red tulips | copyright Jill J. Jensen

 

 

The Wind and the Lion

Cast: Sean Connery, Candice Bergen, John Huston, Brian Keith, Steve Kannaly
Writer/Director: John Milius
Theatrical release: 1975; available on DVD


Why watch a 30-year-old film? Isn't is too young to be historically significant (think Citizen Kane) and too old to be cool (wait, wait; I'm thinking... I'm thinking...)? Maybe so, but elements both significant and cool can be found here.

Take the actors. Energy, flair, and not a little uncanny resemblance to real people graces the screen. If you thought Sean Connery was a cool James Bond, you ought to see him as a desert chieftan, solidly astride his horse and wielding a sword with aplomb. Candace Bergen is no slouch as the feisty American widow who will not surrender gladly. And Brian Keith and John Huston could probably pass for the historical figures they play.

Take the story and location. Instead of warm and palm-tree-shaded Baghdad backyards in the days before "shock and awe" leveled the place, warm and palm-tree-shaded Tangiers colonial houses and aspiring aristocratic families perch precariously at the end of empire. No, it's not Iraq 2003; it's Morocco 1904. Sadly, many parts of the historical narrative are the same.

But then, we have the writer/director. If you were plugged into movies and television in the 1970s and 1980s, the name John Milius may sound familiar. California film school wunderkind, Milius has been everywhere, sticking his hands — and especially his words — into everything. Although he's been a producer and a director, his writing has probably garnered the most attention. Milius films range from Apocalypse Now, The Hunt for Red October, and Big Wednesday (one of the first serious surfer movies — and no, that's not an oxymoron) to Dillinger, Red Dawn, Jeremiah Johnson, Clear and Present Danger, and (yes) Conan the Barbarian. Go figure.

Milius wrote for TV's Miami Vice and the HBO extravaganza Rome. Learn more and see what's on his agenda in a nice little blurb on Milius at Wikipedia that also itemizes a few of his uncredited contributions, including Dirty Harry's famous lines, "Make my day," and "Do you feel lucky?" Now, how cool is that?!?!?

This rowdy filmmaker loves epic and does it well. He also appreciates personal struggle and is not without a fine sense of irony. In The Wind and The Lion, Milius sticks with the basic truths surrounding European adventurism in 1904 Morocco — complete with the involvement of President Teddy Roosevelt when an American is kidnapped. But, as with his Tom Clancy-Apocalypse Now version of Vietnam, Milius shapes the facts to tell the story he wants to tell.

Don't let that stop you from enjoying the exciting adventure yarn told here in a film that's definitely worth watching. Take a look — and listen to what Milius has Roosevelt say about "bears and Americans." Then, watch the matches of wits, the beautiful scenery, the epic battles, and tell me what you think....

 

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