and have relased the film as a Blu-ray /
DVD combo. The other extras are identical.
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IT NOW (USA)