American director John Milius is regarded by some Hollywoodites as the living embodiment of the word “macho;” with this in mind, it is understandable that Milius would want to manifest his rugged view of the world in films after being rejected by the Marines for medical reasons.
In 1995’s Elmore Leonard crime-comedy Get Shorty, mobster-turned-wannabe-film-producer Chilli Palmer (John Travolta) asks Scream Queen actress Karen Flores (Rene Russo):
“Listen, Touch of Evil‘s playing near my hotel. You wanna go check it out?
Watch Charlton Heston play a Mexican?”
You might feel the same way about John Milius’ period epic The Wind & The Lion, an adventure set in 1904 Morocco, where Sean Connery plays the real life Berber rebel The Rasuli – all the while retaining his familiar Edinburgh brogue.
But…it’s Connery, and you know what? he gets away with it – as he would in other movies such as Time Bandits, The Hunt for Red October and Highlander where his character wasn’t even British, let alone Scots.
The film concerns the colonial struggle for dominance in Morocco, with the US drawn in due to the kidnapping by The Rasuli of 64 year old presumed US citizen Ion Perdicaris . This being the movies, Perdicaris changes gender to female in the shape of the somewhat easier-on-the-eye Candice Bergen, then aged 29. Check out the ‘true’ story of the Perdicaris Affair via the usual sites if you want to explore the reality behind the film.
The always underrated Brian Keith (The Yakuza/McKenzie Break) plays President Teddy Roosevelt, who in this instance opts for the ‘Big Stick’ approach and sends the marines in to rescue Bergen, commanded by a young Ray Krebbs from Dallas (Steve Kanaly).
Historical veracity goes pretty much out of the window, but The Wind & The Lion is a great picture, with strong performances, exciting action scenes, humour and, yes, heart. The relationship between Bergen, her young children and erstwhile captor (but secret softie) Connery really works, and centres the movie. Watch out for the distinctive French actor Antoine Saint-John as a nasty German colonel, a similar role to those he played in both My Name is Nobody (1973) and Sergio Leone’s magnificent Duck You Sucker! (1971).
The Wild Bunch (1969) and Three Amigos (1986) also had Second Reich (1871-1918) German military advisers as stock bad guys.
It’s a great shame we haven’t had more pictures from maverick writer/director and self-styled ‘Zen Anarchist’ Milius, as with his screenwriting on Dirty Harry, Apocalypse Now and Jeremiah Johnson and directorial work on Dillinger, The Wind & The Lion, Big Wednesday and Conan The Barbarian, he stands as one of the major figures of 70s/early 80s cinema.