Wind (The) AKA Edge of Terror (Blu-ray)
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Arrow Films
Review written by and copyright: Paul Lewis (7th May 2020).
The Film

The Wind (Nico Mastorakis, 1986)

Synopsis:
Thriller writer Sian Anderson (Meg Foster) leaves Los Angeles, where she dallies with her lover John (David McCallum). Sian is preparing to leave for the medieval castle town of Monemvasia, Greece, in order to work on her next novel.

Arriving in Monemvasia, Sian is greeted by her eccentric landlord Elias Appleby (Robert Morley), an Englishman who owns the house in which Sian is staying. Appleby warns Sian about the coming winds, and advises her to stay in the house.

Monemvasia is strangely deserted, seemingly devoid of life. Settling in to her accommodation, Sian telephones John in Los Angeles whilst the winds outside pick up and darkness falls. However, the line goes dead. Shortly afterwards, Sian meets Phil (Wings Hauser), another American; Phil is a former mercenary who is working as a handyman in Monemvasia.

Sian soon discovers that Appleby has been murdered, and that Phil is the culprit. Soon, Phil lays siege to the house in which Sian is staying, and unable to make contact with the outside world, Sian is forced to defend herself, until the local police send a visiting American sailor, Kesner (Steve Railsback), to check up on her.

Critique: Greek director
Nico Mastorakis is probably still known, predominantly, among cinephiles as the director of the notorious ‘video nasty’ Island of Death (1976, released on Blu-ray by Arrow Video and reviewed by us here). That particular taboo-busting picture was a tough film to follow, but throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s Mastorakis made a number of interesting exploitation films, from pictures like The Zero Boys (1986, the Arrow Video release of which was reviewed by us here), which is an odd hybrid of slasher movie and action picture, to modest action films like Hired to Kill (1990, also reviewed by us here). Sitting somewhere in the middle of Mastorakis’ career, The Wind (1986) has hints of the slasher movie formula but also looks forwards to Mastorakis’ handling of the erotic thriller in his later picture In the Cold of the Night (1991).

At the outset, The Wind presents Sian as an independent woman – her free-mindedness signalled through an iconoclastic and perhaps slightly blasphemous story she tells offscreen (in bed, to her lover John) whilst the camera lovingly explores her luxurious home. (This appears to be the same apartment in which Mastorakis would shoot much of his later erotic thriller In the Cold of the Night, 1990.) She tries to goad John into another round of coitus, but he responds to her kisses with mock exasperation, reminding her that he is an ‘ordinary’ 42 year old man with only so much stamina – as compared with the lusty heroes of the novels she writes. (‘You know what your trouble is?’, John quips, ‘You think I’m like those superstuds in your novels’.) The couple talk about Sian’s trip to Monomvesia, and John jokingly asks her to promise him that ‘you won’t be nosey, and you’ll stay out of trouble this time’. The implication is that Sian has a habit of getting herself into challenging situations.

With this sequence, Mastorakis quickly essays his female lead as successful, independent and sexually confident. It doesn’t seem too much of a stretch of the imagination to see Sian as Mastorakis’ response to the character of novelist Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) in Robert Zemeckis’ Romancing the Stone (1984), and in some respects The Wind is perhaps best regarded as a subtly satirical riposte to that film. From here, it’s not a stretch to see Phil as The Wind’s answer to Romancing the Stone’s Jack Colton (Michael Douglas). This comes to the foreground later in The Wind, when Sian verbally spars with Phil, a sense of sexual threat bubbling beneath their encounters – possibly contributed to, at least in part, by Wings Hauser’s association, at that point in his career, with his memorable turn as the sadistic pimp Ramrod in Gary Sherman’s Vice Squad (1982). John, a settled and ‘normal’ middle-aged man, is juxtaposed in the narrative against the macho Phil – who, suggested by the dialogue to be a former mercenary and played by Hauser with gum-chewing swagger, seems like a character who has stepped from the pages of one of Sian’s novels. ‘I’m into mysteries, murder’, Sian tells Phil on their first meeting, whilst talking about her writing career. ‘So am I’, Phil responds with a smirk. ‘What’s your favourite weapon?’, Sian asks him. ‘M16s’, Phil replies, telling her he has been in Nicaragua and the Middle East. Where in Sian’s fiction (at least, from what we are led to believe about it through the onscreen dialogue) these macho characters are presented as idealised depictions of masculinity, the construct of Sian’s sexual fantasies, in The Wind the macho Phil is clearly unbalanced and a constant threat to Sian. In Romancing the Stone, Joan Wilder comes face to face with a man who embodies many of the qualities of the heroes of her romantic fiction and falls in love with him; in The Wind, Sian meets Phil, whose macho presence places him in diametric opposition to her lover John, and is almost murdered by him.

Sian’s independence is foregrounded in her early conversation with Appleby, which takes place when Sian first arrives in Monemvasia. Played wonderfully by Robert Morley, the very English Appleby explains his presence in the Greek castle town by telling Sian that ‘They [the Greeks] occupy themselves with so much fighting that bloody foreigners like myself can come here and buy the land for a song’. Appleby comments dryly on Sian’s independence, the dialogue offering something of an askance comment on the post-Women’s Lib era of the mid-80s, stating ‘I’m sorry you have to carry your luggage, dear girl. I’m a feminist. I believe that if women want to be liberated, they must carry their own luggage and open their own automobile doors’.

Also in the film’s opening sequence, Sian and John talk briefly about the plotting of her novels, John commenting dryly that ‘you [Sian] think that unexpected endings are brilliant. I prefer normal short stories’. What’s ironic is that when The Wind moves past its expository sequences, its narrative features no enigma (the figure pursuing Sean is identified unambiguously as Phil pretty much from the moment the character is introduced onscreen) and no ‘twist’ in the tale. With the thinnest of plots, The Wind is almost entirely an exercise in style, the photography and sound design conjuring up an atmosphere of threat through swirling mists and the ominous, persistent sound of the titular wind.

The wind itself is introduced almost as another character in this story. Upon Sian’s arrival in Greece, Appleby warns her about the wind, telling her ominously to ‘Remember the wind […] This isn’t Chicago. The wind can be very dangerous at this time of year […] Don’t go roaming around at night’. It’s perhaps a coincidence, but in retrospect it’s difficult to watch this scene and not think of Dario Argento’s Phenomena (1985) and Professor John McGregor’s (Donald Pleasence) warning that the Alpine foehn winds are suggested by folklore to cause madness – a suggestion which is confirmed throughout Phenomena by less-than-subtle intimations that these winds have caused the killer to run amok. In 1965, Joan Didion wrote an article about the Santa Ana wind for the Saturday Evening Post in which she compared the Santa Ana with the Alpine foehn winds, writing that ‘“On nights like that,” Raymond Chandler once wrote about the Santa Ana [in the 1938 story ‘Red Wind’], “every booze party ends in a fight [….]” That was the kind of wind it was. I did not know then that there was any basis for the effect it had on all of us, but it turns out to be another of those cases in which science bears out folk wisdom. The Santa Ana, which is named for one of the canyons it rushers through, is foehn wind, like the foehn of Austria and Switzerland and the hamsin of Israel. There are a number of persistent malevolent winds, perhaps the best know of which are the mistral of France and the Mediterranean sirocco, but a foehn wind has distinct characteristics […] Whenever and wherever foehn blows, doctors hear about headaches and nausea and allergies, about “nervousness,” about “depression”’ (Didion, 1968).

Like Phenomena, The Wind offers hints of the supernatural powers of the wind about which Appleby warns Sian. Is Phil’s violent behaviour triggered by its presence? (The simplicity of the film’s title underscores this focus on the wind, which was somewhat lost when the film was distributed on home video in the UK, by Polygram, under the alternate title The Edge of Terror.) In the same conversation about the wind, Appleby explicitly discusses the supernatural, asking Sian if she believes in ghosts. ‘Never seen one’, Sian replies succinctly. ‘Neither have I’, Appleby tells her, ‘but at times like this, I can feel them passing by. Ghosts, shadows, memories of the past’. Like Appleby’s assertion, the narrative of The Wind offers sometimes fleeting shadows of themes that are sometimes frustratingly underdeveloped, but nevertheless there’s a satisfying sense of inevitability to the story events, the film’s refusal to offer a ‘twist’ offering the kind of ‘simple story’ that John praises in his early discussion with Sian.


Video

Shot on 35mm and in colour, The Wind is presented uncut with a running time of 91:56 mins. (It must be stressed that this running time is accurate for the digital file presented to us for review; additional logos on the final, pressed Blu-ray version may result in a slightly longer running time.) Arrow’s presentation of the film is in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Whilst we were only able to view the film via a digital file and therefore cannot comment on the encode to disc, the 1080p image in the file presented to us for review was excellent. Detail was rich throughout the presentation, especially in close-ups of the actors (though there is some deliberately diffused light in close-ups of Foster). Much of the film takes place in low-light or limited light, and the presentation exhibits some excellent contrast levels, meaning that the scenes outside – with low-light scenes lit by swirling smoke machine-generated mist – are nicely balanced, with deep shadows and highlights that do not bloom too much. From a new restoration that is based on a new 4k scan of the negative, Arrow’s presentation of the film looks superb.


Audio

The Blu-ray release will, according to Arrow’s press materials, offer an option of a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and a LPCM 2.0 stereo track, with optional English HoH subtitles being provided alongside optional Greek subtitles. In the digital file provided for review, audio was excellent throughout, dialogue being audible and a good sense of range being exhibited throughout.

Extras

According to Arrow’s press release, the Blu-ray release will include the following extra features:
- ‘Blowing the Wind’: an interview with Mastorakis
- ‘The Sound of the Wind’
: the soundtrack (composed by Hans Zimmer & Stanley Myers)
-
A compilation of trailers for Mastorakis’ films

Overall

When one settles into the fact that the film’s narrative presents the kind of ‘simple story’ praised by John in its early scenes (in contrast with Sian’s asserted preference for stories with a twist in the tale), The Wind is an entertaining picture. Phil’s pursuit of Sian has a sense of inevitability to it. The narrative is simple but effective, and is enriched by some good performances – Foster, Hauser and particularly Robert Morley all seem to be having fun – and the setting (a seemingly deserted Monemvasia) is distinctive, giving the film a unique texture that distinguishes it from many of its contemporaries. The photography, in particular, is evocative, the backlit mists and longshots of low-lit medieval alleyways creating a palpable sense of atmosphere and contrasting with the luxurious modernity of Sian’s apartment in Los Angeles. Arrow’s new presentation of the film, a restoration from a 4k scan of the negative, looks excellent.

References:
Didion, Joan, 1968: Slouching Towards Bethlehem. London: 4th Estate

 


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