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Wild Geese, The (1978)

Richard Burton, Roger Moore and Richard Harris are evidently enjoying themselves in this all-action adventure.

They play ageing mercenaries hired by millionaire banker Sir Edward Matherson (Stewart Granger) to rescue deposed African president Julius Limbani (Winston Ntshona) – whose country has been seized by a corrupt general endangering Sir Edward’s massive holdings in the local copper mines – and put him back in power.

If the captured Limbani can be brought to England alive, a counter-coup can be arranged which would safeguard Matherson’s substantial investment.

Matherson hires the only man he knows who can raise a private army in a matter of days, Colonel Allen Faulkner (Burton).

Faulkner’s team of “wild geese” are led by himself, ace pilot Shawn Fynn (Moore), brilliant tactician Rafer Janders (Harris) and iron-hard RSM Sandy Young (Jack Watson).

The plan concocted by Janders is for the rescue mission to be dropped by parachute into the country and split into two units – one to attack the prison compound where Limbani is being held and bring him out, while the second unit goes on to take over a small nearby airfield where the mercenaries will await a plane to carry them and Limbani to freedom.

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All goes according to plan and the ‘wild geese’ meet up at the airfield, but back in London Matherson has been negotiating with the new dictator, General Ndofa, and orders the plane to bypass the now stranded mercenaries.

Realising they have been double-crossed, Faulkner has to decide how to avoid massacre by Ndofa’s approaching troops.

Frank Finlay portrays a slightly mad priest who is resident in Limbani’s village and ultimately provides the mercenaries with their only avenue of escape as the advancing African troops close in.

Politically it’s a dog’s dinner of woolly liberalism and right-wing rhetoric – it was filmed in South Africa during the height of apartheid and was widely condemned on release for funding the apartheid regime in South Africa – but, as a firework display, the movie is often exciting.

And the supporting cast of venerable British character actors – including Jack Watson, Ronald Fraser and Kenneth Griffith – get into the spirit of things just as much as the above-the-title stars.

The theme song was composed and sung by Joan Armatrading.

Colonel Allen Faulkner
Richard Burton
Lt. Shawn Fynn
Roger Moore
Capt. Rafer Janders
Richard Harris
Lt. Pieter Coetzee
Hardy Kruger
Sir Edward Matherson
Stewart Granger
RSM Sandy Young
Jack Watson
President Julius Limbani
Winston Ntshona
Sgt. Jesse Link
John Kani
Arthur Witty
Kenneth Griffith
Father Geoghagen
Frank Finlay
Thomas Balfour
Barry Foster
Mr Martin
Jeff Corey
Jock McTaggart
Ronald Fraser
Keith
Percy Herbert
Rushton
Patrick Allen
Sonny
David Ladd
Heather
Rosalind Lloyd

Director
Andrew V McLaglen