The Wild Geese embodies a strange combination of circumstances that is oddly familiar to cult movie fans: it has a devoted fan following in the U.S. yet it was never treated well at the theaters or on home video. Despite its success in the U.K. and elsewhere, The Wild Geese‘s immediate impact was blunted when its distributor went out of business shortly after picking it up. It build its following on cable and VHS yet it never got a decent treatment on DVD in the U.S.: as late as a year or two ago, American fans were having to settle for a non-anamorphic transfer.
Thankfully, Severin Films has stepped into to revisit this title for the U.S. market and the result is a generously stuffer blu-ray/DVD combo pack. The blu-ray vas viewed for this review and the transfer is a big improvement on past U.S. home video versions, offering a fresh anamorphic transfer that faithfully reproduces its vintage look nicely. The earthy color schemes look rich, particularly in the outdoor footage that dominates the film’s second half, and the presentation has nice celluloid texture overall. The soundtrack sticks to the vintage mono mix, which is presented in Dolby but is not lossless. The results still sound good, if not as sonically powerful as a lossless option.
This set also boasts a hefty complement of bonus features, with the same items included on both discs. Collectors will be happy to know it includes the extras from the recent U.K. and German special editions plus a brand new featurette.
The bonuses package begins with a commentary featuring producer Euan Lloyd, star Roger Moore and editor/2nd unit director John Glen plus Jonathan Sothcott as a moderator. It delivers a lot of production information in a relaxed yet gentlemanly way, with Lloyd setting the tone by chronicling how he found the property and assembled the package necessary to get it funded. Glen offers some good nuts-and-bolts information about how the action sequences were filmed (his domain as a 2nd unit director) and Moore adds jokes and insights about his fellow cast members, including Richard Harris’s hilarious nickname for Hardy Kruger.
There are also a series of video featurettes that do a nice job of fleshing out the particulars of the production, including the important participants who don’t appear on the screen. “Last Of The Gentleman Producers” chronicles the life and times of producer Lloyd, with him telling the story of his long and varied career plus testimonials from the likes of Moore and Hammer star Ingrid Pitt. It offers an interesting insight into how a European producer could make Hollywood-style films in Europe, with Lloyd serving as an effortlessly charming subject.
“Star’s War” is a vintage making-of piece that includes comments from all the stars and plenty of behind-the-scenes footage. Highlights include a look at the cast and crew’s amazing African accommodations and some quips from Moore. On a similar vintage tip, there is a Movietone news reel showing the film’s charity premiere, which included a Duchess and the cast and crew boogieing down disco-style at the reception.
Two newer interview pieces round out the featurettes. The first is “The Mercenary,” which interviews ex-mercenary and technical adviser Michael Hoare. The style of the piece is a little unusual – he was given questions in advance so he could write out answers that he reads on camera – but he offers a lot of fascinating information about his military career, how he provided the title for the film and his later career as a writer. “The Wild Geese Director” is unique to this set and interviews director Andrew V. McLaglen: in a short space, he discusses his career, what it was like to work with “the two Richards,” his fondness for The Wild Geese and his current career as a stage director.
In short, Severin has assembled a blu-ray/DVD that is worthy of this film’s pedigree, a first for American home video. If you’re a Wild Geese fan, this is easily the best way to watch this film in the U.S.