Celebrating 50 years since the release of Zulu. Born in the mining community of Ferndale, Stanley Baker, alongside lifelong friend Richard Burton, went on to Hollywood stardom as a character actor rather than romantic lead. Proving an enduring and powerful presence as an actor and later as a producer, he made some of the great films of the era. Over the summer, Chapter celebrated the 50th anniversary of Zulu and pay homage to this Welsh great.
Stanley Baker was a giant of Welsh cinema. He could play heroes and villains with ease. But he was a tender tough guy who remained close to his Welsh roots and eschewed the Hollywood road taken by his contemporaries. In this new illustrated talk, writer and broadcaster Tony Earnshaw recalls the life and times of the Welsh actor and producer.
January 22, 1879, an army of 4,000 Zulu warriors have already decimated a huge British garrison; now they are on their way to the much smaller Rorke’s Drift manned by a Welsh regiment. A Royal Engineers officer is determined to stand his ground, despite having only a skeleton garrison at his command. His tactics are constantly at odds with those of a lieutenant, who feels that a retreat is called for, but it becomes clear that if the garrison is to survive, they’d better pay heed. A career-best performance from Baker, a film he also co-produced, and an eye catching first role for Caine, this rousing film still has power today.
Hell Drivers (1957)
Fresh out of prison, Tom signs up as a notorious ‘Hell Driver’, a truck driver with a huge workload. But he soon realises that the driving is the least brutal part of the job. The other truck drivers and their hate, drinking and fights are far more dangerous. An efficient and energetic thriller with an outstanding cast, including an early performance by a young Sean Connery.
Violent Playground (1958)
After investigating a case of juvenile crime, Detective Jack Truman comes into contact with the Murphy family. As he becomes more involved with them he begins to suspect Johnny, the elder brother, of being an arsonist but Jack doesn’t realise the desperate measures Johnny will take to avoid capture.
A mysterious man breaks into an Italian racing car factory and attempts to steal design plans for the upcoming race. But things go badly, shots ring out, the police arrive and more gunfire leads to a fire in the factory. As the man’s employers try to cover up the scandal the pressure mounts. With fantastic footage from the Italian Mille Miglia, Stanley Baker’s barely contained rage adds tension to this thrilling ride.
The Guns of Navarone (1961)
Installed on the Aegean island of Navarone, behind enemy lines, are huge cannons. When the officer assigned by the British to lead a task force to put the guns out of commission is injured, the mission winds up in the relatively inexperienced hands of Mallory. There’s little love lost between Mallory, explosives expert Miller and Greek patriot Andrea, especially when it becomes known that there’s a traitor in their midst.
Yesterday’s Enemy (1960)
In this unflinching look at the effects of war on the human psyche we meet a British patrol in the Burmese jungle. Captain Langford and his exhausted troops take over an enemy-held village. Despite the protests of an elderly padre and a war correspondent, Langford orders Sergeant McKenzie to shoot two innocent villagers to get a Japanese informer to surrender vital information. But when the Japanese recapture the village, their commander uses Langford’s own desperate war-born tactics upon him.
Sea Fury (1958)
Drifter and English sailor Abel Hewson lands in the Spanish coastal village of San Pedro. Impressing the crusty old-timer English captain of the salvage tug Fury II, Captain Bellew, he is invited to join the crew. The foolish captain is taken with the beauty of local teenager Josita, to the delight of her father who eyes the Captain’s fortune, but it is Abel and Josita who fall in love. The conflicted hearts are put aside as a sinking freighter carrying explosive cargo has to be salvaged and towed to port, putting the Fury II at risk.
The Man Who Finally Died (1963)
A call summons Joe Newman, a German who has been living in England since the outbreak of WWII, back to a village in Bavaria in search of the father he believed dead for 20 years. The small town holds many secrets in this taut thriller.
Stephen is a married Oxford professor experiencing the pangs of a mid-life crisis as he starts to bristle at the stifling emotional repression of the society in which he lives. Things begin to change when he meets Anna, a beautiful student who is engaged to another of Stephen’s students. Though he feels alive again in her presence, Stephen’s feelings for Anna can only end in tragedy for them and those around them. With a script by Harold Pinter, this is a subtle, witty study of simmering class conflict and sexual tension.
Hell is a City (1960)
Inspector Martineau suspects that escaped thief Don Starling is going to return to Manchester to retrieve a cache of jewels he hid away before being convicted. The sudden, brutal murder of a woman tips the Inspector off that his suspicions were right. He starts tracking down the killer and the gang of men he knows must be working with him, as suspense builds at every turn. The gang falls one by one, until only the killer is left.