Netflix Bond, Lack of Bond

Alright Netflix – Hulu skunked you on the James Bond series but maybe you can redeem yourself with some good movies featuring the stars of Bond.

Sean Connery will always be my Bond. I first saw him as a wee tyke in Diamonds are Forever, one of my first movie memories. Growing up I loved catching the expurgated versions on network television. When VCRs came around, you can imagine how ecstatic I was.

The Longest Day

Connery has never been the most prolific of actors but he has 93 imdb credits to his name, including such gems as The Man who Would be King, The Rock, Marnie, The Hill, The Molly Maguires, and my favorite Robin and Marian. Netflix has exactly three Connery titles: The Longest Day (pre-Bond), Playing by Heart, and the animated feature Guardian of the Highlands. Poor showing Netflix.

The Wild Geese

Ignoring the abortive Lazenby attempt, Roger Moore took over the mantle with Live and Let Die. Moore too has 93 imdb credits but not nearly as many gems. Netflix has but a single Moore title. Thankfully it is probably his best non-Bond effort: the mercenary saga, The Wild Geese with Richard Burton and Richard Harris.

Hot Fuzz

After Moore retired the 00 designation, Timothy Dalton attempted to bring back Bond’s edge. He has 67 imdb credits, including the delightful Penny Dreadful series. Netflix has Hot Fuzz (hysterically funny) and Disney’s Secret of the Wings.

Not well played at all, Netflix. Just counting Hulu’s Bond movies, they beat you on these three actors.

Zulu – Help! We are Surrounded week

This is Help! We are Surrounded week. Zulu is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Zulu (1964) – NR – Not rated.

“Based on a real-life battle, Zulu follows a group of British soldiers (led by Michael Caine, in his first starring role) stationed in South Africa who must defend their tiny outpost against an attack by an overwhelming force of Zulu warriors. Outnumbered 40 to 1, the stoic British soldiers are still ready to fight to the finish. Richard Burton narrates this epic war film shot on location in Natal.”

The army does not like more than one disaster in a day.” – “Looks bad in the newspapers and upsets civilians at their breakfast.”

“If 1200 people could not hold a defensive position this morning, what chance have we with a hundred?”

Okay I have written before of my hatred for the phrase “Inspired by a true story” but actually telling a true story can be riveting. Zulu is a prime example about an incident that is tailor-made for a movie.

Zulu opens with a wonderful narration. Richard Burton (who does not appear in the film) reading a dispatch account of the massacre at Isandhlwana where the main British force was almost completely wiped out. The film then segues to the camp of Cetewayo, chieftain of the Zulus, leading a mass marriage ceremony.

A father and daughter missionary couple (Jack Hawkins and Ulla Jacobsson) observing the ceremony flee the kraal when word of the massacre arrives and that the next target is Rorkes Drift, the sparsely populated aid station. This allows us a glimpse at Zulu life before we settle in to the main portion of the story, the incredible defense of Rorke’s Drift.

Cy Endfield directed, co-wrote and co-produced this epic but this was as much Stanley Bakers film as Endfields. Stanley Baker produced and starred in Zulu as well as obtaining the financing for it. He also maintained a lot of creative control throughout.

Baker plays Lt. John Chard, the commanding officer and does so brilliantly. This is probably his best role. Stanley Baker did a great job of playing rough and tumble characters with his rather severe looks. In what was perhaps a teeny tiny error, he turned down the part of James Bond in Dr. No though his grit and no-nonsense attitude would have worked well as witnessed by Daniel Craig in Casino Royale.

Michael Caine puts in an incredible performance as the second-in-command Lt. Gonville Bromhead. Zulu is often mentioned as the debut of Michael Caine but he had been in bit parts in many films before this – this is just his first big role. After Zulu and Alfie (1966), he rocketed to stardom and to this day, at age 77, still puts in brilliant performances (Harry Brown) and is a favorite of director Christopher Nolan.

While Caine and Baker put in career-worthy performances in Zulu, they are blown away by Nigel Green as Colour-Sergeant Bourne. After Zulu and his role as Hercules in Jason and the Argonauts, Green got much better, often quite juicy roles. Ironically Green was born in South Africa.

The score by John Barry is very rousing, quite epic in scope. There are also actual Zulu chants featured on the soundtrack.

The details in Zulu are amazing. Most of the more than 700 Zulu extras were descendants of those in the original battle. Although it seems cliche now, Baker had to show them a Gene Autry film to explain what a movie was.

Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Chief of the Zulus played Cetewayo, an ancestor of his. A princess and historian of the Zulu tribe drew the battle in the sand – this sequence is used in the film with Ardendorff drawing the formation.

Zulu was filmed in Royal Natal National Park.

Zulu and Apartheid: Because Baker was prevented from paying the Zulus as much as whites, he gifted the Zulu tribe with all the animals that had been purchased for the film (horses and cattle). When Baker passed away in 1976, Chief Buthelezi sent flowers with a note naming Baker as “the most decent white man I have ever met”.

I highly recommend Zulu as a wonderful siege film that does not demonize the other side. If you want to see more on the Zulu wars, Zulu Dawn details the massacre at Isandhlwana and stars Bob Hoskins, Peter Otoole, and Burt Lancaster.

Shaka Zulu is an excellent miniseries about the rise of the Zulu nation. This is not to be confused with Shaka Zulu: The Last Great Warrior which stars David Hasselhof. I am not dissing the Hof – I just have not seen The Last Great Warrior.

If you have the time to read books, The Washing of the Spears is a fascinating account of the Zulu wars.

People Watch: Look for veteran genre actor Patrick Magee as Surgeon Reynolds. He appears in The Skull, The Masque of the Red Death, Dementia 13, A Clockwork Orange, Asylum and Tales from the Crypt.

Exorcist II – Children’s Week

In celebration of the birth of our littlest angel, I thought I’d feature movies about angelic tykes. What’s that you say? There aren’t any? Hrrrrm. I guess we’ll feature the opposite then.

The Exorcist 2

PASS: Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) – Rated R

“Intent on discovering why Regan (Linda Blair) was possessed by the demon Pazuzu, Father Lamont (Richard Burton) travels to Africa in search of another who was once possessed by the same demon — and learns that Pazuzu traverses the world via locusts. But when Father Lamont returns to New York, he discovers Pazuzu has reached Regan again through Dr. Gene Tuskin’s (Louise Fletcher) hypnosis machine.”

“No! Once the wings have brushed you, you’re mine forever!”

“If Pazuzu comes for you, I will spit a leopard.”

Yes, those are actual quotes from the movie. No, they don’t make much more sense in context. Unlike The Exorcist, the script is not written by William Peter Blatty nor is this an adaptation of his book.

This film was not the travesty I’d been led to believe but neither is it very good. The first film was an excellent blend of psychology and religion. Apparently they felt that the only way to top that was to throw in parapsychology and faith healing as well. It is not a good fit.

Richard Burton plays Father Lamont, an amalgam of Father Karras (priest questioning his path and faith) and Father Merrin (learned exorcist) from the first film. Linda Blair plays a mostly grown-up Regan who now apparently has healing powers. Ellen Burstyn as the mom is nowhere to be found and is replaced by Louise Fletcher who gets an upgrade from her Nurse Ratched status by playing Doctor Tuskin here.

The real problem with this film is that John Boorman (normally a good director) clearly didn’t understand what made the first film work so well. He throws in scenes from an exotic land seemingly because of the dig scenes in the original. The locust tie-in could have been interesting but it is merely dumped into the pot with faith/psychic healing and machines that allow merged dream/memory states.

It is best to pretend that this movie doesn’t exist. Exorcist III written and directed by author William Peter Blatty is a good thriller (though not on the original’s level of course) and should be considered the real Exorcist sequel. Sadly it is not available on instant Netflix.

People Watch: James Earl Jones plays Kokumo and Ned Beatty appears as Edwards but the real surprise here is Paul (Casablanca) Henreid is the Cardinal. Sadly this was his last film.

The Medusa Touch

Here’s a nice one that sadly is only available until November 1st.

The Medusa Touch

WATCH: The Medusa Touch (1978) – “John Morlar (Richard Burton) is a writer with an inconvenient talent: the ability to see disasters before they happen. So when he’s attacked by an unknown assailant, a Scotland Yard investigator (Lino Ventura) can’t help but wonder whether he saw it coming. With John languishing in a coma, it’s impossible to ask him any questions. But his psychiatrist (Lee Remick) could shed much-needed light on John’s troubled past.”

Outdoor scenes not withstanding, this really comes off as a well-acted stage play. Richard Burton is wonderful and adds a certain gravitas to his role and Lino Ventura and Lee Remick play well singly and off each other but it is definitely Burton’s show. The premise is nifty and was likely greenlit right after the success of Carrie. There are only a few, though effective, scenes of violence and no sex which is part of why this seems like a stage play. Unfortunately not only is this film only available until the 1st of November but it has never been released on DVD in the US.

People watchers: look for the always wonderful Derek Jacobi in a small part.