The Wind and the Lion
Saturday January, 7 2017 at 02:00 PM
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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), a defiant Arab ruler, kidnaps an American woman named Eden Pedecaris (Candice Bergen) and her young children. Roosevelt considers sending in the Marines to rescue the woman. Meanwhile, German troops land in North Africa, hoping to gain a foothold during the coming skirmish. The situation quickly turns into an international incident, but Eden and her hero-worshipping son grow close to Raisuli. The spirited American and her captor share intellectual discussions that reveal Raisuli to be more than a simple warlord. This leads to romance, imprisonment, and a bloody, Sam Peckinpah-inspired shootout.
Writer/Director John Milius, who wrote an early, far more cartoonish draft of Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam War epic, Apocalypse Now (1979), has always had a taste for regimented manliness and hand-to-hand combat. He just isn't particularly concerned with reality, as his most popular directorial efforts to date, Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Red Dawn (1984), clearly illustrate. He left authenticity in the dust with The Wind and the Lion, turning a rather mundane real-life storyline into something that 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 the Sultan of Morocco. No U.S. troops were ever sent in, and not a single person was killed. However, the Republican Party shrewdly announced that a telegram had been sent to Raisuli demanding that he free the businessman or face 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 accurately documenting history: he wrote Robert Shaw's memorably horrifying speech about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in Jaws (1975).
The Wind and the Lion was shot in Almeria, Spain, a site that filmmakers often substitute for the Arabian desert and the American West. In her autobiography, Knock Wood, Bergen wrote: "The area was littered with primitive facsimiles. You could crest a sand dune and find cartridges spent on Lawrence of Arabia (1962), arrows from 100 Rifles (1969), tombstones from A Fistful of Dollars (1964), and water gourds from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)." Bergen greatly enjoyed both the countryside and working with Connery. She was actually sorry when the filming ended.
Critics, for the most part, gave The Wind and the Lion a split decision. While many praised Milius' macho flamboyance, others felt the film 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 New York Times called it "the most sappy movie ever made, as well as one of the shrewdest." That's overstating it quite a bit, but he got the tongue-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