ZULU Genres:Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War "Sentries have come in from the hill, sir.... They report Zulus to the southeast. Thousands of them." One of the best pure action movies ever made, this rousing adventure recounts the true story of a small 18th-century reg... more »iment of British troops (including a very blue-blooded turn by a young Michael Caine) endlessly besieged by an seemingly unceasing number of fierce attackers. Although the basic premise has since been executed with more technical skill and panache (most notably by Aliens and Michael Mann's The Last of the Mohicans), it's unlikely that anything will ever top the utter spectacle and, above all, sheer unbelievable size of the combat scenes that almost wholly comprise the last half of this film. A gloriously exhilarating essential for anyone looking to get lost in the heat of cinematic battle, topped off with a healthy dose of gallows humor. Not to be missed. Richard Burton voiced the stirring narration. Zulu was followed by a slightly dry but still recommended prequel, Zulu Dawn. --Andrew Wright« less
"Zulu is one of the greatest historical action movies ever made, and one of the great war movies. It is based on what historian Michael Glover terms "the most highly decorated battle in British history", the defence of Rorke's Drift during the Zulu War of 1879. Eleven of the defenders received Britain's highest award for military valor, the Victoria Cross--the rarely awarded counterpart of the US Congressional Medal of Honor. The movie is a landmark in the art of cinema for its extraordinary combination of location, cross-cultural engagement, a real story, good script and fine cast. This 1964 film never looks tired, despite my many years of rerunning it in 16mm, the Criterion laserdisc, and now the Front Row Entertainment Inc. DVD. Anecdotally, military colleges have used Zulu to show the power of directed massed musketry, and leadership and teamwork in combat.Zulu is the greatest achievement of the career of British actor Stanley Baker, who co-produced with US-born, formerly blacklisted director Cy Endfield. Nothing else in the genre really measures up, including Endfield's so-called "prequel", Zulu Dawn, or other epics based on British colonial wars, such as Khartoum. It was filmed on location in the grandeur of Natal, South Africa, with descendants of the Zulu warriors who took part in the original action portraying their forebears. The prominent Zulu politician and traditional chief, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, plays the Zulu leader, his distant relative Cetewayo. Mass Zulu participation in the project guaranteed the uplifting dignity and authenticity of cross-cultural characterisations of the film. Early magnificent scenes with masses of Zulu extras show the Zulu royal kraal, with a mass wedding of warriors in progress as news arrives of the annihilation of a strong British force at Isandhlwana. These unique scenes probably never could be filmed again because of social and cultural change. The nearest conceptual comparison in the war genre that comes to mind is the cross-cultural aspect of Tora! Tora! Tora!Stanley Baker believed so strongly in Zulu, despite difficulties in raising finance, that he sank much of his own money into it. Playing a British Army engineer officer thrust by events into leading a desperate defensive action following the disaster of Isandhlwana, he heads a strong cast, including a young Michael Caine as an upper crust infantry officer. There are wonderful cameo roles by Jack Hawkins as an alcoholic missionary; Nigel Green as the imperturbable Colour Sergeant Bourne, always ready with a calming order or a bayonet; James Booth as Private Hook, portrayed as a malingerer who is perhaps the least likely Victoria Cross winner; Patrick Magee as Surgeon-Major Reynolds, continuing up to his elbows in surgery even as Zulus try to break in. The narration by Richard Burton is very fine, and in character with the Welsh origin of the British soldiers. Welsh and Zulu singing on the cinematic battlefield is spine-tingling.This film deserves the very best frame-by-frame and soundtrack digital restoration and DVD transfer that technology can provide, working from an original 70mm print. Meanwhile, the Front Row Entertainment Inc DVD, about the equal of the Criterion laserdisc, will have to do. The image quality is much less sharp than we now expect of new DVD releases. The color and audio are just passable. It is in widescreen format.Stanley Baker died in 1976. Cy Endfield died in 1995. Other players who have passed on include Jack Hawkins in 1973; Nigel Green in 1972; and Patrick Magee in 1982. Before all key players in this project die, a retrospective on the making of the film--interviews, at least, with participants like Michael Caine and Mangosuthu Buthelezi--should be compiled for a new collector's edition DVD. At the time of writing, Sir Michael Caine (age 69) seems to be enjoying the afterglow of his prolific career in cinema and dabbles in restaurants, and Dr Buthelezi (age 74) is Minister for Home Affairs in the Government of South Africa. James Booth (age 69) continues on stage and screen.Michael Glover's book, "Rorke's Drift" (Wordsworth Editions 1997) is recommended reading for anyone with a detailed interest in the historical background."
Outstanding re-telling of the 1879 battle at Rorke's Drift
Dennis J. Buckley | Harrisburg, PA USA | 01/07/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In January, 1879, a column of British soldiers comprised primarily of the 24th Regiment of Foot, South Wales Borderers, was wiped out at the base of the mountain, Isandhlwana, in Natal, South Africa. A large contingent of 4,000 Zulu warriors then moved on to the undermanned expedition base at Rorke's Drift. This movie tells the incredible true story of the subsequent battle, and of the victory of the 90 some British soldiers, many of them sick, who held their post in the face of overwhelming odds. See Donald Morris' definitive book, _The Washing of the Spears_, against which this film account compares most favorably.This neglected classic was filmed at a time when it was still just possible to associate the word "glory" with military victory-- without a sneer. The makers of the film avoid preaching and just let the battle tell the tale of the men of both sides. The British soldiers are not the "good guys" nor are the Zulus "bad guys," and the lone derogatory comment about the fighting ability of the Zulus is instantly rebuffed by a tough Boer cavalryman who says, "And just who do you think is coming to wipe out your little garrison, the Grenadier Guards?" This is a soldier's story about a soldier's fight.Did the Welsh really sing "Men of Harlach" as they manned their mealie-bag barricades?Did the Zulus really render a warrior's salute as they broke off the action on the second day of the battle?It doesn't matter. The film is accurate in the historical basics that really count.Beautifully filmed on location, with an outstanding, stirring score by John Barry, this film features solid but appropriately understated performances by Stanley Baker, Michael Caine, and Jack Hawkins.I hesitate to mention the hideous, politically correct pre-quel, _Zulu Dawn_ which was released almost 25 years after _Zulu_, but any viewer who has the unhappy experience of seeing _Zulu Dawn_ should not be put off from seeing _Zulu_, which shines in comparison.Whether one is interested in military history or a "movie for men who like movies," _Zulu_ is a worthy addition to a film library. From first to last, it is a compelling, superior film."
Do not waste your money
W. M. Robbins | 12/26/1999
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD is very poorly done. Every few frames the action freezes and it does not give even one minute of continuous running. I hope some other company will be releasing this movie as it is a favorite. It is not just one DVD. We tried two different copies from the same vendor and they were both terrible."
The Battle at Rorke's Drift, Natal, South Africa
James Hulston | Sydney, Australia | 09/20/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"January 22-23 1879 will go down as one of the greatest and bravest days in British military history.The battle at Rorke's Drift, or as the Zulus called it "Jim's Place" is magnificently portrayed in this 1964 epic filmed on location in Natal.Michael Caine perfectly plays the part of Lieutenent Gonville Bromhead, a gentleman and professional soldier who along with Lieutenent John Chard of the Royal Engineers (played by Stanley Baker) masterminded the defence of the small missionary station at Rorke's Drift.80 men of the South Wales Borderers 24th Regiment Of Foot defended the missionary station and it's 36 wounded men in the hospital against 4,000 zulu warriors.The Natal scenery and costumes of both the British soldiers and Zulu warriors are a highlight.The battle scenes were graphically ahead of it's time and the narration by Richard Burton (himself a welshman)certainly adds to the drama that would unfold.One criticism is levelled at the characterization of Private Alfred Henry Hook, who in the movie is portrayed as a drunken malingerer. He was in fact a gentleman and small landowner who was a well regarded soldier. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery in evacuating the sick and wounded from the burning hospital.Overall, as an avid historian on the Zulu War of 1879, I found this a compelling movie classic which has been watched over and over again by me and my 3 brothers( Tom, Chris and Sam)James Hulston from Sydney, Australia"
History in Action!
W. M. Robbins | The Beautiful Blue Ridge | 10/29/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The massacre of nearly 1,500 British soldiers of the 24th Regiment of Foot on January 22nd, 1879 at Isandhlwana, Natal Province by warriors of the Zulu Nation is on record as the worst disaster ever inflicted on a modern army by a primitive one. After the battle at Isandhlwana, the Zulu warriors turned their attention to Rourke's Drift, a lonely Missionary station where the 24th had set up a supply depot and hospital. It is the desperate and courageous defense of this remote station by 140 British soldiers against the determined attacks of 4,000 Zulu warriors that is the subject of this film.
Zulu is a historically accurate reproduction of the Defense of Rourke's Drift. Every detail is painstakingly accurate: the uniforms of British Infantry and Engineers, the Martini-Henry rifles and Webley revolvers, foil sealed cases of ammunition, and the tactics that were used by the besieged British to fight off the Zulus.
Extraordinary acting performances are given by Michael Caine as Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead, the arrogant, aristocratic officer who is humbled by his experience of the battle, a performance made even more impressive by the fact that this was Caine's first film; Stanley Baker, the Officer of Engineers who takes command of the detachment and leads the heroic defense; Nigel Green as the brave, correct Colour-Sergeant Bourne, the rock-solid pillar of Britishness; and James Booth as the rebellious Private Hook who turns hero and saves many of his comrades.
Narrated by Richard Burton and featuring spectacular cinematogrophy filmed on location in Natal, Zulu is a masterful telling of one of the greatest stories in the annals of Military History, and a shining moment in the history of British arms. Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to defenders of Rourke's Drift, and this film is a worthy tribute to their heroism. It should be in everyone's DVD library."