Join the Boston Public Library and Barry Marshall, Senior Affiliated Faculty member in the Visual and Media Arts Department at Emerson College, for an online film discussion about Zulu (1964). People are encouraged to view the film prior to attending so that the conversation may be active. To watch this movie for free, please visit this link to a legal and legitimate streaming service with minimal commercial breaks called Tubi.
This program will happen over Zoom. Please register here on this page made by the Programs Department.
Early in his career, Baker was typecast as big, brutish, and brawling: an “angry young man” well before the British New Wave that launched “angry young” talents like Albert Finney and Lawrence Harvey. Critic David Thomson: “Until the early 60s, Baker was the only male lead in British cinema who managed to suggest contemptuousness, aggression and the working class”. It was when he started connecting with artistic directors like Joseph Losey in 1960 in The Criminal, Cy Endfield in 1964 with Zulu, and Peter Yates in 1967 with Robbery, that Baker came into his deeper, more nuanced period wherein he expressed both the frustrations of his class and the dynamism of a thoughtful man of action.
Zulu was a large widescreen 70MM production shot on location in South Africa. The film’s view of the Zulu tribe was very progressive for the time period; in fact it was the first movie to treat any Black African fighting forces as “equal” to the colonial power’s fighting forces.
Endfield’s most profound theme, though, is his look at the British class divide within the context of a colonial war. Both Baker and Caine are portraying Lieutenants in a colonial army. Caine plays “posh”, although he was a genuine Cockney from a tough neighborhood in South London. Caine’s posh character expects to outrank Baker when they meet, but Baker (Welch in origin), whose character is working class and Welch, outranks him because of length of time in the field. Their soldiers are mostly Irish and Welsh whose ideas of “empire” often were quite different than the typical officer’s outlook.
This class divide reflects Endfield’s prior work in both Try and Get Me and The Underworld Story. The handling of some of the battle and crowd scenes in Zulu parallel the earlier “mob” scenes in Try and Get Me.
Directed by Cy Endfield
Endfield struggled to get a foothold in the British film industry when he arrived in 1953. He worked on Television shows under “front’ names: Robin Hood (which Losey also worked on). He made three low budget features, The Limping Man (1953), Impulse (1954), and Child in the House (1956) under “fronts”. His biggest success after struggling for over five years, as well as the first film in the UK crediting his real name was Hell Driver in 1958. This is the film that made Stanley Baker a star, and also featured a significant villain star turn from Patrick McGoohan and Sean Connery in a smaller role. He also made a big commercial success with Mysterious Island (1961), which feature the special effects of the legendary Ray Harryhausen. Sands of the Kalihari (1965) was another commercial success. In the late 70s, he wrote a sequel to Zulu, which was released as Zulu Dawn in 1979.
Produced by Stanley Baker and Cy Endfield
At this point, Baker had become a star and started a production company with Endfield, which produced Zulu and The Sands of the Kalahari.
Screenplay by Cy Endfield and John Prebble
Prebble wrote the book about the famous Battle of Rorke’s Drift and was mostly used on the film as a historical consultant. Endfield wrote most of the screenplay.
Music by John Barry
John Barry is best known for writing the scores of the first 10 James Bond films and several other later in the series, but he also scored literally scores of films and was awarded Four Oscars for Best Score: Born Free in 1966 (he also won an Oscar for Best Song), The Lion in Winter in 1968, Out of Africa in 1985, and Dances with Wolves in 1990.
Baker was the first British star to project the aggression and arrogance of working class “louts”.
This fierce energy shows in his role in Zulu. He made several films with both Losey and Endfiel.
This was Caine’s first film, Baker and Enfield cast him, and it made him a star. He went on to work in over 100 films over 6 decades. He was Knighted in 2000. Baker later hires Caine when he produces The Italian Job in 1969, which Baker decides not to be in himself.
Hawkins made films from 1930s through the 1970s, often playing military figures, as in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Ben Hur (1959), and Lawrence of Arabia (1962). In Zulu, he plays against type as a cowardly minister. He starred in The Cruel Sea (1953), which was a breakthrough role for Stanley Baker.
Richard Burton (narrator)
Barry Marshall is a Senior Affiliated Faculty member in the Visual and Media Arts Department at Emerson College, teaching classes in Film and Media History as well as Copyright. He has had an extensive career as well as a musician and record producer, and has produced and written songs for several films and television shows. He also curates and presents film programs at the Boston Public Library.
Programming like this is enabled through the generosity of a variety of public and private funding. To learn more and support our programming, visit the Boston Public Library Fund website.