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Review: Zulu (1964)

Director: | 138 minutes | action, war, | Actors: Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins, Ulla Jacobsson, James Booth, , Nigel , , , Glynn Edwards, , , , , , Patrick Magee, Richard Davies, , Dafydd Havard, , Larry Taylor, , John Sullivan, Harvey Hall, Gert Van den Bergh, Dennis Folbigge, Kerry Jordan, Ronald Hill,

The film opens with an introduction by actor Richard Burton (who does not play in the film himself) who tells about the lead up to the bloody confrontation between Zulus and British at Rorke’s Drift. During the heyday of the British Empire, when the Union Jack still flew over a quarter of the world, the prestige of the British took a serious blow in what is now South Africa. On January 22, 1879, a Zulu army attacks the British fort at Isadlhwana and 1,500 soldiers are massacred. After this, the army moves on to Rorke’s Drift, a small mission, hospital and supply station, which is only manned by about a hundred men.

Visually, ‘Zulu’ opens strongly with images of a massive Zulu wedding, in which all kinds of ritual dances are performed by hundreds of warriors and women. Next to the Zulu king Cetshwayo is the Swedish pastor Witt (Hawkins) and his daughter Margareta (Jacobsson), who learns about the slaughter firsthand. In a hurry, the two leave for their mission, to warn the troops there and to remove the wounded and sick.

Rorke’s Drift is led by the arrogant Lieutenant Commander Bromhead (Caine, in his first major film role), ably assisted by Sergeant Major (Green). Bromhead comes from a long military tradition in his and mainly hunts predators such as leopards. Near the outpost, meanwhile, Lieutenant Chard (Baker) of the engineers is busy building a bridge for the main force of the army. Then it turns out that the main force has been destroyed and that the Zulu army is on its way to their post. Chard and Bromhead must first battle each other out to see which of them is actually the commanding officer. It turns out that Chard has a little more seniority and he needs to take over command. Something that the men, by the way, are difficult to bear. Several soldiers are featured, especially the grumpy Hook (Booth) pretending to be sick in order to avoid his duties. The early scenes also have some mild humor here and there. For example, the Welshmen who make up the bulk of the troops refer to English as foreigners and address each other by number, due to the many surnames that are similar. Although the film takes plenty of time to get to know the characters, before the attack is actually started after an hour of playtime, the of John Barry is extremely atmospheric and threatening to keep the tension in it. From the moment the Zulus attack, the action is almost non-stop. Ultimately, the siege lasts two desperate days, during which the British soldiers have to do everything they can to survive. The early scenes also have some mild humor here and there. For example, the Welshmen who make up the bulk of the troops refer to English as foreigners and address each other by number, due to the many surnames that are similar. Although the film takes plenty of time to get to know the characters, before the attack is actually started after an hour of playtime, the music of John Barry is extremely atmospheric and threatening to keep the tension in it. From the moment the Zulus attack, the action is almost non-stop. Ultimately, the siege lasts two desperate days, during which the British soldiers have to do everything they can to survive. The early scenes also have some mild humor here and there. For example, the Welshmen who make up the bulk of the troops refer to English as foreigners and address each other by number, due to the many surnames that are similar. Although the film takes plenty of time to get to know the characters, before the attack is actually started after an hour of playtime, the music of John Barry is extremely atmospheric and threatening to keep the tension in it. From the moment the Zulus attack, the action is almost non-stop. Ultimately, the siege lasts for two desperate days, during which the British soldiers must do everything they can to survive. for example, speak of English as foreigners and address each other by number, because of the many surnames that look alike. Although the film takes plenty of time to get to know the characters, before the attack is actually started after an hour of playtime, the music of John Barry is extremely atmospheric and threatening to keep the tension in it. From the moment the Zulus attack, the action is almost non-stop. Ultimately, the siege lasts two desperate days, during which the British soldiers have to do everything they can to survive. for example, speak of English as foreigners and address each other by number, because of the many surnames that look alike. Although the film takes plenty of time to get to know the characters, before the attack is actually started after an hour of playtime, the music of John Barry is extremely atmospheric and threatening to keep the tension in it. From the moment the Zulus attack, the action is almost non-stop. Ultimately, the siege lasts two desperate days, during which the British soldiers have to do everything they can to survive. the music of John Barry is extremely atmospheric and threatening to keep the tension in it. From the moment the Zulus attack, the action is almost non-stop. Ultimately, the siege lasts two desperate days, during which the British soldiers have to do everything they can to survive. John Barry’s music is extremely atmospheric and threatening to keep the tension going. From the moment the Zulus attack, the action is almost non-stop. Ultimately, the siege lasts two desperate days, during which the British soldiers must do everything they can to survive.

‘Zulu’ is epic in design and director Enfield lets the action run all over the screen and gives the beleaguered outpost fantastic images from all sides. The images are razor-sharp with an eye for visual flair. It is said that the film had a limited budget, but due to the sophisticated method of filming, with sometimes extreme close-ups and the almost immense appearing crowds of Zulus, the makers managed to hide this perfectly.

In addition to the action scenes, the film is mainly supported by the excellent acting performance. Both Baker (also producer) and Caine play strong and convincing roles. Furthermore, the aforementioned Green knows how to make it plausible that he has never done anything other than command soldiers, which his enormous sideburns may also help with. A small role also features chief Buthelezi, who is known from the Inkatha movement, playing his own ancestor King Cetshwayo.

There are also downsides. Some character advancements are somewhat far-fetched. Archynic Hook (although well played by Booth) suddenly turns into a driven and dedicated soldier. The fact that the pastor suddenly changes from benefactor to a shameless drunk, may well be due to the fact that he succumbs to the Zulu threat, but here too it is a bit too fast to appear completely credible. Incidentally, actor Hawkins himself was not satisfied with the effect of his role. It is also quite noticeable that a part of the army of Zulu warriors has managed to get hold of guns from the previously killed British and is thus seriously firing on the outpost. Suddenly, however, those shooters have disappeared and are no longer part of the story. Regardless of whether the 2-day siege also went exactly like this historically, the tactics of the Zulus sometimes seem to be aimed at maintaining a cinematic tension. And that does not seem quite the intention. For the most part, however, ‘Zulu’ works and it is a very exciting and well-made film. The ending, heralded with the Zulus and the British trying to outdo each other with songs, is powerful and makes you think.

As narrator Burton says at the end, eleven British soldiers were awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest military decoration, afterwards.

Zulu (1964) Drama, History, War | 138min | 17 June 1964 (USA) 7.7
Director: Cy EndfieldWriter: John Prebble, Cy EndfieldStars: Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins, Ulla JacobssonSummary: Zululand, South Africa, 1879. The British are fighting the Zulus and one of their columns has just been wiped out at Isandlwana. The Zulus next fix their sights on the small British outpost at Rorke's Drift. At the outpost are one hundred fifty British troops under the command of Lieutenants Bromhead and Chard. In the next few days, these one hundred fifty troops will fight about four thousand Zulus in one of the most courageous battles in history. Written by grantss

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