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Wild Geese II
Wild Geese II was released eight years after the success of Andrew V. McLaglen's war movie hit. Originally intended to bring Richard Burton back as Colonel Allen Faulkner, plans had to change just before the movie was to start shooting when the storied actor passed away. Overall, however, this is a pretty entertaining mid-eighties action picture. What it might lack in depth (and it does lack in depth), it makes up for with some fun performances and decent tension thanks to solid directing from Peter R. Hunt (probably best known for editing early James Bond classics Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger and directing On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
This sequel sees brother and sister duo Michael Lukas (John Terry) and Kathy Lukas (Barbara Carrera), in the employ of a television network owned by Robert McCann (Robert Webber), converse with and then hire a mercenary named John Haddad (Scott Glenn, playing a Lebanese soldier of fortune!) with the hopes of busting big time Nazi Rudolf Hess (Sir Laurence Olivier of all people) from Berlin's Spandau Prison. The thinking behind this being that if they can get Hess out, they can get him to tell them everything that he knows about all of the nefarious work that he did for The Third Reich and spill a whole bunch of random secrets that they'd like to know the truth behind.
While all of this is going on, Heinrich Stroebling (Robert Freitag), who just so happens to be a German in the employ of some Russian agents (led by a General played by Patrick Stewart!!!), is paid quite handsomely to get his hands on Hess as they too would like to pick his brain. Complicating matters further are British, led by Col. Reed-Henry (Kenneth Haigh), and Palestinian factions, each hoping to figure out what Hess knows and how they can exploit it.
Enter Alex Faulkner (Edward Fox), the brother of Colonel Allen Faulkner (Burton's character from the original film), who puts together a team to do what needs to be done, no matter the cost. Before it's all over, things get complicated and a lot of people get shot.
Wild Geese II does not hold a candle to the original. It's pretty much a rip-off of the original, as a matter of fact. It isn't very original at all, there are massive plot holes and logic gaps and there are pacing issues too. There are problems here, there's no doubt about that at all and to call the film imperfect would be charitable. That said, there is entertainment value to be had here for the non-discerning fans of eighties action pictures and seriously odd ensemble casts (this movie very definitely checks both of those boxes).
But that oddball ensemble cast makes it. Edward Fox is in paycheck cashing mode here, but he's got some charisma and can be quite amusing to watch. Scott Glenn is an odd casting choice for the part he plays, but Scott Glenn is one of those actors who makes being a bad ass cool guy look effortless and he does that here just as he does in plenty of other pictures. Barbara Carrera doesn't set the world on fire with her acting here but hot damn does she bring the sex appeal, and who wouldn't want to see Sir Laurence Olivier play a Nazi war criminal? And if that isn't enough, look for small supporting roles for the likes of Patrick Stewart, the eternally beautiful Ingrid Pitt, Full Metal Jacket's John Terry and British TV/film stalwart Derek Thomspon.
Hunt's direction on this film has been slagged and, to be fair, it isn't his best work, but he does manage to conjure up a few scenes of decent tension. There are a few nice action set pieces that work nicely enough, and the production values here are quite good, meaning we get nice locations, good cinematography and a pretty nice score as well.
But again, the film is derivative and there are parts of it that just flat out do not make sense. However, if you can look past the clichés and the logic gaps and geek out watching some pretty great actors doing some seriously weird work, you're probably going to get a kick out of this one.
Wild Geese II arrives on Region A Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studios in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 with the two-hour plus feature given 39.2GBS of space on the 50GB disc. The opening credits are a tiny bit on the grainy side but once we get through that things look pretty clean. There's nice detail and texture here, the picture always looks appropriately film-like. Skin tones look nice and natural and colors are reproduced quite well. There are no issues with noticeable compression artifacts or edge enhancement and the picture is free of any obvious noise reduction. Black levels are solid and all in all, this generally looks really nice on Blu-ray.
A 16-bit English language DTS-HD options is provided in 2.0 Mono format. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. No problems to note here, the track is clean and properly balanced. It isn't home theater demo material but it gets the job done without any problems. The gun shots pack a nice punch, the score has some decent depth to it and the dialogue is always clean and easy to understand and follow.
Extras start off with a new audio commentary by film historians Steve Mitchell and Howard S. Berger that starts, like the movie itself, with a bit of a recap about the original The Wild Geese and its success. From there, we learn how Richard Burton passed away after being cast in the picture, just before it was to start shooting, and how the film was recast very quickly with Edward Fox replacing him. As the track progresses, they cover how the movie found some success as a new release on home video, the importance of the strong cast in the film, the artwork that was used to promote the film and how the movie winks to the audience while simultaneously keeping it on its toes. They also cover how the movie is just a genuinely fun watch despite its many and obvious flaws (Berger refers to it quite accurately as an 'entertaining oddity!'), how the film compares to other action films of the era in which it was made, Barbara Carrera's exotic qualities and the importance of her presence in the film, how both Scott Glenn and Edward Fox handle their respective roles, the different locations that show up in the movie, some of the vulnerability that characters show (sometimes quite unexpectedly) and lots, lots more. This is a very laid back and conversational track rather than a non-stop barrage of facts and trivia but the two men do a nice job of relaying plenty of welcome information about the movie and its history alongside the different opinions about the film's quality. It's a good track, sometimes a bit humorous but always interesting.
The disc also includes an interview with co-star Barbara Carrera entitled The Square Circle. Here, over seven-minutes, she talks about what it was like shooting in Berlin, how incredible the cast was, how much she liked working with director Peter R. Hunt, how she was excited to work with Richard Burton and how she got along with his replacement, Edward Fox. She looks back on this with an insane amount of enthusiasm and seems to have really had a great time working on this picture..
Additionally, the disc includes a trailer for the feature, bonus trailers for Taffin, Force 10 From Navarone, Runaway Train and Ffolkes. Menus and chapter selection are also provided.
Wild Geese II isn't a perfect film but it is a pretty fun one. Glenn, Fox and Carrera all do fine work here and Hunt does a pretty solid job of keeping the tension high. It's a weird mix of eighties action film stereotypes and war movie tropes from the decades prior, but in spite of some obvious flaws, it works. Kino's Blu-ray looks and sounds quite nice and features some decent extra features as well. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.