Contrary to what most of today's youth might falsely believe, the all-star adventure action flick has been around for several decades - long before Sylvester Stallone was old enough to enlist as a mercenary-for-hire or Chuck Norris mastered the art of waxing his back hair. In fact, these classic movies went on to inspire Italy's sacred genre of what we sometimes call "Macaroni Combat" films - which in-turn motivated people Quentin Tarantino to create movies like Inglourious Basterds. Interestingly enough, some of the more formidable entries on the unofficial list of goodies this oft-unspecified genre has produced over the years have been British in origin.
Not that the Brits are incapable of manufacturing straight-out action flicks, mind you. They absolutely one-hundred-percent most definitely are; it's just that the Americans usually (mistakenly) perceive pre-Guy Ritchie British action films to be little more than stiff-upper-lipped Merchant-Ivory productions with the occasional discharging of one of those blasted firearm contraptions. And anyone who believes such a thing should first find one of their feet on the receiving end of one of those bullet emissions to the foot so then they have absolutely no method of escaping whilst you numb their newfound pain with copious amounts of alcohol and introduce them to the awesomeness that is The Wild Geese.
For starters, the movie stars Richard Burton, Richard Harris, and Roger Moore. If those names don't mean much to you, imagine the third James Bond, the first Dumbledore, and one of the greatest alcoholics in cinema together. In fact, Burton's legendary drinking is carried over into that of his character - Colonel Allen Faulkner - as he is brought in by a British Government bigwig (Stewart Granger) at the beginning of the film to consider his mission: "There's a clause in all my contracts that my liver is to be buried separately, and with honors", he says in deadpan style that would make Buster Keaton envious, downing his hard beverage of choice as his unamused host looks on.
The assignment in question is to rescue an imprisoned African President (Winston Ntshona) before his captors execute him. Realizing this is going to be a big to-do - even for an aging mercenary like himself - Faulkner quickly sets about getting his old crew together, which includes is retired pal Rafer Janders (Richard Harris), who has since become a part-time father; and the always cool but incredibly collected Sean Flynn (Roger Moore), whose introductory scene finds him forcing his soon-to-be-former big shot employer to eat all of the contaminated heroin he less-than-coyly tried to get Sean to push. He has morals, you see - and one less drug pusher in the world matters not. As it turns out, however, the big shot is the son of a mafia boss - something that our boys must untangle their way out of before they can proceed.
From there, they hire old hands and new ones alike - including old army buddies like RSM Sandy Young (Jack Watson) and complete strangers like Coetzee (Hardy Krueger, filling the international quota of the main cast), who happens to have a problem with black people. Naturally, the crew get double-crossed by the men that hired them, which leaves them stranded in the African bush and allowing Krueger to carry (and even care for) their target as each character tries to make sense of the other - with their adversaries closing in on them every step of the way. There's also an openly gay character here (mind you, it was completely illegal to be gay in Britain when this movie was made): a medic as played by Kenneth Griffith, who is both over-the-top and grandiose at the same time, especially when it comes time for him to make the most of his assault rifle and grenades.
Oh, and did I mention the same man who directed this - Andrew V. McLaglen - also directed the cult classic Mitchell? What more could you want out of a movie?
Severin Films brings us this pretty-predictable-but-still-damn-fun action movie to Blu-ray in a 1080p/MPEG-2 presentation that presents the movie in an above-average transfer that preserves the title's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The image hasn't been tinkered with too-terribly much here, so it looks pretty natural overall. Sound-wise, this disc boasts a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix. Admittedly, neither aspect will outdo most of the other catalogue action movies that have been released on Blu-ray recently - and I might just prefer the A/V qualities of the Arrow Video Region B release a bit over this one (which also features an Italian-made rip-off, Code Name: Wild Geese, as a Standard Definition bonus) - but this one still suffices admirably.
Many of the special features for Severin's Region Free BD/DVD release of The Wild Geese have been imported from other digital home media releases in the recent past. There's an engaging audio commentary by Sir Roger Moore, producer Euan Lloyd, second unit director John Glen (who later helmed several James Bond productions), and which is moderated by filmmaker Jonathan Sothcott; a vintage world premiere newsreel; a featurette about producer Lloyd; a making-of piece; and a theatrical trailer. Two new interviews - one with director McLaglen, and the other with military advisor Mike Hoare - have been included in order for this release to war against the inclusion of the even-cheesier rip-off feature available on the Arrow Region B release.
Required viewing. Seriously.