Thursday, 3 September 2009


With a remake in the works it seemed a good time to reacquaint myself with the original. If I had to ra\nk directors a la Andrew Sarris, Andrew V. McLaglen would fall into the group labelled "Lightly Likeable". Despite his apprentership under the great John Ford, McLaglen never really made a great film but he did make a few very good ones and some enjoyable ones. He did the fondly remembered John Wayne comedy McCLINTOCK which, perhaps, only really works for dyed in the wool Wayne fans like myself and a million others. His films with James Stewart are amiable affairs - THE RARE BREED, SHENANDOAH, BANDELERO - and in the case of FOOL'S PARADE even memorable. Later in his career he made a trio of British based adventure films of which THE WILD GEESE is the best (the others - THE SEA WOLVES and FFOLKES - are both highly enjoyable) and is now regarded as a minor classic. The plot has ageing mercenary Richard Burton hired by a multi-national company to rescue a Mandela type African leader. He gathers together his crew of specialist, trains them and the mission is successful. But we know that in this sub-genre there will be a doublecross and the mercenaries have to fight there way out. As an action film THE WILD GEESE really delivers the goods and the there is plenty of bang bang stuff which is convincingly done. The film allows itself a little moralising about the role of mercenaries but this is kept to a minimum and the when the inevitable question of the white man's role in black Africa rears its head it is personalised between a South African mercenary and the rescued black leader and the script is far from uncritical of the corruption, tribal massacres etc that have marred the post-colonial history of the dark continent. The cast is truly outstanding with good performances from everybody. Headliners are Ricard Burton, Richard Harris and Roger Moore and a quite phenomenal supporting cast which includes Stewart Granger, Jack Watson (doing his excellent Sgt-Major routine), Ronnie Fraser, Kenneth Griffith (as scene stealer as the gay medic), Frank Finlay, Hardy Kruger, John Kani, Barry Foster, Julius Limbani and Jeff Corey.Rating : ***

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