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The Wild Geese out on Blu-ray

Monday, 08 October 2012 07:24 Written by 

The Wild Geese take flight on Blu-rayIf you have a rainy Sunday afternoon, or are stuck at home ill and need some good, honest chew-the-scenery acting then this is the film for you. Not only does “The Wild Geese” have a storyline and bold characters, it also has damn fine actors to play the parts. Richard Burton, Roger Moore and Richard Harris lead a cast of thespians who you will have seen in countless other films and TV shows of the 1960s and 1970s.

The movie’s plot follows a group of colourful mercenaries, made up of retired and out of work soldiers who are happy to get back to doing what they do best. The ragtag bunch is sent by British industrialists to rescue a deposed political leader from a remote corner of the African wilderness. Little do the mercenaries know that they are to be double-crossed by the man behind the mission, played with menace and avarice by Stewart Granger (“Scaramouche”, The Virginian).

The film is typical of its genre, with tense moments followed by exhilarating action. Although nearly the first hour of the film is about the formation and re-training of the Wild Geese, it is still hugely entertaining. The two Richards try desperately to act each other off the screen and Moore is very cool and suitably different from Bond to make him interesting.

There are some quiet moments in between the action, most notably conversations between Hardy Kruger’s overtly racist, South African lieutenant and Winston Ntshona’s kidnapped African leader. They have to overcome their distaste for one another and develop a bond that is quite touching, and certainly believable in the face of shared peril.

Other performances of note are Frank Finlay’s Irish missionary who begrudgingly helps the mercenaries between outbursts of how much he hates them, and Kenneth Griffith’s somewhat effeminate medical orderly probably steals the show.

The theme music is sung by the brilliant Joan Armatrading and accompanied by images of Africa and her people, giving quite a different, softer impression of the film to come. One wonders if the political and human side of the story were supposed to be the main focus of the final screenplay.

This is a film that would not be out of place on any film buff’s shelves, mainly due to the stella cast and effective direction by Andrew V McLaglen (Perry Mason, Have Gun – Will Travel); there is an actor in the movie to cover the bases of most film fans. It is a passably modern (1978) war flick but is set in a place not often associated with mainstream genre releases, making it quite refreshing. The movie highlights many moral and political issues but at the same time is good fun and very entertaining.

“The Wild Geese” is not perfect; the first act does drag a little with storylines that have little relevance to the main plot, but they do set up the characters well. Unlike some ensemble pieces, the viewer should care about all of the characters and will be rooting for them to overcome the bad guys. So sit back and enjoy a film that can be watched from the moral good-versus-evil standpoint, or just as simple, honest entertainment.

Also included within this Blu-ray package is the 1984 sequel-of-sorts “Code Name: Wild Geese”, where Lewis Collins is brought in as the star, playing Commander Robin Wesley. Providing support are such big guns as Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine and Klaus Kinski. It’s all directed by Anthony M Dawson, aka Antonio Margheriti. The plot for this one sees the band of mercenaries hired to fight a Burmese opium warlord in the Golden Triangle area of southeast Asia. 

It should be noted, however, that there was an actual "Wild Geese II" in 1985, featuring Edward Fox, Laurence Olivier, Ingrid Pitt, Barbara Carrera, Kenneth Haigh, Stratford Johns, Scott Glenn, and even Patrick Stewart as a Russian general!

Special features in this new HD release include:

  • High Definition Presentation of the main feature
  • Audio commentary with Roger Moore, producer Euan Lloyd and second unit director John Glen
  • World Premiere Newsreel Footage
  • Original Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve with original poster and newly commissioned artwork cover
  • Collector’s booklet featuring brand new writing on the both films by Ali Catterall, co-author of ‘Your Face Here: British Cult Movies Since the Sixties’ and writer James Blackford as well as a biography of producer Euan Lloyd, illustrated with original artwork

 

Bizarrely, some of the Special Edition DVD release extras have been dropped, such as an interesting documentary about the film’s producer Euan Lloyd. On the plus side, what you do get is plenty, including the delightful newsreel footage of the star-studded premiere, showing quite how much such events have changed over the years. None of the now common place star ‘walkabouts’ or screaming fans, just well behaved celebrities and rather complacent fans.

The new Blu-ray presentation is detailed and devoid of blemishes; the visual step-up really comes to the fore in the busy scenes involving lots of undergrowth and dozens of soldiers. On DVD, the background would doubtlessly have been a pixelated mush!

“The Wild Geese” (1978) is out now on Blu-ray, courtesy of Arrow Video. The main feature has a running time of 128 minutes approx, carries a ‘15’ certificate and retails for £19.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com


ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JOHN PAYNE

Last modified on Monday, 08 October 2012 13:51

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