The Wild Geese: 30th Anniversary Edition

The Wild Geese: 30th Anniversary Edition (1978)
Tango Entertainment
Cast: Roger Moore, Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Hardy Krüger
Extras: Commentary Track, Documentary, Featurette, Newsreel, Radio & TV Spots, Gallery, Combat Menu

Featuring an all-star cast, including Roger Moore, Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Hardy Krüger and others, "The Wild Geese" is an action film powerhouse from the late 70s. In a covert mission, a mercenary paratroop commando is dropped in Africa to free a political leader from a prison camp. In his hands lies the future of the country and the "Wild Geese" have to make sure he gets to safety alive in order to defeat the country's corrupt regime. It is a very fragile situation that requires a lot of firepower, but things are getting from serious to worse when it turns out that the Wild Geese come under attack as a result of political intrigue by the people who sent them.

The movie is wonderfully acted and produced making for an enjoyable action thrill comparable in many ways to the later "Rambo" movies. But apart from the story it is the locations and the cast that brings this film to life. The movie was quite a success in its days and drew a large following, eventually also leading to a sequel in 1984. Its depiction of the African war zone is not quite as glamorized as was common in those days, creating a gritty story and an edge atmosphere throughout, which clearly contributed to the film's success. Though, of course, the movie's heroes are still virtually untouchable and manage to dodge any bullet flying at them…

Tango Entertainment is a fairly unknown DVD publisher and "The Wild Geese" is certainly one of their hottest properties to date, inevitably putting expectations accordingly high. The presentation doesn't exactly disappoint, as the transfer is absolutely clean and clear, free of blemishes, dust or scratches, but it doesn't overly impress either. Sadly it is presented as a non-anamorphic widescreen transfer – I didn't even know anyone is still bothering with these. The image reveals a decent level of detail, but there are instances where the picture is noticeably soft, without proper edge delineation. Color reproduction is faithful and strong, without bleeding or over-saturation. Skin tones are always natural and the transfer's black levels are solid, firmly rooting the image without ever breaking up in the shadows. No edge-enhancement distracts from the presentation. The compression is generally good but loses image detail on some occasion when the camera is in motion – a result of a somewhat restricted bitrate.

The audio on the release is a solid stereo audio track. It is nothing spectacular and has a limited frequency response that gives away the film's age, as dialogues are often harsh sounding and the music does not make use of the full audible spectrum. A remastered audio track or even a remix would have gone a long way here. Additionally, the release features neither close captions nor subtitles, which also an oversight that I cannot excuse in this day and age.

The DVD contains a commentary track with Roger Moore, producer Euan Lloyd and journalist Jonathan Sothcott.

A number of extras have been included in this 30th Anniversary release, including "Last Of The Gentleman Producers," a 37-minute documentary about Euan Lloyd. Also included is a featurette on the making of the movie as well as the Premiere Newsreel, Radio Spots, Trailers and a Still Gallery.

The DVD also contains an Interactive Combat Menu, which is a section in which you can directly access various of the combat scenes – meaning the killing of people – from the film for review. Not sure what the purpose is of this but I'm sure some people will enjoy it.

There are a number of "amateur" flaws evident with this release. From a non-anamorphic transfer, a studio trailer that cannot be skipped, to menus that cannot be fast-forwarded, making every menu page change a test of your patience, and the lack of subtitle or additional language support, this is not up to par with current release standards. On the other hand, the commentary track, the documentaries and features are a nice addition that do show care.

"The Wild Geese" is cool action war movie that will please fans of the genre, no doubt. The DVD feels a bit cramped and maybe a two-disc release would have been better suited the anniversary. At least at $19.98 the price is right, so fans of the film should take notice, just don't expect a major studio quality.