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'The Wind and the Lion' is, simply put, one of the greatest adventure films
ever made, a classic that helped break the 'James Bond' stereotype for Sean
Connery, solidified Brian Keith's reputation as one of America's finest
character actors, and gave action-oriented director John Milius his most
'audience-friendly' success. It is a sweeping epic in the tradition of
'Lawrence of Arabia', without the earlier film's subtexts of megalomania and
sexual ambiguity. Here, the personalities are clearly defined; they start
off on opposing sides, but through the nobility of their characters, their
unspoken codes of honor, and a sense of old-fashioned chivalry in a modern
world of betrayal and greed, by the film's climax, they become allies
against a greater evil.
Some critics attempted to link Theodore Roosevelt's world view in the film to the eventual U.S. debacle in Vietnam. That is unfair to both the film, and to Milius, who, if anything, admires and respects the 'big stick' idealism and machismo of our only true 'cowboy' President. (This respect led the director to film the excellent 'The Rough Riders', twenty-four years later, for TNT). Rest assured, 'The Wind and the Lion' is NOT a boring political treatise!
The setting is Morocco in 1904, where an American woman (Candice Bergen, in perhaps her best screen performance), and her two children are kidnapped by 'the last of the Barbary Pirates' Sean Connery and his large band of followers, who are seeking restitution for a long political imprisonment by his family. In Washington, dynamic young President Teddy Roosevelt (brilliantly portrayed by Brian Keith) uses the incident to send in American marines, both to rescue the family, and influence the country's politics (much to the chagrin of Secretary of State John Huston!) Privately, Roosevelt admires the Arab's courage and honor, and wishes the two could face off in a duel to resolve matters.
As her captivity continues, Bergen learns that the real villain is not Connery, who is truly the 'Chosen' leader of his people, but those who imprisoned him. The Americans discover this, too, as they see alliances being forged between the usurpers and greedy European powers, particularly Germany. Ultimately, this leads to a rip-roaring battle between the two forces, full of unforgettable images (Connery on horseback, at full gallop, snatching up a rifle offered by Bergen's son, is one of the great moments in film history!), as the film reaches a VERY satisfying conclusion.
There are many wonderful aspects to this film, and Jerry Goldsmith's rousing score must be singled out; it is one of the finest of his long career, ranking with his soundtracks for 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture', and 'Patton'.
'The Wind and the Lion' is the kind of epic adventure "they don't make anymore". Happily, John Milius has proven that cliche wrong. This film is ABSOLUTELY essential in any Connery or action film collection. I HIGHLY recommend it!
After reviewing others' comments I have to say that I agree with most of
them, even to some degree with some of the seemingly disparaging ones. In
that regard, however, I would have to say to those disappointed with the
film because of the considerable liberties it takes with the historical
facts that they should bear in mind that this film is clearly intended as
pure adventure story with only enough depth to get the audience
involved (which may explain its undercurrent of political satire so
suggestive of the immediate post-Vietnam era in which it was made and
released), and could never have been intended as a theatrical
of historical fact. I'm inclined to doubt you can do both successfully in
the same film, at least not without losing a lot of the breezy,
simplicity that makes the adventure movie what it is in the first place. I
think adventure movies deliberately ignore deeper issues raised by the
events they treat that could be expected to lead to emotional conflict in
the minds of the audience. Thus, in the typical adventure movie there are
well-defined good guys and bad guys and motivations and justifications are
crystal-clear. On the other hand, real history is full of ambiguities and
complexities which raise deeper issues and conflicting feelings in the
audience's consciousness, leading to an essentially heavier, more deeply
dramatic treatment. Thus, if the producer had tried to make the plot of
film completely accurate he would have wound up with more of a drama than
adventure film, and you would have had a completely different kind of
all together. Consequently, criticizing this film for not dealing with the
deeper issues behind the Morocco crisis of 1904 is like criticizing
of the Lost Ark* for not treating the evils of Nazism more seriously than
did. *The Wind & the Lion* is like *Raiders*, not *Schindler's List*.
Moreover, even apart from the numerous variances from actual history found in the plot (they even moved the date of the event several months to bring it closer to the presidential election), I have to wonder how accurately it portrays Berber culture or even Theodore Roosevelt (whose portrait hangs on the wall directly above my computer monitor while I write this and about and even by whom I have many books including a complete set of his papers, as edited), however entertaining and appealing they may appear in the film. Nevertheless, because of their interesting and sympathetic treatment, this remains one of my favorite movies. So, if these matters still trouble you when you watch the movie, do what I find comes more or less automatically to me and try thinking of it as basically pure fiction and you should like it just fine.
Having said that, though, one of the best things about this film is that irrespective of what the writers or director did with it to make a lighthearted adventure story, other departments seemingly spared no pains in making it every bit as believable, if not actually accurate, as possible. First, I would bet money that the extras in the scene where the Marines land and storm the palace were real Unites States Marines specifically recruited for the part - note the haircuts, the prolonged double-timing in heavy uniforms, the fact that everybody stays in step, the shouted close-order drill commands, and just their general bearing or attitude (if you've ever spent time with Marines or seen one of their little public relations demonstrations at a Marine Corps base you'll know what I mean). Second, Steve Kanally got into his part in a serious way, portraying a practically flawless Marine Corps "recruiting poster" company commander - this is exactly the way the Marine Corps wants its people to come across when they are showing off for the public. Third, in the scene in the U.S. consul's office Steve Kanally historically accurately relates that he has "two 'reinforced' rifle companies" with which to seize the palace, and his statement is realized in deed when the Marines land on the wharf, as well as when they finally reach the palace, because you will see that not only are Marines present but also U.S. Navy sailors backing them up - i.e., two rifle companies reinforced with sailors from whatever ships that landed them.
Such leads me to the detail that is my favorite because it is so subtle that it is hard to imagine much more than literally a handful of viewers among the thousands who would see this film ever being likely to appreciate it. In the book *American Naval History - An Illustrated Chronology* (published some years after the film was made) naval historian Jack Sweetman relates that in the actual event the Marines were landed from the cruiser USS BROOKLYN. When you see the Marines landing in the film you will note a very antique-looking steamship looming prominently in the background. This is obviously a matte painting inserted using special effects techniques because probably the only ship still existing in the world that looks anything like that is a stationary floating museum, the cruiser USS OLYMPIA of Spanish-American War fame, and it would not be available unless the producer was willing to shoot that scene in downtown Philadelphia. More to the point, consideration of the depiction by anyone with a relevant photograph or two and basic sensitization to ship identification issues reveals that the ship pictured isn't the OLYMPIA. There are not many books easy to find these days that would help you identify the ship (I know of only two), but if you were to make the effort you would be rewarded with an unmistakable solution. The raised fo'c's'l', three very tall stacks, turret locations, and sweep of the stern unambiguously identify this vessel as just one ship and one ship only, and by now I shouldn't have to tell you its name, but of course it is the BROOKLYN. My hat's still off to the Art Department for taking that much trouble to get something so easy to disregard so right.
Anyway, this film which has just about everything this writer could want in an adventure movie: not only Theodore Roosevelt and a lot of Marines at their most virile kick-butt best, but expansive Americanism at its optimistic best ("we have men who can do anything - we have men who can FLY"), Sean Connery as a highly appealing charismatic leader (who at one point very plausibly takes out about ten scum-bucket thug types with aplomb John Wayne could envy), a long cavalry sequence with seemingly hundreds of riders culminating in a good old-fashioned saber charge, a "kid" angle (which reminds you how to look at this thing, if you ask me), a certain amount of witty repartee, healthy doses of chivalry throughout, a romantic aspect that is not wholly gratuitous, and not the least, a very feminine and attractive heroine with enough Yankee grit and determination to satisfy Katharine Hepburn. Rent it, buy it, watch it!
A movie I've seen and enjoyed possibly more than any other movie. I first saw it as a kid and loved the drama and the great climactic battle. As I got older, I enjoyed it as much or more than before, but now due to all of the components that work together to make a true classic. The acting is great (especially Keith as T. Roosevelt), the cinematography spectacular, the script is full of gems, and the directing pulls it all together wonderfully. It's loosely based on an actual event, and it shows rush of Europe and a newly emergent America to carve up the 'Sick old Man' (the Ottoman Empire) as it collapses in a fashion unlike any other 'historical' movie I've seen. Humor, drama, action, love...it's got it all and deserves far more acclaim (much like 'The Great Waldo Pepper').
... Except that the Eden Pedecaris character was in reality a man who
didn't have any children with him and that the battle at the end with
the United States Marine Corp defeating a German force never happened .
So in truth it's not actually a true story plot wise
It's very arrogant of Hollywood in general and John Milius in particular to re-write history in this manner because the film is rather accurate in some other ways namely the portrayal of Theodore Roosevelt . Want to know about how the teddy bear came into being ? Watch this film . Roosevelt was a great lover of nature , he was both a hunter and an ecologist and decided that if America wanted to be a major world power then the nation would have to carry a big stick while speaking in a soft voice
Roosevelt more than any president in history made America the superpower it is today and it's a very topical film to watch in 2004 . America's resentment of Germany and France ! Arabs slaughtering infidels on the battlefield but taking a moral high ground about women and children being held as hostage ! American military leaders and diplomats not really caring if they start a bloody war ! The more things change the more they stay the same
It is interesting to see that Milius has painted the Arabs with very human faces . Mulay might be a brigand but he's a most likable anti hero and a cinema audience has the rare opportunity of seeing what Sean Connery is capable of when he's given a good role . I wonder though how this film would have the Arabs if it'd have been made a few years later after the Iranian revolution ? I've got a feeling it would never have been made at all in todays current climate
As it stands THE WIND AND THE LION is very poor history in most parts , fairly good history in some parts and stands as a sort of timepiece when Hollywood was far less xenophobic than it is today
We usually think of the British as the experts at rendering great adventure
from the Imperial age, with the likes of The Four Feathers (1939) and Zulu,
simply because the Imperial age was, for the most part, British. Here, in
The Wind and the Lion, we see a wonderful rendering of America's own
America's projection of power under Teddy Roosevelt is the backdrop for this conventional tale of the kidnapped damsel who, despite her gentility, is smitten by the rough, manly nobility of her captor, who in turn is disarmed by her beauty and scorn. (Politically correct prigs eager to see some slight of "native" peoples or cultures can rest assured, that the way Arabs and Muslims are depicted here is far more flattering than the way their modern counterparts depict themselves on the current world stage.) What makes this story different are the terrific production values - faultless photography, composition and editing - the terrific casting - the underappreciated Brian Keith playing a bully Teddy - and vivid history.
Though The Wind and the Lion is told largely through the eyes of the son, every member of the family can identify with one of the characters, whether it be Sean Connery's noble brigand, Candace Bergen's feisty heroine, John Huston's wily John Hay or Steve Kanaly's spiffy, radiant, ruthless can-do lieutenant, Roosevelt's "Big Stick". There is a transcendent scene at the end, when the little boy is symbolically swept away by the dashing Moor on his white steed. This is high adventure at its best.
Lovely Candace Bergen as the widow Perdicaris are kidnapped and held
for ransom by the Sheik Raisuli played by one dashing Sean Connery. The
incident comes during 1904 as Theodore Roosevelt runs for election to
the presidency in his own right. Needing a good example to show off the
muscular foreign policy of the United States, Brian Keith as Roosevelt
issues a stunning declaration to the Sultan of Morocco, "Perdicaris
alive or Raisuli dead."
But in this adaptation of that incident the famous declaration is the only true thing about this story. The Perdicaris in question was in reality one Ion Perdicaris who was a Greek immigrant and dilettante playboy. In fact Perdicaris gave up his American citizenship years ago and was back as a Greek national. Never mind that though, his predicament was serviceable enough at the time.
The damsel in distress makes better screen material though so it's a widow woman and her two kids that are in harm's way here. Of course as presented here the incident is also used by some of our European powers to get their foothold into Morocco. The intrigues get far beyond one brigand's demand for ransom.
The Wind and the Lion is hardly history. But it is an enjoyable film and Sean Connery is always fun to watch. Brian Keith also fits my conception of Theodore Roosevelt and the scenes in the Roosevelt White House do ring true to all the stories told. John Huston plays the ever patient Secretary of State John Hay who Roosevelt had inherited from his predecessor William McKinley.
But kids don't use this film to skip reading a history assignment on the Theodore Roosevelt era.
Sean Connery is very good as the Great Raisuli, Lord of the Rif and
of the Faithful. This is an adventure movie with Arabs, Germans and the
all coming to grips at one point or another. There is also a lot of humor
the interplay among the main and supporting characters. The story is based
on the true incident in which a wealthy Greek-American businessman was
kidnapped by the Raisuli in the early 1900s. Milius has substituted
Bergen and her two children as the victims of the kidnapping, and this
the story to a lot of literary license.
On the other hand, the movie gives Milius the opportunity to remind the viewer of two of the most famous (though mostly forgotten) political quotations of the TR era. Brian Keith (very good as TR) says, "Pedecaris alive or the Raisuli dead!"; and John Huston (also good as Sec of State John Hay)asks the Japanese Ambassador at a White House dinner, "You likee knifee, you likee forkee?"
One of the best 'guy' movies I've ever seen has to be the Wind and the Lion.
Gad, the scenes...
Raisouli's bandits swarm over the wall... A staid British gentleman calmly gets up from tea with Candice Bergen and drops three of them with a Webley revolver in his coat. A whisper from the ghost of Empire... Lest we forget! Lest we forget!
U.S. Marines coming ashore from the long, long gone _Brooklyn_. They were carrying Krags, it should have been Lees, but, oh wow. And the Winchester 97 blowing large holes in obstreperous natives and even more obstreperous and faithless Europeans...
Raisouli --Sean Connery, o, Wow!--wondering 'What kind of gun does Roosevelt use?"
Teddy Roosevelt--Brian Keith, o, Wow!--wondering "What kind of gun does Raisouli use?' and writing yet another angry letter to Winchester about the stock on his Winchester 95.
Raisouli, armed with but a sword... A Prussian cavalry officer, HOLSTERING his pistol and drawing HIS sword... Honor. That's something long dead, from a world long gone, but Raisouli would never have flown a plane full of children into a building...
Milious at Milious's magnificent best, and now out on DVD.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Wind and the Lion starts in Tangier in Morocco on October 15 1904
where an American woman named Eden Pedecaris (Candice Bergen) & her two
young children Jennifer (Polly Gottesman) & William (Simon Harrison)
are kidnapped by the gang of men lead by Moroccan rebel Mulay Hamid El
Raisuli (Sean Connery) the Lord of the Rif, Sultan to the Berbers & the
last of the Barbary Pirates. Word of the kidnapping gets back to
President Theodore Roosevelt (Brain Keith) who decides to use the
situation as a show of strength & issues the ultimatum 'Pedecaris alive
or Raisuli dead'. As the struggle for power in the Middle East &
Morocco wages between the Europeans, the Americans & the Moroccan
people Raisuli & Pedercaris become pawns, they become symbols of war &
what to fight for or against as the Middle East sees in the beginning
of the 20th Century in turbulent fashion...
Written & directed by John Milius this historical adventure is loosely based on real events but in essence is a fictional work, whether you like The Wind and the Lion will probably depend on how much you enjoy period adventure films. Of course the fact that the film is partly about an American war against Middle Eastern extremist's who kidnap people & demand a ransom has parallels to what's happening right now in the real world, doesn't it? The character's are well written & likable, it's odd to see Sean Connery play an Arab Sultan but he has great charisma & screen presence although it's rather inevitable that Pedecaris will fall for his roguish behaviour, sense of honour & conviction in his beliefs while it's also just as inevitable that Raisuli will fall for her strength, independence & good looks in the obligatory romance subplot. The film has an uneven pace & tone, it flips between Raisuli, Roosevelt in America, lots of political wrangling & some good old fashioned fighting without a totally clear direction. It's a good film but I just wish it didn't last quite as long & it didn't come to a grinding halt every five minutes for a speech of some sort, whether it's Roosevelt in America talking about Grizzly Bears or Raisuli in Morocco spouting another cryptic proverb. I mean I just think it might have flowed a bit better had it not been so bogged down in politics & philosophising. The Wind and the Lion is good film but I did get bored by it by the end, it is a little predictable & the story could have been a little bit more focused.
Director Milius does a fine job here, the film looks wonderful from start to finish with exemplary production design, costumes & locations. A lot of time is spent during The Wind and the Lion setting the scene & really making the viewer feel they are watching something that did indeed take place at the start of the last century. The film can also be quite violent at times, there's plenty of death, shootings, a severed tongue, a couple of executions & some nicely choreographed action scenes. Some people seem to think the horse were abused during the making of The Wind of the Lion, the film has never been released on any home video format here in the UK because the BBFC demanded cuts to several horse falls to which director Milius reacted angrily to & stopped the planned release since all who were involved with the making of it say no animals were hurt at all. To be honest I didn't see anything that concerned me at all.
With a supposed budget of about $4,000,000 The Wind and the Lion looks great throughout with top class production values & meticulous attention to detail. Set in Morocco but filmed largely in Spain. The acting is good especially Sean Connery.
The Wind and the Lion is a visual treat for anyone who likes their films set in the past, it looks great throughout & there are some nice action scenes but the story doesn't hold up that well & it's far too long for my liking. Good but not great & I doubt I would want to see it again anytime soon.
A glorious adventure film, from the time when men were real men, women were
real women, and American presidents were still hunting bears in Alaska
instead of the oval office.
John Milius makes here the kind of macho film he really likes: we have bravado, honour, and charisma aplenty. The performances are excellent, as are the cinematography and the music. No deep messages here, but excellent entertainment all around. Film academies tend to ignore pictures like this in their award ceremonies but it is the kind of film that will stand the test of time.
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