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Customer Review

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A rouser from the days of the British Empire, 12 Sept. 2007
This review is from: Zulu [1964] [DVD] (DVD)
In 1879, 20,000 Zulu warriors wiped out to a man nearly 2,000 British regulars and auxiliaries at Isandhlwana in what was then Zululand. Immediately afterwards, 4,000 of the warriors set out for Rorke's Drift, a small British outpost manned by 100 soldiers. The soldiers were led by Lt. John Chard, a civil engineer trying to build a bridge, and Lt. Gonville Bromhead, an inexperienced product of the upperclass. Chard had seniority and neither had ever been in a battle before. This is the setup for Zulu, which tells the story of the battle for Rorke's Drift, where more won the Victoria Cross than in any single action before or since.

The movie's a rouser. The fighting scenes are extended and brutal, but the tactics of both the attackers and the defenders are kept clear. The Zulus used charges of massed warriors in sweeping flanking attacks, combined with rifle fire from the surrounding heights using guns captured at Isandhlwana. The British used firm discipline, a high rate of massed firepower, plus strategic retreats. Although only 500 Zulus were used, the producers were able to believeably create the impression of 4,000 before the days of CGO. Baker, who produced the movie, is decisive, practical and firm. Michael Caine, in his breakthrough role, starts out as an upperclass twit and becomes a brave and quick thinking officer. He looks great as a blond. The movie treats the Zulus with a great deal of respect. There's little of the condescension that you often find in movies with brave soldiers and natives who attack. The movie also is a bit long, with the scenes involving Jack Hawkins as a preacher who becomes unhinged being, in my view, extraneous.

All in all, this is a movie that's fun to watch more than once. It's aged very well.

For those interested in more background, there's an oustanding history by Donald Brooks called The Washing of the Spears. It goes into readable detail about the British/Zulu conflict and the inevitiable British victory to incorporate Zululand into South Africa. For those who like British regimental names as much as I do, the defenders are from the 24th Regiment of Foot of the South Wales Borderers. As a side note, while Chard and Bromhead both received Victoria Crosses, neither had a successful military career afterwards. Chard was never accepted by his fellow officers because he came from middle class stock and was an engineer by training. Bromhead turned out to be a lightweight without much military talent.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 24 Dec 2012, 02:21:24 GMT
Matches says:
The 2/24th of foot at Rorkes drift WERE NOT the South Wales Borderers they were the 2nd Warwickshires. They only became the Soutth Wales Borderers in 1881, three years AFTER the Anglo/Zulu war.
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C. O. DeRiemer
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Location: San Antonio, Texas, USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 9,238