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Have a gander Have a gander
by Asa Butcher
Issue 10
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Information
Film
The Wild Geese
Andrew V. McLaglen
1978
I always remember my parent’s box of vinyl 45s in the lounge, especially one in particular even though I never listened to it. It was Joan Armatrading’s Flight of the Wild Geese and it was the theme song for The Wild Geese, the subject of this iKritic.

Joan should be glad that she isn’t the subject because her song was a warbling abomination and I would have zapped through the opening titles if it hadn’t been for Maurice Binder’s Africa imagery montage. Binder’s work appears at the beginning of every Bond film from Dr. No to Licence to Kill, and you can easily spot his personal style before his name appears.

Binder is not the only Bond connection that The Wild Geese can boast because it is edited by John Glen, the editor of three Bonds and director of five, and stars Roger Moore. Moore is not the star of the film, nor is he second, because he is accompanied by Richard Burton and Richard Harris.

The movie was based upon Daniel Carney’s unpublished novel The Thin White Line and it follows the actions of a group of mercenaries hired to overthrow a dictator in central Africa. Their task is to save a critically ill opposition leader (Winston Ntshona) who is due for execution, but the mercenaries are double-crossed following the mission and are forced to escape the country in order to exact revenge.

The Wild Geese is pure action, war and adventure, which is due to the fact that former real life mercenary Colonel "Mad" Mike Hoare was the technical and military advisor on the film. According to the trivia, he led a band of British ex-servicemen in mercenary campaigns in the Belgian Congo in the 1960s and 1970s and whose exploits were allegedly the inspiration for this film.

All the action sequences have realism that makes you shudder at the body counts, but you are gripped by the combat. The grittiness and actions of the mercenaries suggests that this film is a bad choice on a date, but definitely one to watch with the guys and lager. The Wild Geese couldn’t help being a tough movie with Richard Burton and Richard Harris. Both actors had bad reputations with alcohol, so the producer made Harris deposit half his salary in escrow, with any costs of bad behaviour subtracted, and not delivered until after the film was completed. Despite one lapse, Harris remained sober for the film’s duration and Burton drank only soft drinks.

Burton , Harris and Moore are excellent in roles that were seemingly made for them, plus they are ably supported by a team of actors who genuinely look like mercenaries. The dialogue between the men is lively and bitterly funny, while the set pieces are executed extremely well, especially the taking of the compound. One of the funniest and tragic scenes is when the rather effeminate Medical Orderly Arthur Witty (Kenneth Griffith) holds off an advancing army single-handedly screaming, “Get yer lovely arses out of here! Witty’s holdin’ the fort!”

Roger Moore’s role in The Wild Geese is one of his best non-Bond films and this was during his time as 007 (Moonraker and The Spy Who Loved Me). Most of the lines of Moore’s Lt. Shawn Fynn are Bond-esque in style and delivery, but since Moore was the Bond of my generation and he is close to my heart I loved it.

The other actor that you can’t fail to miss is Jack Watson as RSM Sandy Young, who is outstanding as the sergeant major required to whip the soldiers into shape. He easily has the majority of the best lines and his sense of honour is truly believable, “Sir! With respect, you can stick the money up your arse – that’s not why I came out here with you. I love these grubby, thick-headed men I trained - you most of all. And I’ll be with them, because I’m needed. You want to see a REAL revolution? Try and stop me.”

Guys need to get this movie. It will boost your testosterone and give you an evening’s viewing pleasure. Anyway, how can you go wrong with a film whose tagline is: The Dogs of War. The Best D*** Mercenaries in the Business!


   
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