Top positive review
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A stunning prequel to Zulu
on 20 November 2002
Zulu with Stanley Baker and Michael Caine is one of my favourite films, and I think some make the mistake of judging Zulu Dawn against Zulu. Though they are about the battles with the Zulu on the same day, they should not be judged against the other, but used as companion pieces. Zulu was the story of a small band on British Soldiers, barely 100, who held out against over 4000 Zulu warriors. It is a more personal film, looking at the triumph for Chard and Bromhead against such odds. At the start of Zulu, you see the Zulu walking through the British dead. That is the aftermath of Zulu Dawn. Zulu Dawn is much less person, more sweeping in statement and scope.
Cy Enfield co-wrote Zulu Dawn with Anthony Story, some 15 years after Zulu,(Enfield half of the Baker-Enfield team that produced ZULU - and interesting to note Anthony Story was the biographer of Stanley Baker), depict the British Colonialism 'Little England' policy and arrogance that contributed to the downfall of the British troops left on the face of Ishlandlwana in January 1879, the greatest defeat of a modern army by natives. Chelmsford, played perfectly by Peter O'Toole, made the first mistake: divided his forces in the face of the enemy, especially when he had no idea where the enemy was. Secondly, the same arrogance left them to camp nearly 1500 and native levees on the open slope of Isandhlwana without forming any sort of defencive works for protection, despite warnings. They ignored Boer sightings of Zulu in the Valley just beyond, because Chelmsford had it set in his mind they were at Ulundi. The stupid rationing of bullets, the way the quartermaster passed them out, saw the unprotected Brits left without any means of defending themselves.
Zulu Dawn is more depressing, because it shows the whole loss of life was so futile, but the film is a beautiful tribute to the soldier of Queen Victoria's Wars, warts, arrogance, stiff upperlip, valour and all.
Utterly mesmerising, deeply moving.