Blowing a Hooley: The Wind (1986)

Matty’s thoughts on Nico Mastorakis’ low-key weird chase flick.  

It’s an easy and axiomatic thing to say but, as great as Nico Mastorakis’ best American productions, The Zero Boys (1986), Nightmare at Noon (1988), and In the Cold of the Night (1990) are, it’s the way the Greek genre peddler captures his homeland that’s typically the most visually and texturally interesting aspects of his directorial work. Through Mastorakis’ lens, Greece is a formidable locale. Cities like Athens are sleek, ultra-modern playgrounds of sex and death (see: Blind Date (1984)), and islands and towns such as Mykonos and Monemvasia are mysterious, sun-soaked netherworlds; quietly fantastical realms characterised by sparse populations, debauchery, superstition, and arcane religious practices, as documented in Island of Death (1976), The Next One (1984), and THE WIND (1986). And while The Wind lacks the puckish depravity of Island of Death and the eerie, open-air claustrophobia of monster movie-cum-hangout flick Blood Tide (1982), Mastorakis’ wickedly tense suspense thriller still ranks highly among his slate of distinguished programmers. 

The fun lies in its deceptive simplicity. Essentially a predator vs. prey chase movie, beneath The Wind’s rudimentary façade — in which Meg Foster is pursued by a crazed Wings Hauser on a long, windy night — lingers an evocative, almost cosmic core. Inspired by the mighty gales that plagued the shooting of The Next One in Mykonos (a place known as ‘The Windy Isle’), The Wind, which was scripted by Mastorakis and longtime writing partner Fred Perry, tells the story of Foster’s Sian Anderson: an American crime novelist who makes the 7,000 mile trip from L.A. to the aforementioned Monemvasia to pen her latest pulp opus. Naturally, as the Mastorakian standard dictates, Monemvasia is nearly deserted. The tourist season has finished and the locals have packed up and sodded off on their own jollies, leaving behind only a briefly seen police officer (revered Grecian character actor Mihalis Giannatos) and a few expats (including a drainingly disinterested Steve Railsback [1]). 

Though attracted by the solitude, Sian’s creative isolation is interrupted by a pair of powerful forces. The first is the eponymous current: a relentless purveyor of ferocious gusts that Mastorakis paints as a supernatural presence and a character in and of itself. “Do you believe in ghosts, dear girl?” asks Elias Appleby (Robert Morley), the pompous British landlord renting Sian her Monemvasian bolthole. “At times like this I feel them passing by; ghosts, shadows, memories of the past,” he goes on to say, before inferring a link between eidolism and the howling blasts of ice-cold air that rattle around Monemvasia’s cobbles, walls, and byzantine architecture at night, explaining that the wind can either be Sian’s friend or her enemy depending on how she looks at it. And as Mastorakis’ rock solid caper nestles into cat n’ mouse and mode, it quickly becomes obvious that, for as inconvenient, distracting, and perilous as Monemvasia’s wind is, it’s really Sian’s ally. The suggestion is that it’s protecting her and, ultimately, trying to cleanse the town from its biggest threat, Elias’ psychotic handyman Phil.

Essayed with wide-eyed intensity by B-moviedom’s preeminent star Hauser (who, according to Mastorakis, was truly horrific to deal with behind the scenes [2]), Phil is another emigrant and The Wind’s second force. A boorish Yank drifter, his exact origins are unknown but Mastorakis and co-scribe Perry tease enough to piece together a vivid portrait. Whereas the pleasant and relatable Sian and, even, the imperious and insufferable Elias are captivated by Monemvasia’s exotic vibe and undeniable beauty, Phil is a violent, angry man with a shady history; an interloper there solely by chance, unappreciative of the area, and very likely on the lamb. With impressive elliptical verve, Mastorakis hints at an arbitration process of sorts, as if the wind passes judgment over Monemvasia’s non-native inhabitants deciding whether they belong.

Understandably, Phil does not.

Inverting his beloved ‘stranger in a strange land’ trope, despite the set-up of Sian coming to Monemvasia etc., it’s the already there Phil who Mastorakis presents as wholly out of place. Because although Elias is just as fundamentally unpleasant, his patronising, old fashioned bluster at least provides Monemvasia with a certain gatekeeper-y quality: if you can tolerate him, you’re welcome to enjoy the municipality’s vistas and ambience as much as he clearly does. Phil, alas, offers nothing but laziness, confrontation, and ingratitude. During an argument pertaining to his ineptitude and mooching, Phil kills Elias — an incident that, in a Rear Window (1954)-indebted twist, Sian catches the end of in The Wind’s finest sequence, Mastorakis cleverly juxtaposing Elias’ murder with an identical moment of madness and mayhem that Sian is typing. It’s the event that kicks the thrust of The Wind in motion, too: Phil quickly realises what Sian has witnessed and subjects her to an extended, fabulously tense game of hide and seek through Monemvasia’s nooks and crannies. Thankfully, the fearless author proves herself a resourceful and intelligent heroine — a brilliant anomaly in Mastorakis’ generally bloke-heavy resume. And with smarts, style, and his patented chutzpah, Mastorakis has Sian unleash a fist-pumping fight back against her tormentor amidst the ducking and diving (a la the once prolific auteur’s other One Long Night™ epic, the above-noted Zero Boys); her refusal to succumb to Phil’s dogged tracking leading to a draughty, dawn-set reckoning atop a pile of ruins that, in retrospect, elevates The Wind’s more contrived passages from predictable to weirdly fatalistic. 

[1] In Mastorakis’ rather diplomatic words, the, erm, tired and emotional actor’s comatose performance  was the result of “jet lag”
[2] Albeit more so on Nightmare at Noon, wherein Hauser’s fiery temper was exacerbated by his insatiable appetite for Columbian party powder. 

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