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STANLEY BAKER AND MICHAEL CAINE BATTLING THROUGH 'ZULU'

Stanley Baker & Michael Caine in ZULU Year: 1964 Rating: ***1/2

A cross between LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and THE ODD COUPLE, Cy Endfield's cast-of-thousands ZULU was directed by an American and features a crop of great British actors about their own history — yet the first of several problems is it feels more mainstream American than edgy/offbeat British... 

Especially some of the performances, seeming more catered to Oscar nominations (particularly Jack Hawkins as a ridiculously passive yet hammy priest) than moving the story forward: about a South African outpost called Rorke's Drift after a massive Little Big Horn style defeat of the British by Zulu warriors...

Michael Caine in ZULU

Where two polar opposite lieutenants, Stanley Baker's tough, working-class, weathered bridge-builder and Michael Caine's young, born-rich, classy military-professional, learn those same victorious Zulu warriors are well on the way, providing surprisingly little suspense, urgency or doom... 

Instead there are stage-like sequences like it's just another day at the outpost: both inside a barrack of wounded misfits including endearing born loser James Booth (the role Caine was supposed to play before Endfield realized he was far too pretty)... and outside with the lieutenants and their stern third Nigel Green...

From Cy Endfield's ZULU

Then, when the approaching Zulus are heard, shields-pounding, clack-clacking in the distance, Caine says "There's that train again," like some breezy, affable observation. Meanwhile, the much quieter and brooding Baker (who produced with Enfield) steals the show by being the only actor not trying to...

His subtle strength and determination carries ZULU through the deliberately slow build-up and the inevitable non-stop action of African warriors piling in, getting stabbed, shot  and stabbing and shooting. Which pays off after all the work's been done... far more than you'll see in most war pictures since, like the men, you'll be completely exhausted. 

James Booth is basically the Cooler King of ZULU
Jack Hawkins in ZULU
Nigel Green in ZULU


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