46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
One of the Best Films of all Time!!
, 2 Nov. 2002
This review is from: Zulu  [DVD] (DVD)
Based on a true story in British History in South Africa, this is absolutely one of the best films of all times. The late Sir Stanley Baker (whose superb performances are mostly lost to past few generations), same with the late Jack Hawkins (Ben Hur), James Booth and Nigel Green, it was the film that introduced Michael Caine to the world, showing what a natural actor he was from the start. (Caine, who originally tried out for the role of Hookie but lost to Booth, was almost fired from the film because the American backer, Joseph E. Levine, did not think Caine knew 'what to do with his hands'!! Caine was imitating Prince Albert!!). Fortunately, Baker ignored him.
Produced by Baker and Cy Enfield (of the Hollywood Blacklist fame) and written by the great historian John Prebble (Lion of the North - he also did the screenplay for Mysterious Island, another of Enfield's productions), the main focus of the film tells the story of a small pocket of British soldiers at Rorke's Drift on the edge of ZuluLand in 1879. These soldiers were left there for two purposes: some were sick with fever so were in hospital, the posting commanded by Gonville Bromhead (Caine), and the rest to build a bridge across the Buffalo River commanded by royal engineer, John Chard.
Just 10 miles down the road a force of over 4000 thousand British Solders camped on the hill of Islandlhwana were slaughtered by 10,000 Zulus. The worst defeat in British history of a modern army facing a native force. Over 4400 Zulu arrived too late for the attack, so they turned their attention to Rorke's drift and the little band of 100 men left there to defend it.
Baker and Caine (though not close in real life) worked magnificently together, giving powerhouse performances, with a great supporting cast of relative unknowns. The filming of South Africa is breathtaking, the enormity of what the soldier faced having 100 to 4400 odds, and how they held out until the main force of Chelmsford's army arrived, is an epic, but also a personal story of two men who stood resolute in the face of terror with a stiff upperlip and did what had to be done.
Moving Scoring by John Barry (Bond films, Raise the Titanic), with a foreword from Sir Richard Burton (a friend of Baker's both being Welsh).
In 1979, a prequel was filmed Zulu Dawn, nearly rising to this level, starring Burt Lancaster, Simon Ward and Nigel Davenport, that tells the story of the the massive defeat at Islandlhwana. It is a shame they are not presented as a set.
Interesting note, at the start of the film showing King Chetewayo of the Zulus at Ulundi, Chetewayo is played by the real Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who is involved in South African Politics today.
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