Andrew V. McLaglen’s thrilling action-adventure film The Wild Geese (1978) follows an aging group of mercenaries led by Col. Allen Faulkner (Richard Burton) who are hired by a shady merchant banker named Sir Edward Matheson (Stewart Granger) to rescue Julius Limbani (Winston Ntshona) an imprisoned African leader who is set to be executed by a tribe known as the Simbas.
Faulkner decides to go ahead with the mission and begins tracking down the men he feels will be the best to help him put his plan into action. First on his list is Shawn Flynn (Roger Moore) an expert pilot that since leaving Faulkner’s squad has been working as a lowly drug courier for the local mafia. We get to see what Flynn is really about when he confronts his employer seeking revenge for a death of a young girl they sold drugs to. Flynn has a hit contract placed on him for his trouble and has to hide out until he finds a way to fix the mess. Meanwhile, Faulkner locates his other old friend Rafer Janders (Richard Harris) a logistics/technical expert whose wild ways have changed since he settled down and got a more modest civilian life. Janders is all set to go on a holiday vacation with his young son but when Faulkner shows up with the opportunity to make some big money, he decides to take the job instead. Faulkner and Rafer then seek out the endangered Flynn and save him from the mobsters who are out to kill him in an action packed sequence. Following Flynn’s rescue, they begin putting together the rest of their squad of 50 soldiers including Peter Coetzee (Hardy Kruger) an ex-South African Defense officer who wants to return to his home and buy a farm with his payment.
Before they take on the big mission, the men, who are now all out of shape, must train by doing some grueling military physical exercises. The squad then parachute into the country and set off to find Limbani at the guarded compound. Their infiltration and breakout of the leader goes rather smoothly, but what they don’t take into account is that their plane to escape won’t be there. They learn that Matheson has backed out of his initial deal and left them without transportation out of the country. To make matters even more difficult, Limbani can’t walk so he must be carried on the backs of the soldiers. The group must make their way through the rough African countryside as the Simbas give chase and bushwhack them at every turn. Their only chance of escaping alive is to reach a small airstrip where a plane is fueling up. The action comes fast and furious as both sides unleash a ruthless attack with weaponry such as crossbows, machetes, grenades and high powered machine guns.
The Wild Geese was British producer Euan Lloyd’s attempt to produce a men on a mission film in the tradition of 60s favorites such as The Guns of Navarone (1961), The Dirty Dozen (1967) and The Devil’s Brigade (1968). The screenplay by Reginald Rose was based on an unpublished novel about an incident in 1968 that may or may not have been a mercenary related mission to rescue Congolese leader Moise Thshombe. While the film did rather well in England, its release in the U.S. wasn’t quite as well received. Yet over the past 34 years it has gained an international cult following and is now considered one of the greatest genre films of its kind.
BLU RAY REVIEW
PICTURE: Presented in (1:85:1) 1080p HD – The clarity of the newly restored transfer is superb. The colors and heat of the African setting pop with brightness and vivid quality. Easily the best the film has looked since its theatrical release in 1978!
AUDIO: Dolby Digital 2.0 – Average to Good quality.
- Audio Commentary with Roger Moore & Second unit Director John Glen.
- The Wild Geese Director: A pleasant interview with Director Andrew V. McLaglen (McClintock!, The Devil’s Brigade, Mitchell) who discusses working on this film and shares some thoughts on his work on his previous films and his switch to directing stageplay following his departure from movies.
- The Mercenary: Military Advisor for the film Mike Hoare (who was 92 when he recorded this segment) reads a personally written account of his life as a mercenary and the origin of the name The Wild Geese who we learn were a 17th century Irish mercenary army.
- The Last of the Gentlemen Producers: Actors Roger Moore, Ingrid Pitt, Director John Glen and others pay tribute to a loved English producer Euan Lloyd who had a very successful career in film.
- The Flight of the Wild Geese: An exciting making of featurette from 1978 that gives a behind the scenes look at the production of the film.
- The Wild Geese Royal Charity Premiere Newsreel: Some rare archive footage of the event from 1978.
- Theatrical Trailer
FINAL WORD: Once again the folks at Severin Films have delivered another fantastic home video release of a cult classic long overdue for a pop culture revitalization. If you loved their work on Inglorious Bastards and Eagles Over London we highly recommend this film for your action-adventure library as well!