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Beware of Mr. Baker

Beware of Mr. Baker

Director: Jay Bulger

Cast: Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce

This documentary explores the life and career of drummer Ginger Baker, a well-respected musician who famously discovered Fela Kuti's Afrobeat during a trip to Nigeria. After a period of addiction and self-destruction, Baker moved to South Africa, where he remarried and cares for a number of polo ponies. Eric Clapton


This documentary explores the life and career of drummer Ginger Baker, a well-respected musician who famously discovered Fela Kuti's Afrobeat during a trip to Nigeria. After a period of addiction and self-destruction, Baker moved to South Africa, where he remarried and cares for a number of polo ponies. Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, and Carlos Santana are interviewed. ~ Tracie Cooper

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
Drummer extraordinaire Peter Edward "Ginger" Baker has spent a lifetime burning bridges on at least three continents, a scorched-earth policy that matched the septuagenarian's erstwhile mane of fiery red hair when he was pounding the skins for 1960s rock juggernauts Cream and Blind Faith. Baker's ragged trail of demolition, largely self-inflicted due to a volatile temper, a callous disregard for others, and an insatiable desire for rock-and-roll's clichéd accessories (i.e., sex and drugs), is ably deconstructed here by director Jay Bulger, a former boxer, model, and journalist who's made an impressive film debut with Beware of Mr. Baker. The documentary has its roots in something of a con; when Bulger tracked down the reclusive Baker in South Africa in 2008, it was under the guise that he was to be the subject of a Rolling Stone article. As fate would have it, the profile was published by the magazine after all, in 2009, but Bulger had his mind on a film the entire time. So after raising money for the project, he spent a three-month stint living on Baker's gated compound -- where one is greeted by a sign bearing the warning that became the film's title -- shooting more video to augment the footage he already had. What ails Ginger Baker? A glimpse is delivered in jarring fashion in the film's opening scene, when he whacks Bulger with a cane, bloodying his nose in a raw fit of rage that punctuated the end of Bulger's prolonged visit, and an apparent reaction to the director's intention to interview Baker's former bandmates, ex-wives, and estranged children, including his son Kofi, an accomplished drummer whose musical skills, sadly, seem to be only thing he ever received from his father. Remarks from Baker's contemporaries, among them Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Carlos Santana, Charlie Watts, and Mickey Hart, and drummers he influenced, including Stewart Copeland, Lars Ulrich, and Neil Peart, are laudatory, though not hagiographic: Bulger is careful not to put a clearly flawed and profoundly unhinged man on a pedestal. Rather, those who knew him best, such as Cream's Bruce and Clapton, who considers Baker a dear friend, are able to recognize his genius behind the kit but realize that the safest way to regard him is from a distance. For the most part, Bulger lets Baker tell his own story, slumped in a recliner, smoking one cigarette after another and giving the finger, literally and figuratively, to those he considers inferior, which is just about everyone. For all his unapologetic belligerence, however, Baker reveals a glimmer of humanity when he briefly lets his guard down to recall his drum "battles" with jazz giants Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, and Max Roach, and Baker actually tears up at the thought of going snare-to-snare with the virtuosos he idolized growing up. Baker's shocking, rambling and, at times, amusing narrative is the film's strength, but there is captivating archival footage of his playing that's well worth the price of admission, and his globe-trotting escapades are animated in eerie renderings of an ancient galley rowed by slaves to the beat of his drumming. There are also interesting detours outside the confines of Cream and Blind Faith, such as his lifelong love for jazz, and his immersion in world music in the 1970s, through collaborations with Afro-beat pioneer Fela Kuti in Nigeria. Other musical diversions, including Ginger Baker's Air Force and Baker-Gurvitz Army in the 1970s, and Masters of Reality in the 1990s, are featured, though the list of ephemeral projects is another reminder of Baker's inability to work or play well with others. Perhaps the oddest aspect of Baker's bizarrely entertaining and well-told story is his affection for horses, particularly polo ponies. It's a hobby he picked up in Nigeria in the 1970s, and when the film opens he owns and cares for dozens of them on his South African property. A subject Baker emphasizes again and again as the key to his musical prowess is timing, and one wonders if the rhythmic perfection of the equine gait is what attracted him in the first place -- or if it's simply the fact that horses don't talk back or tell him what to do. Unfortunately, it's a pursuit that becomes another vice of sorts that will bleed him dry financially, and contributes to his endless, King-Midas-in-reverse loop of fantastic highs followed by nightmarish lows. Considering Baker's pyromaniacal tendencies to torch everything in his path, it's fitting that Cream's third and penultimate album, released in 1968, was called "Wheels of Fire, a chart-topping near-masterpiece that nevertheless accelerated the combustible end for one of the era's most iconic bands.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Viva Pictures
Region Code:
[Dolby Digital Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Includes a free digitial copy!

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Ginger Baker Participant
Eric Clapton Participant
Jack Bruce Participant
Steve Winwood Participant
Mickey Hart Participant
Carlos Santana Participant
Max Weinberg Participant
Chadd Smith Participant
Femi Kuti Participant
Neil Peart Participant
Stuart Copeland Participant
Johnny Rotten Participant
Masters of Reality Actor

Technical Credits
Jay Bulger Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Dan Gleich Sound/Sound Designer
Julie Goldman Executive Producer
Erik H. Gordon Executive Producer
Alice Henty Co-producer
Sue Jacobs Musical Direction/Supervision
Gerry Jochum Sound/Sound Designer
Andrew S. Karsch Executive Producer
Bill Laswell Score Composer
Tony Palmer Executive Producer
Eric Robbins Cinematographer
Sofia Santana Associate Producer
Joe Scarpulla Animator
Abhay Sofsky Associate Producer,Editor
Fisher Stevens Executive Producer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Beware of Mr. Baker
1. Chapter 1 [5:20]
2. Chapter 2 [7:21]
3. Chapter 3 [6:24]
4. Chapter 4 [9:04]
5. Chapter 5 [8:06]
6. Chapter 6 [7:36]
7. Chapter 7 [9:15]
8. Chapter 8 [7:37]
9. Chapter 9 [8:46]
10. Chapter 10 [6:52]
11. Chapter 11 [7:47]
12. Chapter 12 [4:34]
13. Chapter 13 [3:25]


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