Originally Posted by wmcclain
The Wind and the Lion (1975)
, written and directed by John Milius.
"Pedecaris alive or Raisuli dead."
Director of photography Billy Williams makes a cameo appearance at the opening of The Wind And The Lion
, 1975. It’s a bit of an error, because his character, Sir Joseph, runs out of bullets with this shot in the edited film, but you can see he’s got a full load here. Surely this is an homage to the 1903 silent, The Great Train Robbery
, in which Justus Barnes fires point blank into the camera.
“I want respect. … And I'm going to send the Atlantic Squadron to Morocco to get that respect.” “That’s illegal
.” “Now, why spoil the beauty of a thing with legality?”
The film’s director, John Milius, gets his own cameo as a one-eyed, one-armed arms merchant letting the Sultan of Morocco play with a new gatling gun. Milius, in addition to being a brilliant script doctor and filmmaker, was a lifelong military history buff, so this film is stuffed with some historical analogies (though much of the immediate story is contrived), and his battle sequences are exciting, tactically accurate, and are allegedly even shown in war colleges. In the final battle, watch for -- no kidding -- a cannon duel between opposing factions. A gunfight
with really big guns.
Many of the horse stunts were performed by Terry Leonard, who also cameoed as the Presidential sparring partner.
The fights, particularly the sword fights, were choreographed, performed, filmed, and edited with the precision of Japanese samurai films. Even the sounds are similar (Kurosawa’s sound effects editor used a sword cutting into frozen chicken wrapped in fabric, IIRC).
1975 was a banner year for Sean Connery. Following on Zardoz
, he made this film with Milius (co-starring John Huston) and The Man Who Would Be King
with Michael Caine, directed by Huston. Surely this was the year that put Connery back where he belonged. His performances here and the Huston film (sans hairpiece!) are hammy, macho, whimsical, and nuanced. His signature on-screen charisma brings it all to the table and leaves no leftovers. His introduction to us is brutal -- he strikes the woman harshly, telling her "Do not laugh at me again" -- but you start to see his nobility later, through the boy's eyes. Watch the fluttering of his turban when he tells Eden Pedecaris, “You’re in the Raisuli’s house, I don’t need guards. My eyes are with you wherever you go, and Allah is beside me, and no one can hide from Allah.”
Candice Bergen says in the 1975 featurette, “I think all women would like to be carried off by a benevolent captor. I always dreamed of being Maid Marian.”
“See, young man, you’ve made this noble grizzly bear look like a hairy cow
. Would you like to be portrayed as a hairy cow?”
The film is stuffed with great character actors. Huston of course as Secretary of State John Hay, Brian Keith sinking his teeth into the bigger than life role of President Teddy Roosevelt, Geoffrey Lewis as a career-minded US diplomat in Tangier, Steve Jensen as a Navy admiral, Steve Kanaly as a war-happy, young Marine officer.
Vladek Sheybal, a stage actor originally from Poland, was urged by Sean Connery (whose then-girlfriend, Diane Cilento, had been directed on stage by Sheybal) to take a role in the second Bond film, From Russia With Love
. He reluctantly did, and became one of the best known of the Bond villains, the chess master and SPECTRE agent Kronsteen. He appears here as the Bashaw, another great performance. Trivia: Sheybal was a member of the Polish underground in the war, twice captured and interred by the Third Reich, and twice escaped.
Milius is a student of classic film, and this film has homages to a great many of them. There are bits of David Lean, Howard Hawks, Michael Curtiz throughout. The Wind and the Lion
has more great set pieces in one film than many modern directors get into an entire career. Mrs. Pedecaris and the Marine Corps rifle company walking through the small town to free the Raisuli is right out of the end of The Wild Bunch
(with a decidedly better outcome).
The 1975 featurette on the DVD (and BD?) shows Milius carrying a revolver around during the shooting of the final battle. At one point, he’s twirling it like a gunslinger. For the benefit of the camera? or just because he’s an overgrown kid playing with bigger toys? You decide, seeing the documentary Milius
may help you. I recommend it highly. It’s amazing how many great films of the late 60s, 70s, 80s, even 90s he’s had a hand in. E.g. when Connery was in The Hunt For Red October
, he felt he didn't have a good "speech" in it, so asked Milius to write one up. The result is the marvelous "Crazy Ivan" scene where Captain Ramius is reflecting on his years at sea in a cold war, "with no monuments, no parades, only casualties."
Speaking of career highlights, composer Jerry Goldsmith pulled out all the stops for this film. Having such a huge canvas with which to compose a big, historical epic score must’ve been a treat (like The Sand Pebbles
). The entire soundtrack is available as a limited edition from La La Land Records. I remember seeing it in the theater (4.0 sound as far as I could tell), and the overture blasted out from all the speakers with incredible definition. It was amazing. There are countless great suites, e.g. when William is sleeping, and dreaming of the adventure he’s just had, ending with the Raisuli’s face almost superimposed on the boy’s, suggesting that this man’s impact on the young lad will forever effect who the boy grows up to be. For me, the score is never better when, finally freed, Raisuli throws down the rifle and battles his way through the village with his great sword. Listen to Goldsmith’s signature action music and climax when
. Goldsmith leads the orchestra through his signature blend of percussion and brass, and finishes with the main theme. It’s an unforgettable moment, perfectly edited. … Connery was born to play bigger than life scenes like this, and Goldsmith has his back with the musical score.
Trivia: Huston exits, stage left, quoting Kipling, “The bear that walked like a man.” Huston was about to release his long-dreamt of adaptation of Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King
, starring Connery and Michael Caine. .
The film is rather sneaky. It opens with a typical setup “mysterious foreigners are bad, look at how they are destroying Mrs. Pedecaris’ home, gleefully tearing up all the trappings of Western wealth.” But very quickly the film illustrates how the great Western powers (including the US) are trying to control and usurp the Muslim world, while the Muslims are acting (mostly) with honor and adherence to a traditional, moral code. Of course our kidnapping brigand is intended to turn out to be a hero of sorts. At a time when the Middle East and the Arab world were being viewed with suspicion, Milius’ film presents them taking the high ground.
Milius’ script is full of some thoughtful and memorable dialog. I think in an interview Milius said he set out to make a big picture like David Lean’s later films, and for my money, he hit a home run.
“Sometimes … you find your enemies are lot more admirable than your friends. You take the road to greatness,... you come to realize that the road traveled by great men is dark, and lonely, and lit only at intervals by other great men, and sometimes they’re your enemies. They’re the only true luxury you have
. Yes, it’s a dark and difficult road, and I do not look down on anyone who has good sense not to take it.“
In all, Wind and the Lion is an old-fashioned romantic adventure: the intelligent, sophisticated lady stolen away by a sheik or something who opens her eyes to variety of the world and possibility of a love that crosses social boundaries; add in some political intrigue; some military action; view it all through eyes of an impressionable youngster (William); then pound it home with the classic story of great men who view each other with respect over great distances, each a worthy adversary for the other.
“You are like the wind, and I like the lion. You form the tempest, the sand stings my eyes, and the ground is parched. I roar in defiance, but you do not hear. But between us there is a difference. I, like the lion, must remain in my place, while you, like the wind, will never know yours.”
Bill’s review is here
Note: some great matte painting work by, I think, Matthew Yuricich