...It's a delightful film. As a specimen of cinematic art, The Wind And The Lion is at least a decade out of its time: a big movie, a film in which dramatic scenery, boldly sweeping narrative and larger-than-life actors carry you off to a place and time you'd never otherwise see. It's a thumping grand adventure; fans of Kipling and Heinlein will be right at home.
As history, it's bunk. Razzle-dazzle; the real Perdicaris kidnapee was a man (and his son), one Ion Perdicaris, who'd swapped his U.S. passport for Greek citizenship to avoid losing properties in the Carolinas during the Late Unpleasantness. And while Mr. Perdicaris did indeed come to admire and consider "Raisuli" a friend, the real Mulai Ahmed er Raisuni, splendid though he was to his nominal equals, was equally capable of the most appalling cruelty toward prisoners he considered unworthy. His cinematic counterpart delivers a quick, clean death to lowly opponents; the real Raisuni once burned out a Moroccan emissary's eyes with hot coins. The Marines barely landed; the French and Germans sat on the sidelines, heavily armed. If you're looking for an history lesson, you're in the wrong classroom.
That said-- If you're looking for a sense of who Theodore Roosevelt was, of the men who comprised his Presidential cabinet; if you're after the mood of the times, a glimpse of the complex politics of North Africa in the dawn of a new century and how the United States Marine Corps solves problems, this is a film for you. In playing fast and loose with the facts, in turning a minor incident (and a major slogan -- "Raisuli Dead Or Perdicaris Alive!" is cold sober history) into a moving tale of derring-do, in scrubbing up a pirate for the drawing-room, John Milius (wotta man!) sacrificed strict truth and cold reality for the true-to-heart, for a look at men (and women) not so much as they were but as who they aspired to be. (This film even gets attaboys from North Africans -- and it's not at all flattering to the ruling powers).
Highly recommended. Brian Keith's TR is exactly the fellow who stood up to asthma (and knocked it down), the cowboy in eyeglasses, the man who read Tom Paine and concluded him "a dirty little atheist," the courageous soldier, the Progressive* who, for good or ill, created the National Park system, the bold leader who used the Big Stick as an artist wields a brush: three-dimensional. Sean Connery's Raisuli is equally well-drawn and Steve Kanaly's Marine Captain is everything you'd want a USMC officer to be. Candace Bergen, cast at the last minute, handles her role as though it had been written for her.
Trailer here. Have a look; you might want to get a bigger TV before buying the DVD.
Tam tells me we have Matt G to thank for pointing her at this film and pointing this film at her. Well done, sir!
* For additional perspective on T.R. and the early Progressive movement, I'd suggest Selected Letters Of William Allen White 1899--1943. Fascinating reading, though if you favor a simplified take on U.S. politics, it may knock a few pins loose.
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