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Zulu belongs to that precious group of films that seems timeless apart from its very rigid historical setting. From the outset of the film, the affinity and closeness of the British soldiers faced with overwhelming numbers, draws the viewer into the same experience, so that you feel the same dread, tension and worry as the characters in the film (and find yourself drawing your own military plans as well). The amazing soundtrack also captures all the emotions contained in the film and heightens all these to make the viewing experience powerful no matter how many times one has watched the film. It's simplicity in terms of plot, acts as a strength, so that you aren't focused on trying to follow & understand the action but can absorb it fully. For those reading this for the drinking game, this is yet another reason to get this film, simply take a shot of whichever poison takes your fancy, every time a Zulu or British (your choice which side you support) gets shot. In conclusion, I have seen this film many times and it never fails to thrill and entertain me and remains one of the prized DVDs in my collection, I hope you enjoy it!!!
I'm reviewing the Movie ZULU.
It is in DVD format and is available on amazon for £1.75p new +£1.26 P&P....or used from 1p + £1.26p P&P.
DVD released in 2002.
It is 133 mins long and stars,
Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins, Ulla Jacobsson, James Booth, Michael Caine.
***WHY I BOUGHT THIS ***
I'd seen this movie on TV quite a few times and was intrigued by each and every viewing. It never failed to to entertain no matter how often I saw it, and I always knew it would be on around Christmas....just like The Great Escape. But a far better movie.
So I saw it for sale on amazon and bought a copy.
In January 1879 an army of 10,000 Zulu warriors besieged and annihilated 4,000 British troops camped at Islandlwana in South Africa.
10 miles away the British commanders of the massacred contingent had left a small group of men charged with building a bridge across a river at a camp known as Rorke's Drift.
This contingent was barely over 100 men (later reinforced by Colonial troops to around 150) and in fact some of the troops at this camp were ill and being treated in a makeshift hospital building there.
After the massacre at Islandlwana was over, 4000+ Zulu warriors arrived there too late for the big battle, and decided to march on Rorke's Drift instead and wipe out the British encampment there .The two commanders at Rorke's Drift (played by Stanley Baker and Michael Caine) were vastly different in character and outlook and had not been too happy working together up to this point, but on being warned by a contingent of Colonial Troops that their comrades had been massacred and an attack on them was imminent they immediately pulled together and organised the defense that has gone down in history and made the name 'Rorke's Drift' famous.
The battle which followed was breathtakingly portrayed in the movie with moments of terror,epic hand to hand battles and lump-in-the-throat renditions from the Welsh soldiers singing Men Of Harlech.
*Men of Harlech stop your dreaming
can't you see their spear points gleaming
see their warrior pennons streaming
to this battle field.
Men of Harlech stand ye steady
Let it not be ever said ye
For this battle were unready
Welshmen do not yield *
The battle raged from late afternoon through the night with constant waves of Zulus being repelled and much rebuilding of fortifications needed.The hospital was razed to the ground but the patients had mostly survived ,thanks to sterling defence of them by the able bodied among them. By dawn the soldiers were exhausted and the attack seemed over............till the thunderous footfalls of the marching zulus cut through the morning air and sent the men back to the fortifications prepared for the next wave of attack.
It didn't come.
Instead the Zulus fanned out on the overlooking hills, saluted the British as fellow warriors and retreated.
This is an utterly thrilling movie that stands the passage of time and is indeed a true classic and I never tire of watching it. At the end of it we see the soldiers 'clearing up' and trying to restore some sort of order to the ravaged camp, while the dulcet tones of Richard Burton reel off the list of those who were awarded medals for this battle and the camera pans round those being named . In total the awards were ,
11 awarded the Victoria Cross.
4 awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.
An astonishing tally in such a small band of defenders.
Even allowing for artistic license, this is a really good account of those two days and near enough accurate, going by the records. Michael Caine was more or less unknown then and it is said that he was almost fired because the American backer of the movie found that "Caine didn't seem to know what to do with his hands ". Frankly I found Caine's acting the only slight irritant in the whole thing. His pretend posh accent and mannerisms are grating and just don't ring true at all. When Stanley Baker's character (Lieutenant John Chard) glared at him in disgust during some scenes I was in total sympathy, felt his pain, and wanted to slap Caine for overacting. Seemingly Caine had originally tried for the role of Alfred Hook (Hookie), who was a proper scallywag malingering in the hospital, but who showed his mettle in the heat of battle by defending his fellow patients and guiding them to relative (very relative) safety from the burning hospital building. I think Caine might have carried that part off better with his more common London accent, so I'm not sure how he got the posh Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead part.
Also, on reading up on this, it seems that by the end of the siege at Rorke's Drift the Zulus involved had been on the march for a full 6 days to take part in the battle and had not eaten properly in two days, so that must have been a Godsend to the British who were at least rested and well fed and armed.
At the start of the movie we see a Zulu celebration taking place. Lots of dancing etc and a white missionary (Jack Hawkins) and his daughter attending. It was at this ceremony that a runner appears and tells the Zulu leader overseeing the ceremony what has happened/is planned ,whereupon the missionary and his daughter then leave and head to Rorke's Drift to warn the British there.
Well...... the man playing King Chetewayo of the Zulus in that opening scene was
the real Chief of the Zulus at the time of filming.......Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who is still active in South African Politics to this day and is a direct descendent of the Chief at the time of the battle at Rorke's Drift.
My DVD doesn't have the extras in the one featured above. Mine just has some Commentary with film historian Sheldon Hall and Zulu's second unit director Robert Porter,while the one pictured has a two-part "The Making Of Zulu" documentary. It features insights and reminiscences by Stanley Baker's widow, Ellen Baker, actor James Booth ("Private Hook"), second unit director Robert Porter, actor Glynn Edwards ("Corporal Allen"), and actor/stuntman Joe Powell .
I can't recommend this movie enough and I'm glad I still have the DVD .
Excitement to the maximum and a true story to boot.
I hope this review was helpful or at least interesting~~~Myloh.
"Zulu" is a 1964 film that was written by John Prebble & Cy Endfield and directed by Cy Endfield, who has also sat in the big chair for "Universal Soldier" (1979), "Mysterious Island" (1961) and "De Sade" (1969) amongst others.
Warning: Spoilers will likely be given during this review.
The film was 139 minutes in length and starred Stanley Baker ("Hell Drivers", "The Angry Hills", "Yesterday's Enemy") as Lieutenant John Chard, Jack Hawkins ("The Planters Wife", "Lawrence of Arabia", "Angels Five One") as Reverent Otto Witt, and Michael Caine ("Educating Rita", "The Quiet American", "Escape to Victory") as Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead.
The plot for the film reads as follows: In 1879, a communiqué from Lord Chelmsford to the Secretary of State for War in London, narrated by Richard Burton, details the crushing defeat of a British force at the hands of the Zulus at the Battle of Isandlwana.
The year is 1879 and the Battle of Isandlwana has just been fought, which resulted in a comfortable victory for the Zulus but they weren't done there as an army of 4,000 went on towards Rorke's Drift, which was manned by just 150 British and colonial troops. What followed over that day and night in January, 1879, is depicted in this brilliant depiction which had some wonderful acting from Sir Michael Caine in his breakthrough film and notable performances from others as well. So without further ado, let's get on with the review. Is it any good? Let's find out!
The first thing to note is that the Zulu people are a fearsome tribe and that includes the women. The warrior dances performed must have put a sense of fear into their opponents and their movements throughout the film are wonderfully choreographed - something that must have taken a very long time to perfect and perform. The shields were made from cowhide and I loved the way they looked, but I expect the Zulus themselves probably didn't care how they looked as long as they protected them from enemy spears. The sound of the Zulus as they're marching toward Rorke's Drift is a very powerful sound, and it must have struck fear into the hearts of the British troops who were to defend the fort.
Pleasing to the eye is the wonderful scenery, which is shows clouds on the hills of the amazing South African countryside. I wasn't so sure where it was filmed at first but credit to the location scouts on going with places which are historically linked to the battles. That adds a special touch in my view, because not only can you witness the actors portraying the people who fought and died in the wars, but you can also see where these bloody and violent hostilities took place, and it can give you a sense of understanding of what went through the minds of the Zulu and British armies.
There are a few moment which should be cherished, and one of those is the Welshmen of the group who have taken it upon themselves to boost morale by singing in a few scenes here and there, and I especially enjoyed "Men of Harlech" which begins with one person and quickly spreads to a wonderful chorus of men. I know it's clichéd to have Welsh singers, but I thought it was excellent and it worked really well. A sing-off between the two factions - just like at football matches today - gave me the tingles and I couldn't help but feel for those that had to endure that battle. Speaking of battle, I did appreciate the slow build-up to the start of the battle. I knew it was coming but I just didn't know when, and I found myself wanting the action to start even though it's an integral part of the film to portray what was happening before it. Just as the anticipation builds to boiling point, Zulus finally appear on the horizon and it's then when I started to sit up and appreciate what I've just seen.
There is a small scene when soup is being cooked and it looks a lot like dish water but I guess that steak was off the menu most days. Other scenes which grabbed my attention include a part where the soldiers are carrying sand bags to shore up defences and the actors seem to forget that they're supposed to be heavy. I did laugh when a sick soldier broke windows in the hospital part of the fort and the frame came loose - I don't think that was supposed to be kept in, but I liked it anyway. Another scene which was quite poignant was when a company of Boer horsemen arrive at the camp and tell the officers that defending is futile and leave them, despite Chard's cries for help. The silence in the camp as they realise that they will all probably die there is powerful.
What we get throughout the film is almost air of rivalry between the two Lieutenants, Chard and Bromhead, and they clash on a few occasions about what to do or who's pulling rank, but the double tier firing was a master stroke. One line discharged their weapons and then knelt down to re-load while the second line fired and they both swapped and did the same again. A lovely little dialogue came when Bromhead shouted "Fire at will" and Private Owen said to a colleague: "That's very nice of him". The kill scenes aren't the best in today's day and age, but they were probably good for the time, and the final battle had some intense and gripping action. Perhaps the most sobering moment of the entire film came when the final roll call taking place, with the names of the dead being called out and not answering back mixed amongst those that survived.
In summary, I thought "Zulu" was an excellent film and it's right up there in my top 5 of all-time favourite British films. It might even be my favourite, though I do love "The Long Good Friday", "A Clockwork Orange" and the remake of "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" amongst others. What makes "Zulu" special is its unique look at a famous battle in British history and I do like films that tell a story which has actually happened. It's no surprise that Michael Caine became a household name and landed plumb roles after this and that's all credit to the directing of Cy Endfield. If you like war films and historical ones at that, you're going to love this. If you don't, you might want to give it a watch anyway. You may change your mind!
The critics were mixed with their opinion of the film:
Time Out: Zulu is a fairly tough-minded and interesting account of a company of Welsh soldiers doing their bit for somebody else's Queen and Country in an alien land.
Variety: Joseph E. Levine makes an impressive debut in British film production with Zulu, a picture that allows ample scope for his flamboyant approach to showmanship.
rec.arts.movies.reviews: Its failure to present any kind of historical context ill serves the indigenous African peoples whom Endfield presumes to honor.
New York Times: Students of such things in movies should appreciate this one, for it has all the standard ingredients of the heroic hold-the-fort film.
TV Guide: This amazing film is devastatingly accurate in its depiction of the Rorke's Drift action, and is superbly directed by Cy Endfield, whose battle scenes are some of the most terrifying ever committed to film.
My rating: 9/10
On the 22nd January 1879 after the crushing the defeat of the British forces by the Zulu army at the Battle of Isandlwana a small contingent of British soldiers is left to defend the nearby mission station of Rorke's Drift. Just over 150 British and colonial troops faced more than 4,000 Zulu warriors in a desperate attempt to survive until reinforcements would arrive.
Was this going to be another British military rout in the Anglo/Zulu war? Was it a noble but ultimately heroic defeat or an unlikely victory for the outnumbered British forces?
The battle of Rorke's Drift has gone down in British military history as our own modern Thermopylae where a small group of Spartans faced the might of the Persian army and it remains the military encounter for which the most Victoria crosses were awarded to one regiment.
The film represents the events that took place at Rorke's Drift on that famous day and manages to bring to the screen the brutality and heroism of the men involved on both sides of the conflict. While some artistic licence was inevitably used in depicting the events for dramatic purposes it remains a fairly accurate, if rather sanitised historical account of the battle. Made in 1964 it includes a stupendous cast of top British character actors and represents a first starring role for a young Michael Caine.
The project was the brainchild of Stanley Baker a huge star and leading man in the 1960's who together with the film's director Cy Endfield set up a production company Diamond Films especially to make the film. Baker had known of the real life events of the battle and was keen to bring them to the screen. By taking the lead role of the garrison commander Lt. John Chard for himself he ensure the project had box office bankability and then persuaded some of the most talented British actors of his generation to also take part. Baker was a powerful screen presence and this role as the tough but beleaguered commander plays to his acting strengths. Over his short career, he died prematurely aged only 48 Baker specialised in tough, gritty unpredictable characters probably indicative of his upbringing in a welsh mining family and while not classically good looking his dark brooding and rather dangerous features hit the mark with many female fans.
Michael Caine gives an impressive performance as the inexperienced junior officer unprepared for the battle. In this early outing Caine's later loveable but roguish cockney persona is hidden away behind his clipped and at times rather unconvincing upper-class accent but despite this his screen charisma is obvious and it is this role which enabled him to go on to later iconic 60's starring roles in the 'Ipcress File' and 'Alfie'. The part only came to him through Baxter's insistence after the studio had originally wanted Terence Stamp then already a rising star for the role. What made things more difficult is the fact that Caine and Stamp were sharing a flat at the time.
Impressive supporting roles are everywhere to be seen. Patrick Magee is excellent as the hard pressed surgeon giving one of his trademark quirky and idiosyncratic performances which made him a favourite of the horror genre later in the decade. Also present is star of 40's and 50's movies Jack Hawkins as the fanatical Swedish missionary Otto Witt. Another young well-known actor of the time James Booth who also happened to be one of Baker's best mates got the role of ne'er-do-well cockney private Hook, a role originally meant for Caine and made it his own. The smashing supporting cast is rounded off by Nigel Green another familiar face on 60's and 70's movies as colour sergeant Bourne and of course there is a small voice cameo by Baker's fellow Welshman and friend Richard Burton as the narrator. The film also features Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi who later became an important leader and player in the struggle against apartheid as the chief Cetewayo of the Zulu warriors in the film.
Partly filmed on location in Natal province the film is justly remembered in large part for its realistic battle sequences shot in glorious old style widescreen Technicolor using a huge number of native Zulu tribesmen to represent Zulu army. The director Cy Endfield handled the action with great skill and masterfully increases the tension as the outpost faces wave after wave of Zulu attacks. The script which was a collaboration between Endfield and original writer John Prebble who first told the story in a magazine article. The film does a good job in getting beyond the events of the battle itself and to examining in more detail the relationships and characters of those involved. The tensions within the group of colonist and soldiers and between officers and enlisted men is cleverly highlighted in the build up to the Zulu attacks. To save money on travel costs the indoor scenes were filmed in studios in Twickenham and some of the actors never got to go to South Africa. In the end the film ended up being made for £2million a modest amount even from that period but it is to the credit of the director and producers that it doesn't come across as being a low budget movie.
As you would expect from a war film of this period the subject matter does not allow for strong female characters but Swedish actress Ulla Jacobsson gives a fine performance as Margareta the beautiful mismatched wife of reverend Witt.
Some may criticise the film for being a little jingoistic and glamourising the 'stiff upper lip' colonial role of the British in South Africa. It is easy to forget watching the heroic feats of the soldiers that the British were an invading force and instigated a brutal colonial regime of the Zulu nation. While these criticisms do have some merit it should be stated in the defence of Baxter and the other filmmakers that they were keen to see the conflict from both sides a difficult thing to do while filming in apartheid South Africa. Even though the Zulu warriors are not in any way personalised but are represented as a faceless horde of bloodthirsty warriors, their courage and heroism in the conflict is also acknowledged as is their some might say justified motivation for the war in general. It might have made for an even more interesting film if some of the Zulu fighters had been fleshed out as characters, if we could have seen the conflict more from their viewpoint but maybe this is asking a little too much bearing in mind the political situation in South Africa at the time and the legal constraints that had to be applied. As it was the south African authorities were not happy at the portrayal of the Zulus as equals to British soldiers.
One final feature to mention is the excellent soundtrack by supreme film composer John Barry who had already made his name with his previous work on Bond films 'Dr No' and 'From Russia With Love'.
THE DVD AND BONUS FEATURES
THEATRICAL TRAILER-sensationalist trailer from the time of the film release lingering somewhat longer than needed on the Zulu dance performed by 200 semi-clad Zulu virgins!
COMMENTARY with film historian Sheldon Hall and second unit director Robert Porter- Interesting insights from both commentators.
THE MAKING OF ZULU: ROLL OF HONOUR
This is the first of two short features telling the story of how the movie was made. It includes interview and anecdotes from Robert Porter the second unit director, Lady Ellen Baker widow of Stanley Baker, James Booth, Jan Prebble widow of John Prebble the original writer, Glynn Edwards one of the actors (later of Minder fame) and others. These and others explain how the script came to be written and how finance was raised and how they managed to keep within the restrictive £2 million pounds budget. The film also faced problems of shooting in natal province in apartheid South Africa the actors tell of the presence of secret police on set and how baker managed to get around the race laws not allowing Zulu actors from getting equity rates for their work Baker decided to give them the cattle seen in the film and the building made for the sets, which then became schools and hospitals for the Zulus.
THE MAKING OF ZULU : ' AND SNAPPETH THE SPEAR IN SUNDER'
This documentary featuring many of the same people has more anecdotes and background stories on the filming and on the cast and crew's interaction with the Zulu. I especially enjoyed hearing how the Zulu extras had to be introduced to the concept of cinema by being shown some old silent films and then how they quickly took to moviemaking with great enthusiasm leading to some great overacting still visible in parts of the battle scenes. A part of the feature is also devoted to the composer John Barry and how the Zulu's traditional music influenced in his writing of the film score. Finally we get a little about the film's star Baker and his premature death from lung cancer aged only 48. and the lasting legacy of the film he starred in and produced.
Both mini documentaries are worth watching after seeing the film to add a little background to the story and the people involved.
'Zulu' is a thoroughly enjoyable action movie well acted by all the cast and notable for kick starting the career on of Britain's best known and best loved actor Michael Caine. Its portrayal of the battle is sympathetic to both sides and the dramatic licence taken with the story doesn't detract from the astonishing events of that day. In reality the conduct of both the Zulu and the British was not as honourable as the film would like us to believe and atrocities occurred in the aftermath of the battle and subsequently during the longer conflict by both Zulu and British forces. Such details are not in the remit of this film and as a piece of drama based on historical fact it works far better than most. The film was a huge box office success and owning this copy on DVD is well worth the money.
'Zulu' on DVD can be bought from Amazon uk for £3.72 and delivered free.
© Mauri 2012
An absolute monolithic classic of a film.....dont worry kids it was filmed in amazing technocolour !! so its not black and white.
I remember seeing this film as a kid, mostly on sunday. Even though its an oldie its one of the best. There was a period in the 60`s where the british film industry made some amazingly good war films...this one, battle of britain, a bridge too far etc. Whats even more amazing is that its completely true.
Synopsis: 100 British Soliders of the kings rifles regiment stand guard at a remote outpost in south africa called Rourkes Drift. Tensions between the empire and the native zulu warriors have been growing for years and now with a shock win over an entire column (around 2000 british soldiers) the zulus are on the warpath to find their next pray. Lt Bromhead and Lt Chard now commend rourkes drift and with a force of 4000 zulu`s heading their way the fight for two days with 40 to 1 odds to hold the outpost that see the zulu`s defeated. So respected is this victory that the british army still have a saying relating to it ...11 Victoria crosses won before breakfast, as an amazing amount of VC`s were handed out to the couragous men.
Lets not get this wrong, as you see at the end of this film, the zulu`s could have defeated the british at rourkes drift, but the way they saw it, if 100 men, now down to about 45/50 can hold off a force of that size for two days then fair enough they earned it. At the end of this film you see a massive force appear on the hills, and the british think that with their massively depleted numbers they are effectively dead men. But the zulus have only come to give their repsects.
An relatively unknown cast (unusual for these types of british made films in the 60`s) were catapulted into grace when this film was released. Especially Michael Caine (who against his south london roots, played a complete toff higher class Lt Bromhead) This was one of caine first majors roles and still seen as one of his best. He is backed up by Stanley Baker who was well known at the time, and arguably had the best lines.
James Booth plays the lazy ex-criminal soldier turned hero, and Nigel Green as the firm, fair and extremely tough Coluor Sergeant Bourne. Richard Davies and Denys graham play the two welsh soldiers with a passion for valleys singing and provide the comic tones.
Although this was shot in south africa , using many a cheap safa extra I bet, it all adds to the geniune feel of the film. At the time this didnt cause much of an uproar as the aparteid regime was not well reported until the late sventies in the UK.
Cy Endfield directs perfectly, but he does leave some long lingering shots a little too long, causing me for one to start to feel a bit bored in between battle scene, the cinematography is great though, a bit of a pre-cursor to braveheart
Soundtrack- the Zulu theme is a classic, created by the late great john barry, its instantly recognisable and portrays the sheer size of the zulu force as well as the fear the british soliders must have felt, with many string sections and large drums.
This is easily one of the best British films of all time. It stars Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins and a then little known actor called Michael Caine in one of his first roles, along with narration that is provided by Richard Burton and support by Nigel Greene (who is excellent). So the cast alone makes a huge impact. Then to top it off, it has non stop action all the way through, building tension in between.
The story of Zulu is based on the true story of the defence of Rorke's drift, which was one of the greatest historical war moments as 150 British soldiers defended a supply station against 4,000 zulus successfully.
Stanley Baker plays Lieutenant John Chard, and Michael Caine is Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead, with Jack Hawkins providing support in the form of a Swedish missionary. The two officers being to make plans to defend the supply station when they hear that there has been a massacre of troops several miles away. The Swedish missionary tries to make everyone run, and as the tension mounts even more, he is sent away.
Eventually, and having built up a huge amount of tension, all the soldiers hear a distant but clear sound of marching footsteps. Then the 4,000 zulus appear on the hills around them, and it's up to the British to defend attack after attack of Zulu warriors as they attempt the kill the British, and it makes for some of the finest acting and some of the finest action in film.
A seriously quality film, this shows that when the British put their mind to it they can outclass Hollywood, as I think this is better than a lot of other war films. The acting is faultless, and Michael Caine had the screen presence to move forward with his career (he was given a huge contact with Harry Saltzman just months after this). But the best acting is from Nigel Green as Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne, who has to keep his men in line and show no fear in the face of the enemy. Fantastic.
Zulu is one of those classic films that also helped launch the career of Michael Caine. Set in South Africa towards the end of the nineteenth centuary it tells the tory of a group of British soldies who were massively out numbered by a huge Zulu army yet they mounted a spirited defence of a small out pots called Rorke's Drift. The film was made in 1964 and directed by Cy Endfield.
As an aside you also have to admire a film that has the tongue in cheek cunning to include within the cast lst one Private John Thomas played by Neil McCarthy.
This is an all action film with the battle scene accounting for over a third of the total film time, Caine is excellent as Lt Gonville Bromhead and he sowed real screen prescence in this film, the rest of the cast is non to shabby with the excellent Stanley Baker as Lt John Chard and John Hawkins as Rev Otto Witt who is out doing missionary work with his daughter played by Ulla Jacobsson.
Stanley Baker ... Lt. John Chard
Jack Hawkins ... Rev. Otto Witt
Ulla Jacobsson ... Margareta Witt
James Booth ... Pte. Henry Hook
Michael Caine ... Lt. Gonville Bromhead
Nigel Green ... Colour Sgt. Frank Bourne
Ivor Emmanuel ... Pte. Owen
Paul Daneman ... Sgt. Robert Maxfield
Glynn Edwards ... Cpl. William Allen
Neil McCarthy ... Pte. John Thomas
Visually this is an impressive film, it captures the beautiful back drop of the South African savannah wonderfully and the sheer size of the battle scenes with a huge cast is even more impressive given these are the days before CGI technology made large battle scenes a lot easier.
Given this is shown so often on TV especially at xmas there is no excuse not to give it at least one viewing, it is a true classic.
Zulu has to be one of my favourite films of all time.
It was released in 1964 through Paramount Pictures by Diamond Films - a company set up by the well established actor Stanley Baker, who was looking to move more into the directing field.
The film was directed by Cy Endfield, and co-produced by both Baker and Endfield, each with strong links to the story-line. Endfield was born in South Africa, where the events covered by the film took place, and Baker was born in South Wales, from where a lot of the soldiers involved in the battle were from, being the 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot.
I do not intend running through the story in depth but instead want to concentrate on some of the acting performances and parts of the film that make this a cut above the rest.
The film, which makes it all the more compelling, is not fiction but fact, based on true events that happened at a small mission station at Rorkes Drift, Natal, South Africa on 22/23 January 1879. The rights or wrongs of the British being there should not detract from the film itself which focusses on the 110 British soldiers who stood firm and fought a force of over 4,000 Zulu's. The previous day had seen over 1,500 soldiers killed at an earlier battle at Isandhlwana, which is covered at the start of the film.
Lt. Gonville Bromhead - played by Michael Caine.
Although Caine has been a household name for many many years, this was his first role and he certainly looks young in this!! He is the Officer in charge at Rorkes Drift, and portrays the typical English gentry type of that era. For the first few scenes I feel that he almost tries too hard to mould himself into that stereo-typical image. His undoubted talent shines through as the movie progresses and the inter-action between himself and the other Officer played by Stanley Baker himself is superb.
Lt John Chard - Royal Engineers - played by Stanley Baker.
Baker is magnificient, and displays some of his gritty down-to-earth characterisations prevalent in some of his earlier movies, such as Hard Drivers. The initial dislike between his character and Bromhead is plain to see as they are from different worlds and it is fascinating to see the mutual respect forming between the two as the scenes progress. Chard actually takes command as he has a few months seniority over Bromhead and the sniping between the two has almost a comic aspect. Baker is in control, but when his hands start to tremble as he tries to load his pistol, the look of self-loathing on his face is brilliant.
Cetewayo - the leader of the Zulu's is played by the Zulu Chief himself, Chief Buthelezi, and obviously the collaberation brings a real touch of authenticity to the Zulu's in this film and ensures that it is a real depiction of how the Zulu fighting strategies were carried out.
Otto Witt - Jack Hawkins. He plays a cameo performance as the Swedish missionary but I found his role a little annoying and lack lustre up until his departure from the mission. Steaming drunk, he shounts from the back of his carriage before the main battle, "Can't you see, you're all going to die". It doesn't look much in print but the anguish and contortions on his face as he pleads with the soldiers is truly memorable.
Surgeon Reynolds - Patrick Magee. A minor role really for Magee but plays his part well dealing with the hopeless situation of dying soldiers being brought in for treatment. One poignant part is where he asks the orderly what his patient did for a living as he thrashed about on the operating table. When told he was a paper hanger, he says so matter of factly, but with utter despair in his voice, "Well, he's a dead paper-hanger now."
Adendorff - Gert Van de Burgh. From the Natal Mounted Police and is the local contact. He hates the Zulu's but also you can sense in his exchanges with Bromhead that he hates the British being there as well. He explains the Zulu's strategies and my favourite part with him is where the soldiers are both physically and mentally exhausted when the Zulu's start chanting again. Bromhead shouts, "Come on, what are you waiting for?". Adendorff laughs somewhat hysterically and says "They're not taunting you, they're saluting you, saluting fellow braves".
Private Hook - played by James Booth. A nasty, lazy mallingerer who does not endear himself to the audience one bit. Later you see a totally different side to him.
There are a few well known faces, Glynn Edwards for one, you may remember him as the pub owner in Minder. There are so many wonderful individual performances from each and every actor that I could go on for ever. The quivering top lip of Colour Sergeant Bourne as he reads out the role call, with so many dead, leaves a lump in the throat. They were his boys.
Maybe it's because I'm Welsh, but the thing that really gets me going and has the hairs on my arms stand up, is when the remaining soldiers are being mentally tormented by the Zulu's chanting, and they launch into Men of Harlech to counter it. Truly inspirational.
They are many, many scenes to keep you captivated, such as the soldiers at the final dedoubt, firing in lines, with Caine shouting, covered in grime, "Front rank, fire, reload. " The hand to hand fighting has been very well done when you consider the sheer number of actors and extras involved.
But please don't think this film is all about fighting from beginning to end, it's not. There are various scenes within the film that contribute to the overall effect. The scenery is quite simply breathtaking - it was filmed on location in Natal and also at Twickenham Film Studios in London (I couldn't tell you what parts were filmed in the latter - it's seamless).
The music was composed by John Barry and complements the film perfectly - it is very stirring yet almost military with strong drums and heavy beats. It is heard sporadically throughout the movie, and in my mind I've yet to come across another score that adds so much to the effect of a film.
I've also got to mention the narration. Both the foreward and the role of honour at the end are narrated by none other than Richard Burton. Whenever he narrates, and I'm also thinking of his spectatular narration on Jeff Waynes War of the Worlds, adds so much atmosphere to simple words. A master stroke.
Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded for bravery at Rorkes Drift - the most in any one single engagement. It was a massive task indeed to try to re-create the events of those two days but Endfield and Baker have succeeded in a way that I would not have thought possible. Truly a magnificent film that I've watched time and time again, and will continue to do so as it does not dull with repeated viewing.
I have the DVD version which is photographed in Technirama and comes with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Surprisingly, considering the blood and death count, it is only classed as a PG (parental guidance) meaning it is suitable for general viewing, but some senes may be unsuitable for young children. I cannot praise this film highly enough. Running time is 133 minutes, so it's a long film but the time flies by.
Apart from the film, that has the usual subtitles and a whole host of other language options, it has the added bonus of a Theatrical Trailer, a commentary provided by Sheldon Hall, a film historian, and Robert Porter (2nd Unit Director). Finally it has The Making of Zula and Role of Honour containing an interview with Stanley Baker's wife that I found interesting and clips from the film itself.
You can pick up Zulu on DVD for as little as £1.55 on e-bay and I've no doubt it'll be on over Christmas (it is every year). If you've never seen it because you don't like war films, please give it a chance. It's a fascinating look and superbreinactment of what actually took place in Rorkes Drift back in 1879.
I cannot praise this film highly enough.
This was my first (and probably my last!!) film review, hope you enjoyed it. Also posted on Ciao under same name.
Length: 133 Mins
Directed by: CJ Endfield
About the Film:
Zulu is one of the great movies and an epic adventure of courage in the face of incredible odds. This film, based on a true story tells the story of 100 British soldiers - based at Rorkes Droft - who stood up against an overwelming force of 4,000 Zulu warriers.
Michael Caine's role as the arrogant but courages Lt Bromhead brought him international fame. This film also includes other great performances from Stanley Baker and Jack Hawkins.
Ok now this has got to be one of the best war films ever filmed and truly is an awesome film. I have broken this down into a number of sections for easy reading:
Now this is based on a true story (always a good start)and really has an excellent story. The amazing courage shown by the soldiers at Rorkes Drift is really portrayed well. The story is built up well with the Zulu nation attacking the soldiers and their excellent defence of Rorkes Drift.
Well what can you say, this is really the film that pushed Michael Caine into the starlight and is just awesome. He portrays himself as the courageous soldier excellently. There are many other excellent portrayals as well by other cast members.
There is some amazing scenery in this film and really shows how lovely a place south africa must have been at that time. Not sure where this was filmed, but it was lovely.
You have excellent action in this film. You have tons of Zulus attacking the fort, you have the soldiers defending the Hospital, you have the various smaller battles around the fort and the sight of 4,000 Zulu warriers standing on the hillside waiting to attack. That is some sight to see and really makes you wonder how scared those soldiers must have been.
PARTS OF THE FILM I LOVE:
Well my favourite part has got to be the part when you have the Zulu warriers chanting on the hillside to raise their courage for another attack and you have Michael Caine turning to one of the Welsh soldiers and asks him whether the Welsh can do better. You then get a lovely rendition of Men of Harlech. Really quite moving.
All in all this is just an awesome film which I recommend to anyone.
Zulu is a real classic film. It is exciting, fast moving, and, without all those modern day effects it still has a fabulous atmosphere. The sound of the Zulu army approaching is what attracts me most to the film. The rhythmic drumming gets louder and louder and it is caused by the soles of the warriors' feet thumping on the ground.The sound grows in intensity and sounds like an approaching freight train. The soldiers put their heads to the ground and listen and you can almost feel the vibration through the soundtrack. Say 'Zulu' to me and that's what I picture. The film is set in South Africa at Rourkes Drift and the scenery is rather like that of the Scottish Glens. There is a flat area where the Brits are camped and hills all around them. 150 men of the Welsh Borderers are surrounded by 4000 Zulu Warriors. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ The main cast is as follows: Michael Caine as Lieutenant Bromhead, Officer in Charge. Stanley Baker as Lieutenant Chard, Engineer who reminds us that he is only 'there' to build a bridge. Great performances by: Jack Hawkins and James Booth. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ The entire film deals with the battle with the Zulu army which, using it's traditional strategy, attacked again and again. The boredom of the British Soldiers between attacks is quite clear, then the tension builds as we hear the drumming of approaching Zulu feet. The tension builds when the soldiers sing (in true male voice choir style), 'Men of Harlech'. As the thundering feet get closer and gather speed, the singing gets louder and stronger. The effect makes the hairs stand up on the back of mu nexk even though I have seen this film literally dozens of times. This film is a historical account and even today's military strategists are still trying to work
out why the British were so badly defeated by an army that was nowhere near as well equiped. The sheer numbers of Zulu warriors and their stamina and bravery as depicted in the film gives, in my opinion, the best clue! This is a true story and sticks quite closely to the historical facts. 'Zulu' is a good, rousing, action film which is suitable viewing for all but the very youngest members of the family. It is perhaps a little bit long at 138 minutes for those who can't sit still! Certainly worth buying as it will become a favourite that will be watched over and over again. This is a classic film, which, unlike many of todays 'cult' and 'in vogue' offerings, won't go out of fashion.
The plot: During the Zulu wars of the late 19th century, a forward detachment of British troops are stationed at a mission station in Rorke's Drift in Natal, South Africa. When news that their reinforcements have been massacred, 140 men have no choice but to hold out against 4,000 Zulu warriors alone. Main actors: Michael Caine - Lt. Gonville Bromhead Stanley Baker - Lt. John Chard Nigel Green - Colour Sgt. Frank Bourne James Booth - Private Henry Hook Jack Hawkins - Reverend Otto Witt Dickie Owen - Cpl. Frederic Scheiss, NNC Zulu nation, 1960s - Zulu nation, 1879 Analysis: Historians wanting an easy target to tear apart for accuracy usually pick on 'Zulu' for a good kicking. Its crimes? The 24th of Foot are wearing parade dress uniform which was never worn in battle; the 24th only became Welsh in 1881, in 1879 it was the 2nd Warwickshire and in the real engagement the detachment had Gatling machine guns, making the engagement more one-sided than it is on film. This criticisms are valid enough, but if you wanted a history lesson read a textbook. The film as it stands is a terrific siege film. Caine has often been singled out for praise, but it's Baker who deserves most of the credit with an subtle, understated portrayal of Lt. John Chard, a Royal Engineer who's only there 'to build a bridge'. You genuinely think the battle can go either way even though you may have seen it before. The one valid piece of criticism levelled at the film is the complete lack of a Zulu viewpoint - we never see the Zulu as anything other than distant figures on a hill or targets to be shot at. This weakness hampers the film somewhat although this is corrected slightly by Corporal Scheiss (Dickie Owens, in a quietly noble performance) who points out the Zulu battle tactics prove that they are not fighting savages, but cunning warriors. Other minor quibbles include the
transformation of Private Henry Hook from malingerer to one-man army and the equally sudden one of Reverend Witt from a man of God to a incapable drunk. But this should not detract from what is classic Sunday afternoon fare. As long as you remember this isn't the way it really happened, sing 'The Men of Harlech' with all your heart.
This movie was one of those movies that caused me to run to the internet and start reading every bit of material I could find behind the story. And it seemed that the makers of this exciting film were a little bit more careful with thier facts than say for instance, Mel Gibson, although in my reading I have found that the Zulu never saluted the defenders they just took off. The person of Hook really got a raw deal in this movie as he was a bonafide hero not a slacker as the film suggests. All in all it was a great show, granted it isn't a documentary so thay have to drum up some drama about Micheal Caines charachter not being ready to be a Jedi Knight or whatever and Otto Witts trevails, but that makes it a movie not a 2 hour recap of 120 men shooting down 1500. By the way in real life the walls were 3 meters high and the Zulu couldn't make it in and got slaughtered trying to get up the walls. The whole story revolves around the fact that about 850 British soldiers got killed that morning and now some of the Zulu reserves who had not fought in the battle were now going after the British supply depot, against their leaders wishes. Now 100 men with 30 wounded were supposed to hold off the Zulus. You have the lead role playing this, "I am a bridge builder not a soldier" act and the other guy played by Micheal Caine doing this, "Am I able to do this" Hamlet act the whole show
This film in my opinion captures the essence of the experience of the common soldier in an action to which his training and character are put to the ultimate test. If you cannot save enough pennies to visit Rourkes Drift, then go to a glen, or canon near where you live - where you are surrounded by hills and stand looking up at them around you and then imagine hundreds of Zulu warriors bearing down on you from all sides, and try to feel the courage and faith in comrades, training, discipline, equipment and superior officers which made the men stand and fight and survive. Then walk to the foot of one of those hills and imagine the courage and discipline which it took for the men to charge again and again into the disciplined withering fire of a regiment - whose brothers in arms in the not too distant future, albeit with better rifles, mauled and repulsed the flower of the Imperial German Infantry at Mons, with similar disciplined fire. This is the essence of the greatness of the film. You are there - feeling the action unfold around a band of courageous men facing almost impossible odds. These soldiers are no apologists of latter day political analysts wondering as to the reason of their being there, but soldiers of an expanding vigorous empire, sure in their faith of friend and training, in possession of a strong point with the equipment and mettle to defend it to the last. It is one of the ironies of combat that any prolonged engagement leads each side to come too value the courage and persistence of the enemy. We can see this developing as the film unfolds. I found this film a moving treatment of the action, its accuracy was impressive and it did capture the frenetic pace of combat interspersed with the boredom and the graveyard humour of the wait until the next attack. One of the ironies of military life, which this film gives one a true glimpse of. This film is more then just a film its true British history, and I most highly recommend this film to you
I LOVE THIS FILM! One of the greatest War movies of all time for several reasons 1. It's based on a true story: You watch the film, you think 'how on earth could this happen: how could 130 men defend against 4000?' and then you remember that it really happened - it's adds so much poignancy to the film. 2.The acting. Michael Caine is exceptional as the British Officer originally commanding. He gets the arrogance of the professional just right. His interaction with Stanley Baker as the Engineer who takes command is superb - 'Are you questioning my right to command?' 'Oh not your right old boy'. Which leads me on to 3. The quotes: Zulu has some of the best quotes of any war film I've seen, which is quite a lot. "That's a bit of cheek: our own bloody rifles!" and "He's a peeler 172, come to arrest the Zulus" being 2 of my particular favourites. 4. The action sequences: The fighting is excellently choreographed and kept me glued to the screen 5.The song - The singing of Men of Harlech is a masterpiece of filming - its almost makes you want to jump up and start repelling Zulu's yourself If you like War Films or Historical Films or just damn good films then watch this, you won't be disappointed.
A true classic that needs little introduction,seeing as everyone on the planet has statistically seen it eight times.OK,that's a lie but as it's on most bank holidays few people can of missed at least a snippet of this historical masterpiece. Set on a remote outpost in Natal province in the 1870's the film tells the true story of the hundred or so soldiers who stood firm against an attack by 4000+ Zulus.The film opens with Richard Burton reading an army communique detailing the rout of a large British base with the loss of 1200 men.A Swedish missionary,played with vigour by Jack Hawkins,hears of the Zulu leader's plans for the Rourke's Drift outpost and rushes to tell them. At the base the men are oblivious to the impending attack and are attempting to bulid a bridge and hunt down the dinner.News of the Zulu advance soon filters through and after sorting out who'se in charge battle lines are drawn.To the missionary's dismay they plan to stand and fight despite their weak strength and the fact that many of them are hospitalised. The attacks come slowly at first with the Zulu leader allowing his men to get shot up so he can guage the outpost's strength.The Zulu's are mostly armed with spears but also have rifles taken from the bodies of their previous victims.Slowly the attacks increase and soon the Zulus threaten to overwhelm the base.Despite his training as an engineer Stanley Baker's senior officer's tatics make the most of his few resources and soon the bodies are piling high - on both sides. The attacks go on overnight and soon the fighting is taking place inside the compound with even the sick,the mad and the bad doing their bit.Individual acts of heroism are graphically dramatised and although not overly gory the losses and waste are not underplayed.In case you hav'nt seen the film I wont spoil the ending,but some live to tell the tale.The battle for Rourke's Drift saw the a
ward of twelve Victoria Crosses - the highest for a single engagement. The film,made in the sixties is probably seen as un-pc nowadays with Britain's colonial record often the subject of scrutiny.The film dos'nt try to justify the outpost or indeed the army's existence in the Zulu's territory but it focuses on a great achievement in the face of great odds by a few brave men.The Zulu's are positivley portrayed as brave and resourseful and the only racist remark ("cowerdly blacks") is quickly questioned and ridiculed. The cast are excellent and the film is usually remembered as Michael Caine's first starring role in which he plays the upper class second in command.I prefer Stanley Baker's commander with his focus and cunning.Other great roles are the caring but no nonsence Colour sargeant and the Welsh who have a sing off with the Zulus in a scene straight from 'Monty Python'.Even the bases' herd of cows does it's bit as they spear some Zulus when they escape.Now that's what you call a team effort!. A great film full of sacrifice and derring do and straight from the 'they don't make them like that mould'.It's a fast two hours that will make your chest swell in pride, tempered slightly by the fact the the Empire now consists of two streets in Port Stanley!.Give it a chance next Bank holiday and you'll be there to the poingent end where Richard Burton reads the role call of Victoria Cross winners who comprise members of all ranks.Stiff upper lips all round.
One of the last of the classic-era widescreen epics, Zulu was also one of the last war movies to celebrate the virtues of the famous British stiff upper lip. At Rorke's Drift in 1879 a handful of British soldiers, hopelessly outnumbered by 4,000 Zulu warriors, fought one of the most celebrated defensive actions in military history. Zulu tells the story on an epic scale, bringing to life the heroism, courage, loyalty and sacrifice of those desperate hours. This is truly cast-of-thousands filmmaking, with vast action wonderfully captured in widescreen Technirama. John Barry, who also scored Goldfinger in the same year, provides a telling musical accompaniment. The superb cast includes Stanley Baker and Jack Hawkins, but Zulu's final claim to fame is that it made an instant international superstar of a young actor whose name is Michael Caine. A belated sequel arrived in 1979 in Zulu Dawn, which despite even more spectacular action and a great cast died at the box-office. It is nevertheless well worth seeing. On the DVD: Zulu on disc has excellent prologic stereo considering the age of the film, while the anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 transfer is crystal-clear, boasting rich colours, strong contrast and detail and only occasional minor print flaws. The original American trailer, also presented anamorphically enhanced at 2.35:1, is a worthwhile addition. There is a very good new 45-minute "making of" (1.77:1 anamorphic, in stereo), curiously split into two parts. The heart of the programme consists of interviews with survivors from the film, focusing on Stanley Baker's widow. The only let down is lack of input from Michael Caine and composer John Barry. The commentary by film historian Sheldon Hall, author of a forthcoming book on the movie, and Second Unit Director Robert Porter is serious and packed with information. --Gary S Dalkin