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STANLEY BAKER & MICHAEL CAINE BATTLING THROUGH 'ZULU'

Stanley Baker & Michael Caine 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, and the first of several problems is it feels more American than British... 

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

Where two polar opposite lieutenants, Stanley Baker's tough, weathered bridge-builder and Michael Caine's young, classy military-lifer, 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, and outside with the lieutenants and their stern third Nigel Green. Then when the Zulus are heard, shield-pounding in the distance, Caine mentions "There's that train again," like it's just another affable observation. Meanwhile, the much quieter and brooding Baker 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. Like the men, you'll be exhausted. 

Michael Caine and Stanley Baker in ZULU
Nigel Green in ZULU
Michael Caine in ZULU
Action sequence in ZULU
James Booth is basically the Cooler King of ZULU
Jack Hawkins in ZULU

 

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