Zulu
(1964)

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Student of tactics

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Directed:                 Cy Endfield
Writing:                   John Prebble
                                 Cy Endfield
Produced:               Sir Stanley Baker
                                 Cy Endfield
                                 Basil Keys
                                Joseph E. Levine
Original Music:       John Barry
Cinematography:  Stephen Dade

 

 

 

Zulu is perhaps one of Stanley Baker's greatest achievements in a movie career which spanned both acting producing and directing. So impressed was he with the real battle of Rorke's Drift between the indigenous Zulu warriors and the British Army during the reign of Queen Victoria, that he financed the entire movie project more or less on his own.

Baker not only produced but also starred alongside the young, fresh-faced Michael Caine. Baker plays Lt John Chard, Officer Of Engineers who marginally out ranks the rather pompous & arrogant Lt Gonville Bromhead (Caine).

'The army doesn't like more than one disaster in a day (Chard)

Looks bad in the newspapers and upsets civilians at their breakfast'. (Bromhead)

Chard is very much a pragmatic engineer (probably from a middle class family) in his late twenties with plenty of military experience but mainly building things. In contrast, Bromhead is very much a blueblood, with a family tree full of high ranking officers but with little or no combat experience. As these two tussle at the start of the film Bromhead assumes that fighting is not unlike shooting tigers for sport – Chard knows that combat is awful but resolves himself stoically to it.


A wonderful script is brought to life by some great acting, the greatest of which is by Nigel Green as Colour Sgt. Bourne. His portrayal of Bourne as a seemingly impossible combination of stern disciplinarian yet gentle paterfamilias to his men, some of whom are barely past boyhood, is powerful and downright moving in places; it ranks as one of the finest screen performances I have seen, and makes the movie worth seeing for it alone. If his work here is indicative of his ability, I am at a loss as to why we never saw more of this fine actor.

Another superb contribution is that of Gert Van den Bergh who Adendorff – the clever Boer who helps the British. It is sad to note that this actor died just four years after making the film at only 48.

Of course Jack Hawkins nearly steals the scene as the pacifist missionary whose parish encompasses the Zulus kingdom. A lovely scene is where he tries to persuade the soldier guarding him to let him go – only to be gently scolded by Col Sgt Bourne. Another great performance is by James Booth who plays the inscrutable Pvt Henry Hook - a malinger and criminal. In the greatest form of redemption he undertakes to help his fellow soldiers at the risk of his own life, thus winning their respect and a VC to boot.

Who can also forget the simply marvelous sound and editing – that methodical drumming as the Zulus close in on the small camp. Well shot camera angles (especially during the fire) brings the whole film to colourful life. The DVD is in its original ratio of widescreen and very much gives the film a Lawrence of Arabia feel with some very wide angle panoramic shots of the African countryside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                           

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Zulu