(director/writer: John Milius; cinematographer: Billy Williams; editor: Robert L. Wolfe; music: Jerry Goldsmith; cast: Sean Connery (Mulay el Raisuli), Candice Bergen (Eden Pedecaris), Brian Keith (Teddy Roosevelt), John Huston (John Hay), Geoffrey Lewis (Gummere), Steve Kanaly (Captain Jerome), Vladek Sheybal (The Bashaw of Tangier), Roy Jenson (Admiral Chadwick), Marc Zuber (Sultan Abdelaziz), Simon Harrison (William Pedecaris), Polly Gottesman (Jennifer Pedecaris); Runtime: 119; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Herb Jaffe; Warner Home Video; 1975)

“A bogus history lesson that’s a mixture of fact and fiction.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A bogus history lesson that’s a mixture of fact and fiction. Writer/director John Milius (“Dillinger”/”Big Wednesday”/”Red Dawn”) loosely bases it on a factual incident that took place in 1904, in Morocco. In reality it involved the kidnapping of a balding, overweight American businessman by a rogue Berber sheik to embarrass the sultan of Morocco, whom he considered a tool for the European powers. In the movie, the kidnapped victim is a beautiful American widow with two young children.

It seems heading in the direction of a lively sword-and-sandal pic due to its exciting opening kidnap sequence, but Milius keeps things dull with a talk-fest between the captor and the captive. It soon becomes clear the director aimed to take issue with President Theodore Roosevelt’s shoot-from-the-hip imperialistic bully foreign policy and tried to have some sport with his image as a fighter. Unfortunately the dialogue is trite, the acting is wooden (the exception being Brian Keith’s portrayal of President Teddy Roosevelt, one of the finest ever given of Teddy) and the execution is leaden. It tries to revise history with modern sensibilities, but is so uneven an offering that even its adventure tale awkwardly stubs its toe.

After the beautiful and wealthy American widow Eden Pedecaris (Candice Bergen) and her two children (Simon Harrison & Polly Gottesman) are kidnapped by the horse riding Berber sheik, Mulay el Raisuli (Sean Connery), and his tribesmen, in her palatial home in Tangier (shot in Almeria, Spain), and her British guest and servants are slain, the abduction sparks the threat of armed intervention by the jingoistic President Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Keith). As the observant Secretary of State, John Hay (John Huston), duly notes that Teddy is looking to get votes after taking office when President McKinley was assassinated and sees this as the perfect opportunity to appeal to the gullible American public to gain popularity and at the same time gain international sympathy. In reality, this threat was never carried out and the kidnapped businessman was soon returned unharmed.

The imprisonment of the hostages leads to a near romance between Eden and the ruthless but honorable Raisuli, dressed in native black robes and sporting a peppered beard, while her hero-worshiping son grows attached to the bandit. It all leads to an action-packed climax, a Sam Peckinpah-like bloody rescue attempt that comes too late to save us from the preceding tedium.

In the end, Milius doesn’t have enough ability to tell a good story to pull off this political take on the incident with the full conviction it deserved if one were to take this film seriously. It has Raisuli as the lion and a posturing Teddy as the wind, but only scores points when it resorts to being flamboyant and delves into buffoonery by focusing on the duped sultan.

The Wind and the Lion Poster