Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Michael Caine Week: Zulu

Welcome back girls and boys to the second day of Michael Caine Week. As was previously mentioned, Michael Caine's first feature occurred in 1964. In which he played an inexperienced soldier during one of the more bloodier conflicts the British Army had ever faced. In January 22nd 1879 approximately 100 British soldiers must do battle with over 4000 Zulu warriors in a pitch battle during the Anglo-Zulu War. After the crushing defeat during the Battle of Isandlwana, most of the soliders were sent to field hospital still under construction and they were building a bridge. This is Zulu.

Sand chaffing your willy too?

Pte. Henry Hook: Rourke's Drift... It'd take an Irishman to give his name to a rotten spoiling middle o' nowhere hole like this.

Natal Native Contingent Commander Adenoff sends message that of a massing army of 4,000 Zulu warriors are approaching Rourke's Drift. Senior officer Lieutentant John Chard (Stanley Baker of Hell Drivers, The Guns of Navarone, Accident, Zorro and How Green Was My Valley) has to assume command of a battered detachment of soliders and his second-in-command Lieutenant Bromhead (Michael Caine of Without a Clue, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Mr. Destiny, Noises Off... ,On Deadly Ground and Bullet to Beijing), a commissioned officer with no combat experience at all is a bit put off being subordinate to a engineer with a earlier commission. The two set aside their differences when word is sent that the army is marching their way across the land.

Chard proceeds to get as many strong backed men to tip wagons, load up sacks and crates in a defensive perimeter and hope for the best. The traveling missionary Otto Witt (Jack Hawkins of The Bridge on the River Kwai, Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, Nicholas and Alexandra, The Last Lion and Theatre of Blood) proceeds to find more faith in whiskey than the almighty and starts to tear down morale with his antics to the point that some of the Natal Native Contigent (transcribed natives made soldiers of the Empire) flee the terror of the upcoming battle. Chard has Witt locked in a supply room so he cannot demoralize them anymore than they already are.

A united front.

The men hear a strange rhythmic sound, a steady beat that sounds like a train pulling in the distance claimed Bromhead, when actuality it is the slapping of the assegais against their shields in perfect uniform. Terrified of things to come the soldiers hold their ground, aim their rifles and make peace with their lord as the wave enters. Slaughtering sixty Zulus, Bromhead feels confident and cocky while Chard reasons they sent in a skirmish wave to test the defenses and that the next wave will be massive. Determined to protect the camp on all fronts the lads pull together to watch one another's backs.

And now a few bits of trivia and fact of the film. Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, of the Zulu tribes was asked to play the part of his ancestor, King Cetywayo in the movie. He was asked to be his great-grand father and was both honored and proud to present the Zulu nation. Of the 700+ Zulu extras many of them were descendants of the actual warriors that took part in this epic battle.

Because the Zulus who were play extras in the film had never seen a movie, Stanley Baker held an outdoor screening of a Gene Autry film so they would have a rough idea about what movies are and what they mean to so many.

Michael Caine auditioned for the part of Lt. Bromhead and his audition was horrendous. Months later producer Joesph E. Levine found him at a cocktail party and asked Caine if he still wanted the part. Caine reminded him that the audition was "terrible" and Levine countered with the original actor is ill and the crew leaves for South Africa the next morning. Caine shook the producer's hand, left the part and went home to pack his bags.

Surf's up!!!