The Wind and the Lion
Release Year: 1975
Director: John Milius
Writer: John Milius
Starring: Sean Connery, Candice Bergen, Brian Keith, John Huston, Geoffrey Lewis, Steve Kanaly, Vladek Sheybal, Nadim Sawalha, Roy Jenson, Deborah Baxter, Jack Cooley, Chris Alter, Simon Harrison, Polly Gottesman
Rating: Nominated for 2 Oscars: Best Sound, Best Score.
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #182, week 50 2017
Morrocco 1904. A wealthy American woman (Candice Bergen) and her two children are abducted from their home by the men of the Raisuli (Sean Connery), a noble Barbary leader who plan to exchange her for larger autonomy to his people. But U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Keith) har other plans.
This epic sty colonial age North Africa was an oddity even when it was released. The cinematic intelligentsia had already moved on to other things with filmmakers like Scorsese and Coppola setting the tone for a new kind of American story. The Wind and the Lion, on the other hand, harkens back to the big adventure films of the 1950s or 1960s, such as The African Queen (1951) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962). The Wind and the Lion does not stand nearly as strongly in movie memory and with good reason. This film does not have the same stuff that great classics are made of but it has it’s moments, centered in fine performances. Candice Bergen (Agent Catwalk, 2000) is good as the tough-nosed American woman, showing great dignity and fierceness in an unpleasant situation, but the two key performances are Sean Connery (Murder on the Orient Express, 1974) as the Raisuli and Brian Keith (The Parent Trap, 1961) as president Roosevelt. Both are noble men their own ways, and while everyone else is portrayed in a satirizing way (especially the military) both Raisuli and Roosevelt are portrayed as complicated and wise men who respect each other as warriors. The Wind and the Lion is a good story which refreshingly does not involve romance but rather growing respect between Raisuli and his captive, especially on her side as she is the one most coloured by prejudice. With a sweeping good score and a great final battle, The Wind and the Lion is a great film for fans of old-fashioned epic adventure stories.
The story is based on a historical incident involving the kidnapping of Ion Perdicaris, an American expatriate living in Tangier (changed to a woman for the movie). However, the two children, the American attack on the Bashaw’s palace in Tangier, and the climactic battle between the American and German forces, were all inventions of writer/director John Milius.
The film’s stunt coordinator Terry Leonard did most of the horse action scenes and can be seen as President Roosevelt’s sparring partner in the boxing scene.
In the final battle, the German officer discards his gun, and fights the Raisuli with swords. In return, the Raisuli rewards the officer with a scar, a sign of courage in upper-class Germans and Austrians. In the dueling society, the victor was seen as the person who could walk away from the duel with an obvious scar. It was important to show one’s dueling prowess, but also that one was capable of taking the wound that was inflicted. Courage was shown by being able to stand and take the blow as opposed to inflicting the scar. Facial scars were most desired.
Picture Copyright: MGM