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For me, The Wind and the Lion is one of the great adventure films of all time (rather than an action movie per se) and certainly has the best script of the 70s, managing to combine adventure, myth, romance, wit and political cynicism while creating memorable characters and driving the story forward. Its influences are clearly noticeable, and all acknowledged by writer-director John Milius: the children's behavior is straight out of A High Wind in Jamaica, the superb beach sequence inspired by another horseback swordfight in The Hidden Fortress (Kurosawa is a big Milius influence elsewhere in the film as well) while the finale throws in a tip of the hat, both musically and visually, to The Wild Bunch. But unlike a Tarantino grab-bag of favorite movie moments, Milius manages to make something unique of his own out of them all in this highly romanticised tale of an American woman (Candice Bergen) and her children kidnapped by an Arab leader (Sean Connery) in Morocco in 1904 that became an international incident that briefly threatened to turn into a war as Teddy Roosevelt (Brian Keith) used it as a rallying cry during his election campaign. But as the Americans and European powers that control the region rattle sabres, hostage and captive form a real friendship they'll risk anything for.
As for Connery's casting... Well, it makes a change to cast a Scot as a north of the border Berber - up until then Hollywood usually cast Welsh actors like Hugh Griffiths as Arabs. Yes, you do laugh when you first hear him speak, but after his line "I am the Raisuli - you will not laugh at me again!", you won't. Accent or not, this is one of his most likeable and charismatic performances, proving himself one of the few actors with enough presence for the epic genre.... He's well-matched by Brian Keith's blustering but self-aware Roosevelt, the film building up a growing relationship of mutual respect between the two leaders from different sides of the world who never meet that threatens to make more of an impact than Connery's sparring with Bergen. Connery's The Man Who Would Be King director John Huston offers a good supporting turn as Roosevelt's Secretary of State John Hay, while Jerry Goldsmith's exciting and richly romantic scores is indeed one of the all-time greats. Splendid entertainment in every way.
The Region 2 PAL DVD boasts a nice uncut 2.35:1 widescreen transfer (the UK video was cut by the BBFC) but no extras. However, Warners' Region 1 NTSC DVD offers a better presentation of the film, offering a fine 2.35:1 widescreen transfer, a vintage making of featurette, theatrical trailer and typically engaging commentary from John Milius.Read more ›
It really beggars belief that one of the great adventure movies is only available on region 2 in foreign imported DVDs. Mine is a Dutch version which has excellent picture quality and no problem with subtitles. This is a very old fashioned adventure that has more in common with some of those dashing films from the thirties, even including a very Light Brigade like charge. There is an awful lot of dash, that is carried out with great savoire-faire! A few years back in Marrakech, being your typical tourist bore, I visited a museum where I saw much of the regalia that adorned the Moroccan hill tribesmen's horses. There were some very ornate items, that I thought must have looked simply splendid in action. That schoolboy hope was realised when I watched John Milius's rattling good yarn "The Wind and the Lion".
Very loosely based on a real incident at the turn of the Century, the story involves an American woman and her two children who are kidnapped by a dashing Berber lord, who wants to provoke an international incident in the hope of bringing down the coorrupt ruling government. This he manages to achieve, upsetting no less a person than the then president of the United States Teddy Roosevelt. Things are complicated further when those dastardly Germans get involved as well. It doesn't involve penalties thank goodness! At first she is unsurprisingly hostile toward her kidnapper, but then gradually warms to him, finding him to be a man of honour and not the brigand that some would make him out to be. He is also a man willing to fight his own battles, and there are plenty of opportunities for him to do this.
Milius admitted that he was influenced by the stories of Rudyard Kipling, which the film bears out.... There are also two scenes which have clearly been borrowed from "The Wild Bunch". No bad film to borrow from! Some of the scenes with flags blowing in the wind was very reminiscent of Akira Kurosawa. Milius is a writer/director steeped in Hollywood knowledge and film lore, which he uses intelligently to fine effect. As a writer he had few peers, and on this showing it is a great pity he did not direct more films. He assembled an excellent cast. Brian Keith steals the honours as Roosevelt, and Scotsman Connery makes a very dashing Berber Lord. Candice Bergen offers feisty support and John Huston, away from directorial duties, is good fun as a crusty old aide to the president. Not just an adventure story the film manages to say something about American foreign policy. In a lovely little interview with the press in Yellowstone Roosevelt compares America to a Grizzly bear. Strong, fearless, intelligent and ferocious. A little blind at times but courageous. He goes on to say "the world will never love us, but it will respect us and may even fear us". Later he describes America as "blind and reckless at times". I guess not a lot has changed in the world since Milius made the film!
The film was made on location in the Spaghetti western haven of Almeria, Spain, which substitutes seamlessly for Morocco, even containing the same architecture, a legacy of past Moorish occupation. Strange that Morocco itself is now such a popular location for filming! People will no doubt raise an eyebrow at Connery as a Berber chief, but I actually think he is pretty convincing. He certainly looks the part and wisely does not attempt any silly accent. Omar Shariff was the original choice but turned down the role, which would have been a glaring case of type casting. The film was interestingly well received in the Islamic world for its accuracy. The stunt men definitely earned their money on this film, with some spectacular falls from buildings and horses. There is wonderful charge into the German guns that is one of films finest. Unfortunately, unlike the guns of Aquaba in "Lawrence of Arabia", this time they are pointing the right way. It was this type of film that made me fall in love with cinema, and I can see that Milius had a similar mis-spent youth. This is one of my favourite adventure films of all time. It deserves to have a bigger reputation, and for goodness sake will somebody out there give it a decent region 2 release.Read more ›
Well he's a Berber, actually, but as President Teddy Roosevelt observes, "it goes double" when considering what kind of rifle the Lord of the Rifs might be likely to use. For Raisuli the Magnificent and his tribesmen have kidnapped a high-placed Yankee widow-lady and her two children out of Tangier and with re-election coming up it's a God-sent opportunity (or maybe Allah who knows) for Teddy to boost his popularity by sending the Atlantic Squadron to Morocco to demand their release. John Milius' free-wheeling and lightly-satirical take on a historical incident (where the hostages were two adult males) sweeps us onto a magic-carpet ride of cheerful hokum that calls to mind the home-based Hollywood 'Easterns' of the Forties and Fifties though this widescreen Seventies entry was filmed entirely in Spain using sets left over from LAWRENCE.
Sean Connery plays Raisuli with unbeatable charisma and his own fruitily imperturbable accent which may irritate the purists but if you loved Hugh Griffith as an Arab from Anglesey in BEN-HUR you should have no trouble here. If it bugs you pretend his mother was a tourist from Edinburgh. A man's a man for all that and Connery is certainly the man. He and the comely widow (Candice Bergen) hit it off right away - he backhands her for laughing at him falling off his horse (Sir Sean reportedly approved of treating 'em rough in real-life too) but when he tells her "You're going to be a great deal of trouble" we start getting that King & I feeling. "Do you play checkers ?" he later asks. "No, I play chess," she replies and they do while swapping cute aphorisms and cultural critiques.... She has to take a couple of beheadings in her stride but the children William and Jennifer (both played by Brits but what the hell) adjust to life on the desert with aplomb, discovering such exotic wonders as a human tongue lying on the sand "from someone who had nothing pleasant to say." The fatherless boy seems to fancy Raisuli as a possible surrogate. "He has the way with him, hasn't he Mother ?. He sure has the way." Mother nonetheless bribes a guard to help them escape one night only for the family to be sold into the hands of brigands. Raisuli comes after them alone, despatches his enemies one by one and takes his hostages back to camp. The reason for the snatch and the ransom-demands is mainly to embarrass his brother the Bashaw of Tangier (Vladek Sheybal) who'd had him imprisoned once and whom he despises for sucking up to European interests and alliances. His dream is to raise holy war against them but the widow becomes sufficiently concerned about his possible fate to warn him it would be futile. By this time she's invited an exchange of first-names. "I am Eden," she announces serenely. (He's Mulai). "Eden, " he mutters. "Of course."
Back in the U.S.of A. the 'cowboy' President (a warm and wonderful Brian Keith) limbers up for the political fray with whistle-stop tours, boxing workouts and target-practice. On a hunting-trip he expounds to the press-corps about the Grizzly Bear which he sees as the Spirit of America - "Indomitable, unconquered - but always alone. The world respects us, they might even grow to fear us but they will never love us." In real-life the Pedecaris affair was resolved without bloodshed. But this is an action-adventure so when the Bashaw refuses to cough up the ransom a gung-ho Marine officer Captain Jerome (Steve Kanaly) suggests taking him prisoner. The Marines jogtrot in formation through the streets of Tangier, watched with apprehension by the European legations, before storming the Palace with some help from the U.S.Navy. Raisuli delivers his hostages but at the trade-in is seized by a German cavalry-unit and thrown into jail. The Marines are unable to intervene but Eden takes the initiative, enlisting their support for a rescue-mission. They walk the walk like the Wild Bunch, the music solemn and proud and Raisuli is released after a flurry of gunfire. When he goes out the door to take on the Hun he gives her a great gratified and incredulous smile and tells her they'll ride on golden clouds together. The German colonel makes to shoot him down but switches honourably to a sword, Raisuli's only weapon. Their duel around the market-place ends with Raisuli about to deliver the coup-de-grace but he stops within inches and spares the German with a laugh. In a stunning climax the boy William waits at the edge of the square with Raisuli's rifle, spellbound as the desert hawk rides towards him, an arm outstretched. But it's just the rifle he snatches up not the boy and is gone into the distance like Shane, leaving a memory to last a lifetime.. Teddy is sharing a tranquil moment with a newly unveiled exhibit of his favourite animal when he reads a letter from Raisuli that explains the difference between them and gives the film its title. "I like the lion must remain in my place. While you like the wind will never know yours."Read more ›