Friday night, whoops, sorry, Sunday morning Movie number 4 – Zulu
(For the reason why this feature has temporarily moved see here)
This is a cracking action film based on the true story of how 140 British soldiers held off an army of 4,000 Zulu warriors in at Rorke’s Drift, Natal, South Africa in 1879. A fabulous ensemble cast of characters from the ‘damned ranker’ skivers like Hook to the aristocratic gentleman soldier Bromhead, give this film depth that takes it beyond the normal sort of battle action movie.
The film tells of how the Zulu army wiped out the British Army column at Isandlwana and then set their sights on the mission station at Rorke’s Drift. The British defenders of Rorke’s Drift then had to improvise defences and cope with manpower issues including having a lot of troops who were already hospitalised.
The Zulu’s made attack after attack on the mission station but the British fought back bravely against Zulu warriors armed with rifle, spear, knife and fire. No less than 11 Victoria Crosses were won by the British fighters at Rorke’s Drift. The final outcome of the battle was that the British lost 19 soliders whereas the Zulus lost 500 to 600 mostly in the battle but also in subsequent executions of Zulus who had behaved treacherously, and wounded or fleeing Zulus who were hunted down. No British soldier was in the mood for behaving magnanmiously after seeing what the Zulus had done to British troops who were in the hospital at Isandlwana when it was attacked.
Even today it is still an amazing military achievement to hold off 4000 warriors until attrition and starvation cause the besieging army to depart, normally a siege ends up with those who are beseiged slowly starving.
This film is a fast moving military yarn with fabulous acting from Stanley Baker and Michael Caine as the main characters and with a supporting cast that includes Jack Hawkins as a Christian missionary ‘peacemaker’ naively fixated on getting the British to throw down their guns and submit to the ‘mercy’ of the Zulus.
I watched this again recently for the first time in years and it is a film that I enjoyed very much indeed.