Some months back, Severin Films announced Blu-ray releases of three late '70s adventure epics: THE WILD GEESE, ZULU DAWN, and ASHANTI, all previously released on DVD in disappointing presentations by the mercifully short-lived Tango Entertainment. Release dates for the Severin upgrades have yet to be announced, but HD prints of two of the films--THE WILD GEESE and ZULU DAWN--turned up this week as Netflix streaming titles.
THE WILD GEESE
(UK/Switzerland - 1978)
Dated, late '70s political incorrectness aside, THE WILD GEESE is a rousing, entertaining and very nicely shot large-scale actioner with suspenseful battle sequences, gratuitous bloodletting, and a cast that's impossible to dislike. Also with Frank Finlay, Patrick Allen, Barry Foster, David Ladd, Ian Yule, Ken Gampu, Jeff Corey, and the really out of place theme song "Flight of the Wild Geese," by Joan Armatrading. Burton was set to return for 1985's WILD GEESE II, but died before filming began and was replaced by Edward Fox. THE WILD GEESE was successful enough in foreign markets for Antonio Margheriti to make a trilogy of German-Italian WILD GEESE ripoffs with British TV star Lewis Collins: CODENAME: WILDGEESE (1984, released in the US in 1986), COMMANDO LEOPARD (1985), and THE COMMANDER (1988).
The Netflix print of THE WILD GEESE is HD, and framed at 1.78:1 (close enough to the original 1.85:1), and has some consistent instances of "jerky" movements, almost like it's skipping frames. The audio is never affected, and the film is perfectly watchable as a streaming title, but it's a noticeable distraction throughout, even though there are stretches where it ceases. Also, multiple sources list the film as 134 minutes, but the Netflix print comes in at 129 minutes. (R, 129 mins).
(UK - 1979)
The large ensemble cast includes many familiar faces: Simon Ward, John Mills, Nigel Davenport, Michael Jayston, Bob Hoskins, Denholm Elliott, Peter Vaughan, Christopher Cazenove, Freddie Jones, James Faulkner, Ronald Lacey, Ronald Pickup, Nicholas Clay, Dai Bradley, Ian Yule, Ken Gampu, Simon Sabela as the Zulu leader Cetshwayo, and top-billed Burt Lancaster as Col. Durnford, the nominal second-in-command, who would die alongside his fellow officers in the final battle and eventually be scapegoated for the disaster by the incompetent Chelmsford. The performances are fine, but Lancaster's having a rare off-day here, sporting a wildly inconsistent Irish brogue that comes and goes at random. I don't know if this is Lancaster's worst performance, but it's the only bad Lancaster performance I've seen. Directed by Douglas Hickox (THEATER OF BLOOD) and co-written by ZULU director Cy Endfield. The US theatrical release was cut down to 98 minutes, but this is the uncut 117 minute version. (PG, 117 mins)