Dir: Cy Endfield
Star: Stanley Baker, Michael Caine, Jack Hawkins, James Booth
Cert / Year: PG / 1964
Format: DVD R2

Early in 1879 a Zulu army defeated the British army in the battle of Isandlwana. Over a thousand men were killed. This was one the army's worst ever defeats. A contingent of over four thousand Zulus then marched upon a small missionary station at Rorkes Drift, which was defended by a small garrison of 139 Welsh infantrymen. This is their story, and of the battle where courage against insurmountable odds would lead to legendary outcome.

It is not often that you come across the story of a battle where the events need no window dressing to seem heroic. However for the most part what you see here did happen. Historically the battle may have been nothing more than a footnote to the defeat at Isandlwana (its importance was blown out of proportion by the British government desperate to divert attention away from that disaster). But this doesn't stop the battle being one of the most dramatic and valiant exploits in the illustrious history of British army. It is no mistake that more Victoria crosses were earnt that day than in any other single engagement.

Stirring stuff indeed and one that was bought marvellously to life in one of the finest war movies ever made. The scope of the battle is stunning, a feat even more impressive when you considered the limited budget the film had. The sight of five hundred (that's all they could get) Zulu warriors screaming their war chants is truly frightening. It is of note that the Zulus are not viewed as savages but as the credible and well lead army, which they were. They may have lacked firepower but they had effective leadership, superb hand to hand weapons. They were an enemy not to be underestimated. Ok so they were defeated in a massacre but at least this film doesn't display them mindless savages.

At the heart of the film we have a duo of fine actors. Stanley Baker (whose production company made the film) was an established leading man and he is perfect for the hard-bitten Lt. Chard. He plays a tough engineer Lieutenant unintentionally thrown into the situation, and by the end of the film you feel the pointlessness he feels after the battle. With him was a then rising star in Michael Caine. Who is cast in many ways against type. No cockney down to earth guy this time, he is Lt. Bromhead an officer and a gentleman through and through. This brings out one of his best performances, and it is a shame that he was not given this versatility more often. The supporting cast are a fine bunch, with a special mention going to James Booth who played private Henry Hook (although the real life character was actually nothing like the rogue displayed here). Incidentally the leader of the Zulus King Cetshwayo kaMpande is played by his real life descendant and current Zulu leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

The only real criticism of the film is the fact that sometime both sides get a little carried away in the battle scenes, and it becomes a bit unrealistic. However this isn't often and is easily overlooked.

Zulu has the feel of an epic movie. Clever direction by Cy Endfield gives this movie a huge sense of scale matched by the real life events. A fantastic location really helps maters. John Barry's musical score is also outstanding providing one of the classic themes of all time. This war movie is patriotic that's true, but it tries hard not to glorify battle. The ending leaves you admiring the courage of both sides and the pointlessness of conflict (especially the senselessness of the one sided wars in the name of colonialism). These are valid messages especially in this day and age (take note America). Zulu is a tale of unprecedented valour, which has been bought to screen in one classic movie.


The epic story of courage, honour and pride.


Lt. Chard: The army doesn't like more than one disaster in a day.
Lt. Bromhead: Looks bad in the newspapers and upsets civilians at their breakfast.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Picture 2.35:1 Anamorphic Fantastic restored picture. Clear and very colourful.
Audio Sterio A good sountrack handles the war chants realy well.
Features And Snappeth The Spear In Sunder: A Making Of Zulu
45min retrospective dcoumentary Roll Of Honour: The Making Of Zulu
Audio commentary from second unit director Robert Porter and film historian Sheldon Hall
Verdict A great job has been done restoring the film and providing a number of quality extras. It's only a shame Michael Caine was not more involved.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home