WHEN THE actor Roger Moore passed away on May 23 I felt a personal sense of loss.
The thespian is perhaps best known for his part as James Bond; others will relate better to his role in The Saint TV series.
As a well-travelled habitué of North, East, South and West Africa my evocations of Roger Moore centre on the Wild Geese movie. Released in 1978, the film is a reminder of the cynical and ruthless methods of rich and powerful men who kill without blinking a reptilian eyelid.
The Wild Geese was inspired by South African author Daniel Carney’s unpublished novel The Thin White Line. The film’s title, its flag and shoulder patch, was modelled on Ireland’s 17th century legendary army in exile.
Rhodesia and Swaziland provide the backdrop to the parachute drop carried out by the 49 hired dogs of war. The mostly British mercenaries had been contracted by banker Sir Edward Matheson to re-install a popular African president.
If successful, the overthrown president awaiting execution will be released by the mercenaries. It is a tough assignment as the deposed president Julius Limbani is held in a remote garrison. He is guarded by several hundred Cuban and notorious Simba tribesmen.
The soldiers of fortune are led by Colonel Alan Faulkner played by Welsh born Richard Burton, whose role was well chosen.
The success of the Wild Geese movie is likely due to its stark realism. Those watching the movie felt it was not so much a film as a documentary. The movie’s director, Andrew McLaglen, will certainly have learned much from the epic documentary, Africa Adios. The part played by Colonel Alan Falkner (Richard Burton) was modelled on Irish-born mercenary Colonel Mike Hoare.
Roger Moore assumed the role of ex-pilot Shawn Fynn. The part is pivotal and the actor’s good humour whilst under fire is legendary. The movie recounts the breath-taking exploits of the mercenary band of brothers during the white knuckle ride rescue attempt.
Irish actor and former drifter Richard Harris (Rafer Janders) was the only one of the main actors who did not have military experience.
After successfully rescuing deposed President Limbani the triumphant mercenaries wait on a remote airstrip for the arrival of a rescuing transport aircraft. Disaster: The corrupt banker, who bankrolled the rescue, has meantime cut a deal for mineral assets with the incumbent president. Limbani is no longer needed.
The rescuing aircraft is diverted and the mostly White desperadoes are abandoned deep in the African bush. Their chances of survival are slim; the movie chronicles their desperate plight and escape. Roger Moore played the part well but there’s no escaping the Grim Reaper.