The Wind and the Lion
John Milius must have been trying to win a bet. Someone must have wagered him, "Hey, my money says that in these modern cynical times of the mid-'70s you can't direct a film of classical Hollywood proportions, with a story that makes sense and is based on historical incidents featuring noble and heroic characters evincing moral values and standards of conduct unseen in movies since the '50s (and endangered then)." If such a wager were indeed placed, Milius won. For The Wind and the Lion (1975) is a rousing epic deeply rooted in the traditions of action films from Hollywood's golden past, showing the influence of George Stevens, David Lean, and John Huston, among many others. As is well known, The Wind and the Lion is a highly fictionalized account of a kidnapping in 1904 of an American socialite (a man in the real story) by a Moroccan brigand. In the Milius version, Eden Pedecaris (Candice Bergen, replacing Faye Dunaway at the last minute) grows, in a romantic version of the Stockholm syndrome, to have a fond respect for her captor, Mulay Achmed Mohammed el-Raisuli the Magnificent (Sean Connery), while her son (Simon Harrison) finds in the leader a salutary example of solid manly behavior. When President Roosevelt (Brian Keith) sends in the Marines, Raisuli has made his point and the Moroccan government he was hoping to embarrass falls. Arguably Milius's most popular film, The Wind and the Lion is also rather surprising in a lot of ways. The director is just as interested in policy-making as he is warfare, and the scenes of Roosevelt and his advisors, at once both polishing their legends and trying to get themselves out of a bind, are amusing. Meanwhile in the adventuring scenes, reticence and action are the contrary signposts of the film's wry moral fabric. Warner offers up a nifty package for The Wind and the Lion. The anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) is crisp and clear, with only a marginal amount of debris from the source-print. The 5.1 surround mix is sharp, accompanied by English, French, and Spanish subtitles, and an additional French language track. There are two supplements, a nine-minute contemporaneous "making-of" that is less formulaic than modern featurettes, but still laden with clips as padding. There is also Milius's feature-length commentary track, in which the loquacious orator cackles over gross gags (such as the chopped-off hand still hanging onto a telephone receiver), chortles over the agony he put his principal stunt-man through (the film was controversial for supposedly harming horses with tripwires during the shoot), high-fives himself for besting Connery ("who liked to think he could do anything") at surfing, and reverentially comments on the career and legend of Roosevelt. Milius shot the film in Spain, where Sergio Leone shot the Dollar westerns, which may be why at one point in his track he confuses actor Vladek Sheybal with Antoine Saint-John. The shortish Sheybal plays the Bashaw of Tangiers. Sheybal has appeared in movies such as Kanal and From Russia With Love, while the six-foot-four Saint-John was in Leone's Duck You Sucker (as Guttierez), Fulci's The Beyond, and Robert Enrico's Le Secret. Meanwhile, there is an Antoine St. John in the credits, but he plays Von Roerkel. What's curious is that Milius used Sheybal again, in Red Dawn. The print used is the complete version of the movie, with several seconds of black humor retained. Snap-case.