Brother and sister John Terry and Barbara Carrera, who work for Robert Webber’s TV network, hire stone-faced Lebanese-American mercenary John Haddad (Scott Glenn!) to snatch famed Nazi Rudolf Hess (Lord Laurence Olivier) from an impregnable Berlin prison and bring him back so the aging Nazi will reveal all his secrets about Hitler. Meanwhile, a German working for the Russians (Robert Freitag) is also after Hess, as are the British, led by Kenneth Haigh, and even the Palestinians have an interest in things. Edward Fox plays a British sharpshooter and the brother of Richard Burton in the first film, Paul Antrim is a British Sergeant-Major on Haddad’s team (which also includes a French driver and a smart-arse IRA guy), whilst Ingrid Pitt plays one of Freitag’s assassins, and Patrick Stewart (who regrets appearing in this, apparently) plays a Russian.
The original “Wild Geese” was a terrific entry into the all-star ‘guy movie’ genre (sitting just a rung below the likes of “The Dirty Dozen”, “The Great Escape”, and “The Magnificent Seven”). This belated 1985 sequel from veteran editor Peter Hunt (director of films like “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, “Shout at the Devil”, “Assassination”, and “Death Hunt”) isn’t as good as the first film, but is never dull and the Nazi plot is irresistible fun until the rather crappy ending. Besides, with The Cannon Group behind it (home to every cheap Chuck Norris and Michael Dudikoff flick of the 80s), the film could’ve come out looking a whole lot worse.
Scripted by old pro Reginald Rose (“The Wild Geese”, “12 Angry Men”, “Whose Life is it, Anyway?”), it’s a jolly good yarn, even if its slow progression to the mission is indicative of Hunt’s usual problem: His directorial efforts are strangely not very tightly edited for someone with an editing background. Even “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, a fine Bond entry, suffered from that a bit. The cast isn’t as stellar as in the previous film, but there are some interesting people here. Scott Glenn doesn’t look remotely Lebanese, but as the stoic, no-nonsense, Pittsburgh-raised Haddad, he shows that he can do the hard-arse Lee Marvin-type thing quite well. Barbara Carrera might not be the world’s greatest ever actress, but she oozes movie star glamour, and this film is no exception. She sort of ended up being a bit of a flash in the pan after the 80s, but I have no idea why. She looks amazing and is quite good in this, even if I prefer her in ‘bad girl’ mode (ala “Never Say Never Again”). Playing the brother of Richard Burton’s character from the first film (but essentially playing the Roger Moore role from the first film, if that makes any sense), Edward Fox is having an ‘off’ day here. I like that he’s playing Burton’s brother (the film is dedicated to the late Burton), but not only does Fox fail to play Roger Moore as well as Roger Moore does (and Roger Moore could be insufferably smug at times), but he’s completely overboard and rather annoying. His hammy dialogue delivery actually sounds like he’s been poorly dubbed, but it really is Fox and he’s pretty awful. Much more effective are the always watchable Kenneth Haigh (albeit in an easily telegraphed role), a butch-looking Ingrid Pitt (her knockers look huge in this!), “Dirty Dozen” alum Webber, and rock-solid Antrim (essentially having the Jack Watson RSM role from the first film). Freitag plays a fascinating role in completely stiff, dull fashion, and by the time Olivier turns up it’s obvious who he’ll play. Sadly, he spends most of his time unconscious, and the rest of the time giving the same irritating, high-pitched vocalisation and performance he also gave in “The Boys From Brazil”. Greatest actor of all-time my hairy fat arse.
The horribly insistent music score by Roy Budd (“The Wild Geese”, “Get Carter”, “The Stone Killer”) is wildly inappropriate for the material as it sounds like music for a bad 70s cop movie, not a war-actioner from 1985. Look, overall the story in this is irresistible, even if it’s a bit slow in unravelling. It’s a good yarn, warts and all, but the first film is certainly preferable.