The Wild Geese (1978)
If you happened to see this film like I did at the right age growing up then you’ll agree that it doesn’t get much better and that this just might be cinema’s most enjoyable mercenary flick. It’s a tried and true formula in The Dirty Dozen mold with a few twists squeezed into a somewhat familiar plot but with our four leading men at the front of this army it’s almost way too cool.
Richard Burton leads the way after being hired by shifty Stewart Granger to export a jailed politician from a third world country. He quickly enlists Richard Harris, Hardy Kruger and Roger Moore at the height of his Bond years to take part in the daring raid along with an army of 50 troops. Head Sergeant Jack Watson whips everyone into shape in a thoroughly enjoyable boot camp before our heroes head into dangerous territory. Frank Finlay turns up as does a number of familiar faces from British cinema including Ronald Fraser and Patrick Allen.
The film is violent and there is plenty of gun play which should be expected from a film directed by Andrew V. McLaglen who cut his teeth on Gunsmoke and Have Gun Will Travel episodes before graduating to John Wayne westerns among other titles. It’s seeing films like this that got me hooked on Richard Harris at a young age and even though he mailed quite a few drunken performances in, I have always found him entertaining. As for this film he apparently kept the drinking down to a minimum which is surprising considering Burton was along for the ride. The film also introduced me to Hardy Kruger who is very good here. Moore is Moore but for me that’s a good thing and Jack Watson steels quite a few scenes during basic training. There was an ill fated sequel made in 1985 that was set to go with Burton. His untimely death put the production into a tail spin and was eventually made with Scott Glenn but it really became a sequel in name only. One thing I learned while watching this movie was that there were different versions of the film as I had seen it in a theater in Costa Rica. When I eventually saw it on VHS at home in Canada, there were a few violent scenes edited. Today this is pretty common with different cuts for home video but way back when it was like I had made a unique discovery.
As for The Wild Geese, remember I never said the film is a classic, just that’s it’s truly enjoyable. In the end isn’t that what really matters?