As Rudolf Hess, 77-year-old Laurence Olivier was in poor health during filming and required a nurse to accompany him during production. Olivier was also beginning to suffer with memory problems and labored for hours on his one long speech, despite having trouble with the dialogue. See more »
An American TV network hires a group of mercenaries to spring the notorious high-rank Nazi officer and war criminal Rudolf Hess who is being held at Spandau Prison, East Berlin. The purpose is to elicit secrets about Hitler and his Nazi Party that have not been revealed to the world and, simultaneously, raise the popularity of the TV network itself. Haddad (Scott Glenn), an American mercenary heads the squad with another British mercenary Faulkner (Edward Fox).
The mission gets complicated as other parties like the KGB and another mercenary group try to sabotage the plan, eventually leading to the lost of lives of Haddad's men and endangering the life of the target man Hess.
This film was a bomb when it played at the cinemas because a lot of viewers had the misconception of what they would see and expected wall-to-wall, masculine battle scenes like those in THE WILD GEESE. The other reason was that the leading cast was not super stars: Scott Glenn was an up-and-coming star then and Edward Fox's career had dwindled. Barbara Carrera was only cast as an eye candy, though she is billed second in the opening sequence. And finally the plot itself that sounds ridiculous.
I watched it on video when I was 13 and didn't like it either. But having watched it again on DVD recently, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that it was not as bad as I thought it was.
The film has a slow, step-by-step build-up that follows the "planning-surveillance-organizing-executing" structure, something like a "Mission Impossible" episode that fits very well with the plot. Modern audiences may not like the lack of tension but viewers who are accustomed to espionage action thrillers of the 70's and 80's will not have much to complain about.
Despite some negligible flaws, Scott Glenn, Edward Fox, Laurence Olivier and the others all play their part well. There's also an Irish mercenary Hourigan played by Derek Thompson who chews one of the scenes with Paul Antrim, playing Murphy, a military trainer of the group.
The action sequences are sparse but tight inserted in the required scenes: the shootout in the alley, the night raid at the warehouse, and the kidnapping. There are also a few violent scenes involving torture by suffocation, knife cutting a face, two gunshots at the knee and backstabbing ,which are pretty tame by today's standards though.
The music by Roy Budd serves the scenes fittingly and even enhances them. Peter R. Hunt's direction moves in a rather slow pace but doesn't bore viewers (of course, you need concentration when watching this because there are some rather confusing sub-plots going on) and eventually takes speed during the last 35 minutes (of the 125 run time). Surprisingly, the locations in East Berlin chosen for this film depict the beauty of the era, not the negative views Westerners used to have in minds about the Eastern block countries at the time.
Despite the farcically contrived ending,WILD GEESE II is still an interesting,(a pretty) exciting, and well-executed espionage action thriller not to be watched as a sequel but a film in its own right.
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