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Buried Treasures
December 2011 / January 2012


* (April / May 2012) WOLFEN - 1981
* (Dec. 2011 / Jan. 2012)  THE WILD GEESE - 1978
* (Sept. / Oct. 2011)  THE SATAN BUG - 1964
* (July / Aug. 2011)  TORA! TORA! TORA! - 1970
* (May 2011)  DOOMSDAY GUN - 1994
* (April 2011)  THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE - 1973


by CEJ

  Rank / Allied Artists
  GullCottage rating (**** on a scale of 1 - 5)

  Dir. by Andrew V. McLaglen
  Screenplay by Reginald Rose
  Based on the book “The Thin White Line”
  by Daniel Carney
  Dir. of  Photography: Jack Hildyard  
  Music by: Roy Budd

  Cast: Richard Burton, Roger Moore, Richard Harris,
  Hardy Kruger, Winston Ntshona, John Kani, 
  Jack Watson, Frank Finlay, Stewart Granger,
  Jeff Corey

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     Okay, not a Christmas movie in the traditional IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE sense.  But taking place over the Christmas holiday, and imbued with a message of racial tolerance, redemption and ultimately self sacrifice, legendary English producer Euan Lloyd’s THE WILD GEESE has seen it’s cinematic cred ascend over the years since it’s 1978 debut, from enjoyable firecracker action flick, to bonafied, well-loved, buried treasure of a cult film with a timeless social message. 

   Reginald Rose's 12 ANGRY MEN - another group under
   pressure grappling with issues both politically and racially
   divisive ... as well as each grappling with their own conscience 

     Based on a popular novel by Daniel Carney (itself taking inspiration from the real life Congo Crisis of the 1960s), GEESE begins as another “boy’s own” impossible mission adventure along the lines of THE GUNS OF NAVARONE and THE DIRTY DOZEN, wherein 50 battle-hardened mercs for hire undertake a lucrative contract to rescue from captivity and restore to power a deposed former African President.  Somewhere amidst the gunplay however, director Andrew V. McLaglen’s precision crafted action yarn slyly evolves into a heart-tugging character study as well as a searing indictment of western colonialism, the exploitation of the “have nots” by the “haves”, and the (mostly legal?) corporate greed which continues to fund oppressive military / political regimes.  Not surprising as the film’s script was from the pen of 12 ANGRY MEN’s socially conscious Reginald Rose.  

     Today regarded as one of the best of the genre of realistic 70s-era mercenary films (years before THE EXPENDABLES, movies like GEESE and 1981’s THE DOGS OF WAR took this subject matter - with all of it’s troubling ironies, seriously) Lloyd’s now classic film didn’t have an easy path en route to it’s box office debut, … nor an easy path afterwards. 

play THE WILD GEESE - "The Wild Geese" (R. Budd)


     Born in Beirut in 1944, Daniel Carney emigrated at age 19 to Rhodesia (present day Zimbabwe) were he worked at various jobs (among them policeman and realtor) until the publication of his first novel, THE THIN WHITE LINE, in 1977.  Generally inspired by the Congo Crisis of the 1960s, the single event which specifically gave birth to WHITE LINE was a popular rumor that a mysterious plane which landed on a Rhodesian airfield in 1968 was filled with mercenaries and a dying “former African President” said to have been the deposed Moise Tshombe - all of this while Tshombe was supposedly currently under arrest in Algeria. 

    (December 22, 1961)

     Interested in doing an ensemble “impossible mission” adventure along the lines of THE GUNS OF NAVARONE and WHERE EAGLES DARE, Lloyd had assistants on the lookout for possible properties when WHITE LINE, still unpublished, was brought to his attention.  Carney offered the rights to the novel to Lloyd if the producer could first get it published.  This Lloyd did, and THE THIN WHITE LINE (retitled THE WILD GEESE just before publication) hit bookshelves in 1977, a few months before the debut of the film version. 

     GEESE the film opens with mercenary Allen Faulkner (Richard Burton) arriving in England at the behest of merchant banking magnate Edward Matherson (Stewart Granger).  Matherson’s failed efforts to secure a lucrative copper contract from the current President of a fictitious central African nation has lead him to conclude it will be less expensive to overthrow the dictator and have him replaced with deposed Tshombe-like former President, Julius Limbani (Winston Ntshona), held in captivity since the violent seizure of his government.
     Faulkner reassembles his commanding officers, retired strategy planner Rafer Janders (Richard Harris) - who at present only wishes to spend the holiday season with his 12 year old son, the childhood of whom he’s missed; and Shawn Flynn (Roger Moore) - making ends meet these days by doing courier jobs for local British mobsters.  Once Faulkner gets a mafia contract lifted from Flynn’s head (Flynn killed the son of an American crime boss in a dispute) the reunited trio needs a weapons expert.  They contract Pieter Coetzee (Hardy Kruger) - a white racist former South African Security Force “terrorist hunter” who plans on using his portion of money from the job to buy a farm in his beloved homeland.  They then recruit the remainder of their fighting force, comprised mostly of middle aged vets who’ve worked with Faulkner before, as well as young black African freedom fighters, among them Jesse Blake (John Kani), none of whom the bigoted Coetzee much cares for.  All of them (officers included) then undergo a brutal and intensified training regime under called-out-of-retirement R.S.M. (Regimental Sergeant Major) Sandy Young (character actor favorite Jack Watson).  

     When the mission schedule is moved up one month (the mercs will now skydive into Africa the night of Christmas Eve) Janders is heartbroken as he will once again (as he’s done repeatedly over the years) have to break his promise to be with his son.  All goes according to plan as the mercenary unit (dubbed “The Wild Geese” - after the famous band of 17th Century Irish Mercenaries) dives into action, seizes Limbani, secures the airfield and awaits extrication via Hercules aircraft.  When an unexpected twist of events occurs however (and those who‘ve seen RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PT.2 will recognize that film as ripping a major plot device from this one), the Geese find themselves forced into a running gun battle across the sun blasted African plain.  Now pitted against a fighting force of the most fierce warriors they’ve ever encountered, and racing for a safe haven, they come to realize their best chance for survival is to do something they‘ve never before had to consider … the“right and moral thing”.  But at what cost?  


“He is a gentleman.  And anybody I’ve ever worked with, not just on his films, but in my own career, anyone who has known him has said, ‘I know your father, I know Euan’.  They love him to bits and they all call him ‘One of the Last of the Gentleman Producers’”.

Rosalind Lloyd - daughter / actress

     Born in Rugby, England in 1923, Euan Lloyd, like many future filmmakers, spent his Saturdays at the movies where his all time favorite genre was American westerns.  His love of film (and even theaters themselves) lead to his appointment as Asst. Manager within England’s ABC Theater chain.  Then during WW2 he became an “exploiter” (publicist) within J. Arthur Rank’s Eagle-Lion Company, created to sell British films to American distributors.  After the war he became a Press Officer of the newly formed Variety Club, and through the charity organization met and became life-long friends with popular American actor Alan Ladd. 

  Lloyd's dark pre-007 era spy thriller THE SECRET WAYS (1961)

     After finishing production of HELL BELOW ZERO-1954, his second movie for Warwick Films (the company co-founded by future James Bond producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli), Ladd invited Lloyd to vacation with him in the south of France.  When Brocolli arrived to talk Ladd into doing a third Warwick film, THE BLACK KNIGHT-1954,  Ladd agreed only if Brocolli moved his friend out of the publicist end of the business and into production.  After producing a series of films with Warwick, Lloyd honed his already keenly developed producer’s acumen working for a time with producers Carl Foreman and Samuel Goldwyn until approached by American actor Richard Widmark to produce with him the 1961 film adaptation of Alistair MacLean’s cold war espionage thriller THE SECRET WAYS.  It would be both Lloyd and Widmark’s first independent film.


     After producing the United Nations anti-drug (disguised as another spy thriller) film THE POPPY IS ALSO A FLOWER-1965 (written by James Bond creator Ian Fleming no less!), Lloyd arrived in LA where Alan Ladd introduced him to bestselling western novelist Louis L’Amour (HONDO, the SACKETT books, HOW THE WEST WAS WON).  Wanting to do a western since childhood, Lloyd was thrilled when L’Amour offered the producer a free one year option on a story of his choice.  And he chose SHALAKO-1968, about a European hunting expedition lead to safety through Apache country by the mysterious titular gunfighter.  Originally slated for Henry Fonda, the lead was eventually taken by Sean Connery (all the rage since the Bond films) when studios feared Fonda’s name wouldn’t be sufficient to generate global box office.  After two more L’Amour westerns, CATLOW-1971 with Yul Brynner, Richard Crenna and Leonard Nimoy, and THE MAN CALLED NOON-1973 with Stephen Boyd, Lloyd took a break from westerns to produce what to this day remains his favorite film, PAPER TIGER-1975, starring David Niven and Toshiro Mifune.


     A smashing family oriented action / adventure gorgeously filmed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, PAPER TIGER features Niven as “Mr. Bradbury”, a tutor hired by Japanese ambassador Mifune to school his young son Koichi (Ando).  In between lessons Bradbury regales the child with high adventure war reminisces in which Bradbury is often the larger-than-life hero.  But when he and Koichi are kidnapped by political terrorists, Bradbury is revealed to be in real life a cowardly liar who made up the adventure yarns.  With their lives on the line, the timid Walter Mitty-like Bradbury has little choice but to finally measure up as the hero he always claimed (and wanted) to be.

     It was during PAPER TIGER’s production that Lloyd had his staff on the lookout for another “boy’s own” adventure.  One considerably darker in tone, it would become his career signature film - his 1978 magnum opus THE WILD GEESE.   

pg. 1,2
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