John Milius' The Wind and the Lion weaves fact and fiction into an epic tale which is exciting, literate, and spectacular (both visually and sonically). Fans of the film having been waiting for what seems like forever to see the film released in high definition, and Warner Archive has made the wait worthwhile with a superb Blu-ray transfer.
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: Warner Archive
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 1 Hr. 59 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-rayStandard Blu-ray Keep Case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 04/29/2014
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
This government wants Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead. - A statement by Secretary of State John Hay at the Republican National Convention in 1904
In Morocco an American woman, Eden Perdicaris (Candace Bergen) and her two children are kidnapped by Mulai Ahmed er Raisuli (Sean Connery), a tribal leader who is regarded as a brigand by the Moroccan government as "the last of the Barbary Pirates" by the American government. Morocco is involved in a political tug-of-war as Germany, France and Great Britain are all vying to establish influence in the country on the northwest coast of Africa. Raisuli believes that Sultan Abdelaziz of Morocco is corrupt and is becoming too closely tied to the European powers. During the raid of the Perdicaris home a British friend of Eden's is killed. Raisuli, who wants to provoke an international incident which hopefully will lead to the overthrow of the Sultan, makes an outrageous ransom demand for the return of Eden and her children.
Because Eden is an American, the kidnapping becomes a cause célèbre in the United States, where President Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Keith) is facing what is shaping up as a difficult re-election campaign in the fall. Roosevelt, recognizing that a show of strength will raise his stock among the electorate, decides to stake out a belligerent attitude toward Raisuli. When efforts to negotiate the release of the prisoners fail, Roosevelt dispatches the South Atlantic Squadron to Tangier. The strategy is to try to convince the Sultan to pay Raisuli's ransom. Failing that, a military rescue by U.S. Marines will be attempted.
Meanwhile, Eden and her children are being held in a remote area of Morocco, far from Tangier, where a rescue will be very difficult. The children are actually impressed with Raisuli, but Eden regards him as overbearing ("He is a brigand and a lout) and she resists his charms. She plots with one of Raisuli's men to escape, but they are betrayed and turned over to a gang of robbers. Raisuli tracks down the gang and slays them, and in the process he rescues Eden and the children. Eden then realizes that Raisuli has no intention of harming them, and she finds herself fascinated as he tells her the story of his life and explains the reasons for his displeasure with the Sultan. Her resistance fades and she cannot help but be attracted to Raisuli, feelings which he reciprocates.
Back in the Unites States, President Roosevelt decides to stir up trouble in Morocco despite the reservations of his Secretary of State, John Hay (John Huston). At one point it appears that a resolution may be at hand, but complications arise.
Sean Connery is irresistible as the ruthless but charming Raisuli, and Candace Bergen is attractive and spirited as Eden. I would not have thought of casting Brian Keith as Roosevelt, but he does a fine job with the role, and John Huston is perfectly cast as John Hay. The script by director Milius takes more than a few liberties with historical fact (the members of the Perdicaris family who were actually kidnapped were Ion Perdicaris, a man, and his stepson). Although the American public did not know it, Perdicaris had given up his U.S. passport forty years earlier and apparently had renounced his American citizenship. Roosevelt learned about this, but he decided that it made no difference because Raisuli believed that Perdicaris was an American. That the situation helped him politically also may have been a consideration for the President.
The Wind and the Lion is one of John Milius' best directorial efforts. The scene where Eden and her children are kidnapped from their home is particularly memorable. Milius’ script is entertaining and intelligent, and this wonderful Blu-ray is highly recommended.
The 1080p high-definition image, encoded with the AVC codec, appears to be properly framed at 2.40:1. It opens with the original MGM Golden Anniversary logo. The image is highly detailed and free of any dirt or damage. Colors are accurate and solid, black levels are very good and shadow detail is excellent. There is no sign of excessive digital cleanup and the result of a fully satisfying, film-like appearance. The outstanding cinematography by Billy Williams has been treated very kindly.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
Technical specs for The Wind and the Lion indicate that the 70 mm prints had six-track audio while 35 mm prints had mono audio. The audio of the Blu-ray is DTS HD-MA 5.1 English, and it sounds spectacular to my ears. Dialogue is clear and understandable, but the surround channels really kick in during the action scenes. Jerry Goldsmith's excellent score is given a wide and enjoyable soundstage.
Audio Rating: 5/5
English SDH subtitles are available for viewers who need them.
The most significant extra is a commentary track by Writer-Director John Milius, who expounds upon all of the significant influences which affected his approach to the film. He calls it a "very Kipling-esque" film and also acknowledges that his visual style was influenced by Lawrence of Arabia.
Special Features Rating: 2.5/5
A promotional behind-the-scenes featurette is shown in 4:3 and has a running time of 9 1/2 minutes. Particular emphasis is placed upon showing how the spectacular battle scenes were shot.
The original theatrical trailer does a good job of showing what the film is about. It has not been restored and displays some damage but it is very watchable.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
The Wind and the Lion is yet another fine Blu-ray release by Warner Archive and it can be ordered directly at the Warner Archive Website. It is highly recommended.
Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher
Support HTF when you buy this title: