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The Wind and the Lion Movie Review

pedecaris raisuli roosevelt john

1975 – John Milius –

Director John Milius opens this tale of desert adventure with Arabian horses pounding through the surf, sabers glistening, and robes flying. The Wind and The Lion tells of the early twentieth-century struggle between Teddy Roosevelt (Brian Keith) and the Ruffian chief Raisuli (Sean Connery). Set in the Moroccan desert and the city of Tangier, this epic is loosely based on Raisuli's kidnaping of an American citizen, Mrs. Pedecaris (Candice Bergen), and her two children in exchange for much sought after land. Americans, Germans, Russians, and French have peacefully invaded the Moroccan desert, making for a political pow-derkeg in the area. Roosevelt's sending of United States Marines to rescue Mrs. Pedecaris makes the situation more volatile, but in this election year Roosevelt publicly demands respect for Americans and their property: “Pedecaris alive or Raisuli dead!” Ironically, with the help of the Marines, Mrs. Pedecaris and children end up helping Raisuli escape from the Germans and the Bashaw (Vladek Shaybal). And it is easy to see why Mrs. Pedecaris resolves to rescue her previous captor. The film includes tender scenes throughout the harsh desert that reveal a growing respect and fascination between Pedecaris and the Raisuli.

An excellent job of casting the roles of President Roosevelt and the Raisuli helps the audience see the bullishness and barbarism of these two leaders, while at the same time invoking feelings of sympathy and endearment for these two boys playing King of the Mountain. Brian Keith and Sean Connery bring together both boyish innocence and didactic insolence. We cringe when Raisuli beheads a man for stealing water and smile when he challenges Mrs. Pedecaris to a game of chess. Even the children's fear of this Barbary pirate transforms to admiration as they begin to wear turbans and robes and look with fascination on his strong arm of desert law. Likewise, Roosevelt shows childlike charm when asking what kind of rifle the Raisuli owns, but he reveals imperialistic greed when contemplating the territory his Marines could gain while rescuing Mrs. Pedecaris.

Although very well executed, the concluding battle scene is at times confusing—Arabs fight along side the German forces while the Raisuli's band aids the U.S. Marines. Who are the good guys? Which saber-swinging Arab are we to root for? In a larger sense the movie calls into question who the real barbarians are—those quick to slash Arabs or the leaders competitively dispatching armed forces into territories not their own?

Cast: Sean Connery (Mulay el-Raisuli), Candice Bergen (Eden Pedecaris), Brian Keith (Theodore Roosevelt), John Huston (John Hay), Geoffrey Lewis (Gummere), Steve Kanaly (Captain Jerome), Vladek Sheybal (The Bashaw), Nadim Sawalha (Sherif of Wazan), Roy Jen-son (Admiral Chadwick), Deborah Baxter (Alice Roosevelt), Jack Cooley (Quentin Roosevelt), Chris Aller (Kermit Roosevelt), Simon Harrison (William Pedecaris), Polly Gottesmann (Jennifer Pedecaris), Antoine St. John (Von Roerkel) Screenwriter: John Milius Cinematographer: Billy Williams Composer: Jerry Goldsmith Producer: Herb Jaffe and Phil Rawlins for Columbia; released by MGM Running Time: 119 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1975: Nominations: Sound, Score.

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