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Thread: The Wild Geese

  1. #1
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    As action films go, this one has always been one of my favourites, partly because it had two of my favourite British Actors of all time in it, Richard Burton and Richard Harris and it seems a great shame that we can't make more like it these days, but also a superb supporting cast.



    While the film does have some real cringe worthy dialogue ( Rosalind Lloyds 'Isn't he a love' is a classic example) and the scenes between Harris and his son Emil can produce some vomit inducing runs for the bathroom, the film is still filled with some classic moments and sequences.



    I know people will gripe about the sterotype portrayal of the gay doctor and some will say it is racist (though my Ugandan wife tells me it was hugely popular in Africa at the time and still is, and I would disagree on the racist issue) but at the time it was made, 1976, the world was something of a different place and the character of Julius Limbani (Winston Ntshona) was extremely well portayed, as was the part of Jesse, played by John Kani, both of whom have recently worked together several times at the National Theatre, John Kani went on to become an award winning playwright, tackling several issues of South Africa (His own younger brother was shot by the SA Police in 1985)

    Hardy Krugers character was also interesting, a white South African racist who thinks he has all the answers but gradually comes to change his mind - a brave character considering the climate at the time.

    The film sports a number of tightly directed and taught action sequences, notably the long tracking crane shot in the final action sequence as the remaining mercenaries make a dash for the plane. The film's premier on ITV was subject to the most expensive advertising campaign in television history and feature a huge billboard poster along the South Bank of the Thames. The television screening suffered from a number of cuts, though at the time I didnt realise this until I saw it on video some years later.

    I find it is one of those films that always has you hoping the ending will be different on each ocasion you watch it as you pray for Rafer to make it on board the plane. The Wild Geese also has a number of well known British regulars in the supporting cast, including Ronald Fraser, Jack Watson, Stewart Granger (A legend in his own right and a very nasty portrayal in the role of Matherson) Patrick Allen, Jeff Corey, Kenneth Griffith among others. Euan Lloyd, the producer, still outlives most of the cast, with Roger Moore, Kani and Ntshona being the only surviving lead cast members still living.



    A sequel was made to the film with a third planned to be set in Africa, however the second film performed poorly and the third film was cancelled. The death of Richard Burton around the time of pre-production as filming was due to commence is often seen as the reason for the failure of the second film, though the script itself is pretty dire. Edward Fox replaced Burton and became his characters brother.



    Great British action films that stand up well to Hollywood blockbusters are few and far between, but this stands up to most. This is essentially a boys own movie, though a recent screening I organised at a hired cinema went down really well with several younger members of the female audience who had never seen it (Several gasps were heard when Harris got shot in the leg, along with crys of 'Oh no...get on the plane!') so



    Andrew V Mcgaglen has had something of a mixed career though I have enjoyed many of this films, but I always thought this was by far the best, it may just be a Saturday Night no brainer, but its a great one at that. We haven't got many classic British action films, but this is one of them.



    Some of my favourite lines are:



    'There is a clause in my contract that says my liver is to be buried seperately with honours...' Richard Burton.



    'The man is dead Mr Faulkner, now only the spirit remains..' Winston Ntshona



    'I have a lady barber who charges by the inch, sir..' John Kani



    'Well I suppose you'd better kill me...' Stewart Granger

    'You're an incredible man too Sir Edward, so I suppose I'd better had....' Burton

  2. #2
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    A real humdinger of a film, despite Emil's performance.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Country: UK Windthrop's Avatar
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    The 'sequel' isn't too bad either - The Sea Wolves - same producer, director and screenwriter and was to have had the same principles in it when Roger Moore suggested David Niven who in turn brought in Gregory Peck and then Trevor Howard was brought in to what in a sense is the last old style british war film.

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    Agreed - I love this film. It manages to be a great action film whilst keeping its tongue firmly wedged in its cheek for much of the time. The 'serious' dialogue gets a bit clunky at times but all credit for tackling the issues involved ( bearing in mind as stated above the world was a very different place then and few of us had even heard of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu et al ). The accusations of racism had always rung pretty hollow to me - the politics may be a bit simplistic but at least they are tackled. The DVD version includes much info from Euan Lloyd as to the problems he encountered persuading Winston Ntshona and John Kani to appear - the fact that they did and saw the film as an opportunity to make a difference is surely a pretty good testimony to the makers' good intentions. And lest we forget - its also darn good fun both intentionally and otherwise - the scene in the drug dealer's 'swinging' London pad which seems to be next door to the Tower of London being a fine example of the latter - and just occasionally rather moving. Kenneth Griffith's death scene is particularly memorable as he gazes with blatant lust at the enemy soldiers and murmers 'Ooh you big buggers. What a shame we can't be friends' just before he is overwhelmed and hacked to pieces.



    On a related note I just got back from Johannesburg where I visited the Kliptown area of Soweto where the movie Tsotsi was filmed ( highly recommended both generally and for anyone with an interest in South Africa ) Among the extras on the DVD is a short film by the same director called The Storekeeper starring Winston Ntshona - a bit older and more grizzled but still great.

  5. #5
    Super Moderator Country: UK batman's Avatar
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    I have enjoyed all the films mentioned above. The Wild Geese is a terrific action film with a great cast and all the three leads seem to be enjoying themselves immensely. It makes some very pertinent (but quite heavy handed) points about European interference in Africa and about racism, all of which are still relevant today. Wild Geese 2 isn't in the same class but is enjoyable all the same. The main flaw is the lack of a really charismatic star to replace the original trio. The Sea Wolves is like a throwback to the films of the late 40s/early 50s and is none the worse for that. A rollicking adventure for big kids again with stars who look like they are having a lot of fun. I also enjoyed North Sea Hijack in which Roger Moore tries something a bit different (for him) and doesn't make a complete fool of himself. Anthony Perlins makes a very hissable villain and the action stuff is handled well. It's a pity more 'pure entertainment' films like these are seldom seen these days.



    Bats.

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    In early 1969 I travelled through parts of Africa with a former colleague of Colonel "Mad Mike" Hoare. Interesting trip... I heard all about the exploits of "4 Commando" in the Congo... (but the colleague kept referring to it as "Sein Kommando" - a reference I never quite understood..)



    Even "mysteriouser" (as Lewis Carroll would have said), my travel companion was a distant relation of General Allenby of Egyptian Campaign fame!

  7. #7
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NappieB
    In early 1969 I travelled through parts of Africa with a former colleague of Colonel "Mad Mike" Hoare. Interesting trip... I heard all about the exploits of "4 Commando" in the Congo... (but the colleague kept referring to it as "Sein Kommando" - a reference I never quite understood..)



    Even "mysteriouser" (as Lewis Carroll would have said), my travel companion was a distant relation of General Allenby of Egyptian Campaign fame!
    "Sein Kommando" just means "your commando" (or actually "your work group"). He could have been referring to them as "Sein" because they were led by a Brit. I presume he wasn't British



    Steve

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Crook
    "Sein Kommando" just means "your commando" (or actually "your work group"). He could have been referring to them as "Sein" because they were led by a Brit. I presume he wasn't British



    Steve
    Steve:



    His nickname was "Dutch" but he spoke perfect accentless English. I never knew his nationality...

  9. #9
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NappieB
    Steve:



    His nickname was "Dutch" but he spoke perfect accentless English. I never knew his nationality...
    Errm, could he have been Dutch?

    Dutch sounds quite a bit like German, it's just got a lot of additional vowels. Many phrases are recognisably similar in both languages.



    Steve

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Crook
    Errm, could he have been Dutch?

    Dutch sounds quite a bit like German, it's just got a lot of additional vowels. Many phrases are recognisably similar in both languages.



    Steve
    No, he wasn't Dutch nor an Afrikaner (because of his nickname, I asked him if he was either soon after we were introduced). I never enquired further, but as he was very blond with pale skin and green eyes I assumed he was either German, Swiss or Scandinavian, but raised in Egypt (due to the lack of any accent, and because of the Allenby connection ??? He also said that he had lived in Africa all his life.)



    I vividly remember once in northern Angola we happened upon an old friend of his who didn't speak English and they had a long conversation in some language that might have been Swahili. It gave the whole situation a very surreal atmosphere.



    Anyway, THE WILD GEESE brings that road trip to mind every time I see the film.

  11. #11
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    Kenny Griffith who i met a good few years ago remembered his part with relish ,he said the whole shoot was just one long booze up....

  12. #12
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    Glad to see I am not the only person who enjoyed this film, despite as we say, Emil's howling (Emil is now in fact a film producer in the Far East)



    Well I was going to mention both the Sea Wolves and North Sea Hijack, all of course starred Roger Moore, and I thought he was great, actually, as Ffolkes ('thats with two F's') a brilliantly odd character. I think that film could have been so much more than it was though, it really could have been a great 'Die Hard on an Oil Rig' way back then, though I still loved Perkins as the bad guy and of course good old Jack Watson, another Andrew V Mac veteran crops up in there was well. Sadly I was about to contact Jack Watson through is his agent to get his autograph and spoke to them when he died only weeks later. I had heard he was a real nice man. The Sea Wolves, I actually saw at the cinema with my late grandmother, and what a treat that was. I got to actually leave school early to go and see it at the Kingston Granda in screen one. Another film that ocasionally suffers from terrible cuts on TV (Totally not needed, its not like the film was terribly violent in the first place) The recent screening the other week however was thankfully the orginal one with all scenes remained intact. I always thought the music to all three films was rather enjoyable too, I have the soundtrack to the Wild Geese on vinyl. It's another film I watch at least once a year.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by ddock54
    Kenny Griffith who i met a good few years ago remembered his part with relish ,he said the whole shoot was just one long booze up....
    That is one film that I would bet on being a shoot with a hoot. Apparently Roger Moore was a demon drinker who did not have hangovers.

  14. #14
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    It was agreed by Harris and Burton together that would stay on the wagon until the end of filming, not sure they kept that promise though. If everyone else was drinking, it must be seen as a small miracle if they managed to do so.

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    I think it was the rule no booze untill end of shoot ,but they did not count beers and cocktails as booze....the hard stuff came later

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    Richard Harris swore off the booze during shooting of "THE WILD GEESE" so as to get the part. I believe he managed it except for an "incident" involving Irish Coffee's. Dear old Ronald Fraser turned up so pissed he could not walk. He told Roger Moore that the Doctors told him stop drinking or stop breathing. He stopped for the shot and never touched another drop again.

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    I saw this in the cinema when it came out and have it on DVD and agree its a great film with a whos-who of British acting talent.



    Only thing I'd like to comment on, though . . . the script is almost an exact steal of Frederick Forsyth's "Dogs of War" (later made into a movie, of course, with Christopher Walken in the lead role).



    I always wondered how the makers got away with it - it's so blatant!



    Just a pathetic little bit of trivia - so please just ignore me.




  18. #18
    Super Moderator Country: UK batman's Avatar
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    The novel The Dogs of War was published in 1974 and was 'inspired' by real events that happened some years before. The film (1981) is significantly different from the book and more closely resembles The Wild Geese than the novel. Also, the same real events that 'inspired' it were also featured in an unpublished novel that was written in 1968 called The Thin White Line which was the basis for the screenplay of TWG. So the source material for TWG appeared a longtime before Forsyth's novel. So, taking all these factors into account, it looks like TDOW is actually a rip-off of TWG.



    Bats.

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    I absolutely love this action packed film and way back in early 1981 this was the very first movie I ever hired for my VCR.

  20. #20
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    3 of my most viewed films are, the Wild Geese, Where Eagles Dare and The Spy who came in from the Cold, all with Mr. Burton in them

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