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In The Wind and the Lion (1975), President Teddy Roosevelt (Brian Keith), gets a chance to establish his big-stick leadership credentials when Mulay el Raisuli (Sean Connery), adefiant Arab ruler, kidnaps an American woman named Eden Pedecaris (CandiceBergen) and her young children. Roosevelt considers sending in the Marinesto rescue the woman. Meanwhile, German troops land in North Africa, hoping togain a foothold during the coming skirmish. The situation quickly turnsinto an international incident, but Eden and her hero-worshipping son growclose to Raisuli. The spirited American and her captor share intellectualdiscussions that reveal Raisuli to be more than a simple warlord. Thisleads to romance, imprisonment, and a bloody, Sam Peckinpah-inspiredshootout.
Writer/Director John Milius, who wrote an early, far more cartoonish draft of Francis FordCoppola's Vietnam War epic, Apocalypse Now (1979), has always had ataste for regimented manliness and hand-to-hand combat. He just isn'tparticularly concerned with reality, as his most popular directorial effortsto date, Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Red Dawn (1984),clearly illustrate. He left authenticity in the dust with The Wind andthe Lion, turning a rather mundane real-life storyline into somethingthat plays like a boy’s adventure novel.
In actuality, the beautiful woman embodied by Bergen was a balding,overweight American businessman who Raisuli kidnapped to humiliate theSultan of Morocco. No U.S. troops were ever sent in, and not a singleperson was killed. However, the Republican Party shrewdly announced that atelegram had been sent to Raisuli demanding that he free the businessman orface a U.S. attack...a tricky move - and an ideal scenario for a big-screen adventure.Milius, it should be noted, isn't completely adverse to accuratelydocumenting history: he wrote Robert Shaw's memorably horrifying speechabout the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in Jaws (1975).
The Wind and the Lion was shot in Almeria, Spain, a site thatfilmmakers often substitute for the Arabian desert and the American West.In her autobiography, Knock Wood, Bergen wrote: "The area waslittered with primitive facsimiles. You could crest a sand dune and findcartridges spent on Lawrence of Arabia (1962), arrows from 100Rifles (1969), tombstones from A Fistful of Dollars (1964), andwater gourds from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)."Bergen greatly enjoyed both the countryside and working with Connery. Shewas actually sorry when the filming ended.
Critics, for the most part, gave The Wind and the Lion a splitdecision. While many praised Milius' macho flamboyance, others felt thefilm was jingoistic and far too sentimental. But the action sequences, featuring an array of stunts involving camels, swords and firepower, are spectacular and the music score by Jerry Goldsmith won an Oscar nomination. Vincent Canby of The NewYork Times called it "the most sappy movie ever made, as well as one ofthe shrewdest." That's overstating it quite a bit, but he got thetongue-in-cheek gist of it. So, sit back and enjoy this freewheeling adventure,and don't think too hard about it. You'll ruin the fun.
Director/Screenplay: John Milius
Producer: Herb Jaffe, Phil Rawlins
Cinematography: Billy Williams
Editing: Robert L. Wolfe
Production Design: Gil Parrondo
Music: Jerry Goldsmith
Costumes: Richard La Motte
Cast: Sean Connery (Mulay el Raisuli), Candice Bergen (Eden Pedecaris), Brian Keith (Teddy Roosevelt), John Huston (John Hay), Geoffrey Lewis (Gummere), Steve Kanaly (Captain Jerome), Vladek Sheybal (The Bashaw of Tangier), Roy Jenson (Admiral Chadwick).
C-120m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Paul Tatara