Despite the title Codename: Wild Geese is not related to The Wild Geese or it’s sequel, erm Wild Geese II, which eventually surfaced in in 1985. It is in fact the first of three action films, all starring Lewis Collins and directed by Antonio Margheriti, knocked out in rapid order in the mid 80s.
The previously reviewed Commando Leopard (1985) and The Commander (1988) complete the triptych. And if the plot of Codename: Wild Geese sounds familiar, it’s because it’s almost identical to the plot The Commander.
Collins plays Captain Robin Wesley. He’s hired to lead a team of mercenaries into the Thai jungle to destroy an opium factory run by a corrupt army General.
Collins is offered the job of destroying an opium factory deep in the Thai jungle by Fletcher, a DEA agent played by Ernest Borgnine. Financing the mission is a Hong Kong business man. Klaus Kinski plays his shadowy right hand man Charlton. Kinski is dubbed in this movie with a hilariously upper crust British accent.
But before the mission can start Wesley must find a pilot. He uses the Government connection to arrange the release of China (Lee Van Cleef) an ace pilot. There could have been a cool scene here. Instead it’s handled with all the tension and drama of a damp sock slowly drying on a radiator.
Anyway, they head off up river into the jungle. They meet up with some rebels who lead them to the an army base where they need to steal a helicopter in order to complete their mission.
They pinch the chopper and fly on the laboratories and processing plant where the corrupt general is producing the opium. They launch their attack and destroy the labs. However, the small squad hits some trouble and Van Cleef is forced to leave his helicopter to help a wounded colleague.
However, in a pointless but convenient plot twist, one of the rebels who has accompanied them on the raid is a double agent. He sneaks up on the helicopter and uses the butt of his rifle smashes through the exterior of the helicopter into the fuel tank.
He retreats a few yards and sets fire to the petrol before one of Wesley’s men, realising the betrayal, shoots the rebel dead. Too late though, the helicopter is consumed in a fireball. Our heroes will have to walk their way out the jungle.
This is a poor helicopter explosion. The producers clearly couldn’t afford to actually blow a helicopter up, or even a prop made to look like one. Instead they set off some explosives which are clearly in front of the chopper.
When the smoke clears we can make out the tail end of a helicopter next to a burning fire. Quite where the rest of the helicopter has gone I don’t know. Maybe it evaporated?
Exploding helicopter innovation
Despite blowing up trains, bridges, laboratories, cars and trucks director Anthony Margeriti never really expends any effort on blowing up helicopters in creative ways. It’s almost like he doesn’t think they’re worth the effort. How wrong can a man be?
There’s some good helicopter action at the end of the movie when Collins fixes a flame thrower on the runners of a requisitioned chopper. He then flies around the enemy’s jungle lair turning many of the villains to toast.
There’s also a good helicopter scene where Collins and the surviving members of his team are pinned down in a hanger with the helicopter they need to escape.
Kinski decides to use an old lorry to smash his way into the hanger driving it at doors to the building. Collins, knowing that the only chance of escape past the soldier outside will be to make a rapid exit from hanger, plants a box of grenades by the hanger doors.
With the helicopter revved up and ready to go he explodes the grenades destroying the doors to the hanger and allowing them to swoop out of the hanger just before the lorry smashes into the hanger and where the chopper was sat only moments before. It’s nice to see a bit of imagination used here.
The scene where the helicopter’s fuel tanks are bust open with the butt of a rifle were a surprise. I can’t say if this is accurate or not, but it’s hard to believe that any chopper’s fuselage is made out of metal as flimsy as baking foil.
And if Lewis Collins is supposed to be the bad ass mercenary that he is, would he really pin his entire escape plan on a helicopter that could be taken out with blowpipe?
“Are you ok?”
“We’re only screaming to scare them.”
The film co-stars Ernest Borgnine, an exploding helicopter legend for this work in the TV series Airwolf. Borgnine was 67 when he made this. Unbelievably, he is still a working actor today at the grand old age of 94, appearing last year in the film RED.