Writer-director John Milius set out to echo classic adventure films like GUNGA DIN (1939) by creating a fictional story inspired by real events. His source was a real-life kidnapping of an American businessman by Mulai Ahmed er Raisuli in 1904 to embarrass the reigning Moroccan sultan. To make the story more cinematic, he changed the businessman to a beautiful American widow and threw the US Marines into battles that never took place. Then he shot in Spain, using many of the same locations as LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962). When Faye Dunaway fell sick, Candice Bergen inherited the role of the woman who falls for her kidnapper, while Sean Connery took on Raisuli. Joining them are Brian Keith and John Huston in scene-stealing performances as President Teddy Roosevelt and Secretary of State John Hay. The film has a curious political outlook: Milius seems to be glorifying Western imperialism while at the same time giving the Berber culture its due (the picture was particularly well-received by Islamic critics). One thing is certain, the film is a visual feast with glorious shots of the desert and thrilling stunts coordinated by Terry Leonard. He was part of a team of four American stuntmen who did most of the horse work that adds to the film’s excitement.
(d. John Milius, 119m, 35mm)
In attendance: Terry Leonard