Tuesday, 23 September 2014

That's Rogertainment! Rogisode 7:
The Wild Geese

The death of director Andrew V McLaglen last month prompted me to make his first collaboration with Roger Moore my next foray into the wild, weird world of Rogertainment. McLaglen and Moore would become firm friends, going on to make two more films together over the next couple of years: North Sea Hijack (1979) and The Sea Wolves (1980), but 1978's The Wild Geese would be the film for which McLaglen was most fondly remembered.

Like an irony-free Expendables movie, The Wild Geese sees Richards Burton and Harris assembling a creaky team of near-arthritic ex-soldiers tasked with quietly dropping into the middle of an African warzone and extracting an imprisoned leader before their Ovaltine gets cold. The mission is outlined in five ruthlessly efficient minutes at the film's opening, and the next hour concerns the recruitment and training of the coffin-dodging killing machines.
Don't be fooled: these geese could turn wild at any moment

It's all good, Boys' Own fun and there are some great lines: next time I see a pensioner lying down I fully intend to bellow "ONYOURFEETYOUFACKIN'ABORTION!" like Regimental Sergeant Major Sandy Young. But then, as I've discovered with a lot of Rog's films, the second half is a let-down. Like the cast, the operation experiences more than a few wrinkles, but it's a long and arduous slog to the interminable climax. And for a film set in Africa and shot in South Africa during apartheid its race politics are clumsy at best, amounting to a two-minute dialogue between Hardy Kr├╝ger's racist white South African and Winston Ntshona's black president, which goes something like:

I hate you because you're black

But if we could all just get along everything would be great

Hey that's right, good idea, you're all right you are

To hammer home this message of peace and multiracial harmony, the Wild Geese later mow down an almost inexhaustible supply of black bad guys who leap from the bushes screaming unintelligibly.
See? Wild as fuck, these geese

The cast are good value though, and it's always fun to spot the army of Bond alumni working on British films of the 1970s. Keep an eye out for Glyn Baker as Esposito - here he's working with the contemporary 007; nine years later he'd play 002 in the pre-title sequence of The Living Daylights alongside Timothy Dalton.

In terms of Rogertainment, The Wild Geese is a sadly disappointing affair. Despite Moore's prominence on the film's poster (you can only imagine the months of negotiations that must have gone on to result in that bizarre arrangement of the stars' faces and names), the film really belongs to Burton and Harris. Rog's character, gloriously introduced by Burton's as "Shawn Fynn, very good looking", is meant to be crucial to the mission but proves largely irrelevant, unless you need someone to spray an army of extras with machine gun fire while chewing on an improbably large stogie.
Moore's first scene sees him attempting to emulate his old chum Michael Caine with a Get Carteresque turn wherein he forces the nephew of a mob boss to eat a bag of heroin, but he isn't nearly menacing enough to pull it off and does nothing else memorable in the remaining running time. Having tried to set Fynn up as a proper bastard not to be fucked with, McLaglen just lets Rog go back to being a charming chap with a shooter for the rest of the film, the director no doubt preoccupied with keeping Burton and Harris away from the booze cabinet for as long as possible. McLaglen would make the same mistake with Moore in North Sea Hijack, trying to convince us he's more demonic than delightful; a future Rogisode will determine whether the duo complete their miscasting hat-trick with The Sea Wolves.

So it's hard to recommend The Wild Geese either as a standalone film or an example of the finest work of The Greatest Living Englishman. Rog isn't in it enough, has too little to do and doesn't even do that very well, so it's a mere two Rogers on the Rogometer.
I know there's good in him though, I can feel it, so I will continue my quest to seek out his greatness. He can't hide it forever.

A big fat Roger to Chris and Gilly Laverty for the Blu-ray. There's more Rogertainment here, but I warn you, it's not pretty.


  1. I had heard that Roger Moore deliberately stepped back to allow Burton and Harris more spotlight.
    Plus I believe Burton & Harris monies were put in to an ESCRO account on the condition they remain dry throughout the shoot.

  2. random stuff I remember about the Wild Geese (haven't seen it in decades)

    -as stated in this review the attempt to darken up Roger into a kind of Jack Carter like figure in the opening before quickly reverting back to his charming Templer like self (it feels abit like hes playing The Saint in this)

    -Poor Sandy screaming ALAN! as hes gunned down...(the scream was surprisingly girly though)

    -the gay one always going on about lovely arses...so much so he even goes out saying something like 'look at all your lovely arses..what a fuckin shame we cant be friends!!' (I may be misremembering the exact wording)

    -the iconic scene of Burton having to gun down Harris at the end 'Alan...shoot me!! for gwads sake shoot me!! they'll kill me Alan!.. shoot me!!' (again I may have got the exact wording wrong it was either "shoot me alan they'll kill me"...or "kill me alan..they'll chop me to pieces" or something) Damn that scene was powerful. that's the kind of manly man stuff The Expendables should've been doing (Sly gunning down Arnold) but nah...

    -Burton paying a visit to their posh employer at the end...'well I suppose you'll just have to kill me then'..' your a remarkable man Sir whatever...so I suppose I better had'...'now wait just a min...*silencer noise*

    ahh good memories. I must watch it again sometime....wonder whod be in a remake? - DCraig as Faulkner (I know technically he should be in Moores role but Craigs more Burton like than Moore), Colin Firth as Fynn, Sean Bean as Rafer, Gary Oldman in the Kruger role? with Ray Winstone as Sandy and McKellan or Dalton or Brosnan in the Granger role