Friday, April 26, 2013

Film Friday: Zulu (1964)

Zulu is one of my favorite films. It’s a war film about the 1879 Battle of Rorke’s Drift between a small detachment of British soldier at a farm in South Africa and an army of Zulus. It’s one of those films that does everything right.

** spoiler alert **
Plot
Zulu is an historical war drama about the Battle of Rorke’s Drift. On January 22, 1879, the British Empire invaded Zululand. Eleven days later, a force of 20,000 Zulu warriors attacked a British column of 1,800 soldiers. The Zulus overran the column and killed 1,300 British. A few days later, a force of 4,000 Zulus moved against nearby Rorke’s Drift, a farmhouse where around 150 British soldiers had set up a field hospital. This is where Zulu begins.
As the Zulus surround and attack the field hospital, the British inside put up a series of defenses. Between attacks you get to know the soldiers and you see their true characters emerge. You’ve got the dissenter who turns out to be a hero (Private Henry Hook – James Booth). The hero who thinks he’s a coward, but really isn’t (Lt. Bromhead – Michael Caine). The every-man who uses his brain and his will to save the unit (Lt. Chard – Stanley Baker). You’ve got a conflict with a minister (Rev. Otto Witt – Jack Hawkins) who wants them not to fight. You’ve got conflict between the commanders. You’ve got conflict between the soldiers. And you have a relentless, courageous and powerful enemy. The film ends in a draw, with the Zulus saluting the British soldiers’ bravery.
What Makes This Film So Interesting
This film is interesting on several levels. First, you have the cast. Baker was a rising star who had been offered the role of James Bond in Dr. No, but was forced to turn it down. He died a few years after this film at the age of 48. Richard Burton does the narration. This was Michael Caine’s first starring role, and he almost didn’t get it. He had tried out for a different role before trying out for Bromhead. His screen-test went so poorly that Baker (who produced the film) wanted to replace him, but it was too late as shooting was scheduled to begin. The leader of the Zulus was played by Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who some of you might recall as the actual leader of the Zulu nation in the 1980s - he founded the Inkatha Freedom Party and allied himself with white South Africans against the ANC.

As an aside, due to apartheid laws, none of the Zulus could be paid for appearing in the film, so the director left them cattle as gifts.
Secondly, this film respects both sides. One of the reason most modern war films feel hollow even though their effects are great is because the enemy is typically presented as cardboard. Be the enemy Arabs, giant bugs, robots, or Nazis, the enemy is no longer humanized in Hollywood. That robs the audience of any sense of realism. Basically, instead of seeing this a struggle between real people, where both sides put their lives on the line for what they believe in, you get a videogame where you watch supermen take down pixilated enemies. Even worse, since the enemies are no longer real people, Hollywood allows the supermen to kill them in droves to keep the audience entertained. This robs the heroes of their achievement. They are no longer mere mortals struggling and overcoming a powerful, believable, well-matched or overwhelming enemy, they are characters in a shooting gallery taking down the enemy at will.
Zulu was before all of that. In Zulu, the Zulus are courageous and dangerous. This is no simple fight and there is a really good chance the British will fail. In fact, you keep wondering throughout how in the world they will prevail, and the film reinforces this by showing that the British are reaching the end of their rope as the film nears its climax. That makes the ending truly spectacular. Indeed, the climax isn’t a battle, it’s a non-battle as the Zulus do a show of respect for the British rather than attack, and then they withdraw. That adds a really strong emotional punch to the film. Not only are you shocked (and relieved) that the climax you expected didn’t come, but you feel a sense of pride that both sides have earned the others’ respect. It makes you feel like you watched something truly special, i.e. a battle between the best. It also lends an air of authenticity to the film (even though that didn’t happen in real life) because it makes you realize that these were real people on both sides. War film should go back to this idea, because it really works.

The final aspect of this film which makes it so interesting are all the messages throughout and how subtlety they are delivered. Moreover, while the film was directed by Cy Endfield, who was blacklisted in Hollywood, and it intended to lean left, it almost seems more libertarian. Consider this.

● The film presents an anti-empire message. It does so by showing that the carnage proves pointless and by making it clear that no one seems to know why they are in South Africa, except Chard who is there to build a bridge. At the time, this would have been seen as a message of the left, which was anti-empire and embracing the anti-war movement. However, this rings more libertarian right than progressive left, as the modern left seeks to impose their beliefs on everyone. Indeed, the left were big on empire building throughout history, except for the brief moment when they wanted the British Empire dismantled. And even that was quickly replaced by leftist intervention from the Soviets and their allies, and from Western-leftists pushing their beliefs on indigenous people. Really, the only people saying we should leave everyone else alone to live their own lives are American libertarians.

More interestingly, this message and the anti-war message are only hinted at throughout the film, with characters asking why they are here and finally with Bromhead being disgusted at the carnage he sees – aside from this, there are no speeches, no lectures, and no demonizations. This actually makes these messages amazingly effective because it leaves it up to the audience to reach their own conclusion based on what appears to be a simple presentation of facts rather than arguments. This makes a stronger message because people feel that they reach the conclusion on their own and it takes away the sense that the messages are propaganda.
● The film also makes an anti-elite message where the effete upper-class Bromhead proves to lack the competence of the blue-collar Chard. Bromhead stands in as the representative of the British upper crust. He is stiff, smug, and arrogant. He can tell you his heritage back before time began and he sees himself as the descendent of the heroes who shaped the world. But he’s also incompetent and cowardly. Chard is a mutt. He has no background, he’s clearly middle-class, and he got here on skill alone. He is an engineer, a profession you must earn rather than inherit, and he quickly proves to be everything Bromhead is not – thoughtful, competent, brave, and a solid leader. The message here is very anti-elitist and pro-meritocracy. At the time, this would have been a leftist message as they wanted to topple the existing power structure, but in hindsight, this is highly libertarian. Indeed, meritocracy is a conservative/libertarian idea, with the left favoring rule by elites and elite-appointed experts.

As an interesting aside, there have been suggestions that Bromhead may be homosexual based on certain behaviors he exhibits, particularly being “foppish” with a whip. I cannot say if this was truly intended, but it does seem to be suggested as a further reason to look down on Bromhead, i.e. the idea that the elite are abnormal and perverted – another interesting flip for the left.

All of this makes for a truly fascinating film. The film is beautifully shot, having been filmed in national parks in South Africa. The costumes are perfect. The acting and writing is excellent, and it’s neat to see Michael Caine in his first major role. The interaction of the soldiers is believable and not at all cliché. The messages are powerful and they are made all the more powerful because you are left to reach them yourself. And ultimately, this is a heck of a war film because the enemy isn’t downgraded to cartoon status so you’re never really sure if the heroes can prevail. It is a tense film.

I highly recommend this film.

55 comments:

Mike said...

One of my fav. movies, in my Top Ten for sure. I've seen it at least a dozen times since that long-ago first time on late-night TV and the scenes of the Zulu warriors banging on their shields still sends shivers down my spine.

AndrewPrice said...

Mike, Same here. That's a really, really strong moment. You are so ready to see the British get wiped out and then the Zulus do the honor dance and it's both an amazing relief and also feels like such an incredible moment. It's hard not to "feel" that moment in the film.

In terms of seeing the film, this was actually the film first I put on my "need to get on DVD list". Sadly, it wasn't out yet and the first two versions to come out were garbage -- bad transfers from VHS. But they finally released it and I love it. I've seen this LOTS and I never grow tired of it.

K said...

I second the recommendation. For one thing it would be impossible to make this movie today.


And yeah, it's kind of difficult to keep our "lefts" straight these days, isn't it?

AndrewPrice said...

K, What's funny about the left to me is that for a brief moment after WWII, they seemed to cross over all the way to the near-libertarian right. That's when a lot of movies like this were made. Then they immediately drifted right back to their nasty totalitarian ways only under hypocritical language. In that regard, I at least give the old left credit for saying truthfully what they wanted. It was rotten and evil, but at least it was truthful. The left today is rotten and evil and also they are liars.

I agree that you couldn't make this movie today. Too "high brow." The writing is too subtle. The actors are too old. There's no love story. There are no traitors or evil CIA people manipulating events, looking for oil or torturing Zulus. The honkeys would need to be demonized, except for the enlightened Matt Damon who would be opposed to the whole thing. And of course, you would need an army of 45 million CGI Zulu warriors.

Mike said...

After posting, I made the mistake of going to IMdB; I signed in and rated it a "10", which is an honor I don't recall ever giving any other flick. I then made the mistake of reading some of the comments. There were a couple of threads calling it a racist movie, an accusation that floored me.

I watched the movie in the late 60's, when I wasn't even a teenager yet. I grew up in a small town in Texas with the usual prejudices of that time and place and recall coming away with an admiration for those brave Zulu warriors. As you said in your great essay on the movie, it gives a more than fair treatment to both sides. (I've been thinking of doing a blog post on the worst msg. boards/forums on the 'net; not sure what I'll rank #2&3 -YouTube or Facebook, maybe Yahoo will be in the mix - but IMdB will have to be #1. It's one thing to get hateful about politics or religion, but to slam someone because they don't like a particular movie? Good grief.)

Not sure if it's factual, but I once read that the British were badly beaten at the previous Battle of Isandlwana because they couldn't get their ammunition boxes open quickly enough; it seems no one could find or they had forgotten the pry bars used to open them.

This movie also has a thrilling soundtrack that adds to the tension. The sound of those spears on the shields punctuates the drama, though.

Enjoy the blog; have subscribed in my reader for quite some time and always look fwd. to the newest posts.

AndrewPrice said...

Mike, Thanks! And thanks for commenting! :)

There is a lot of debate about why the British lost at Isandlwana, and the ammunition theory is the majority opinion. There was also apparently a problem of how they set up their defenses with their troops spread out too far, which prevented them from really making use of their firepower. I could see it being both actually.

You're right about IMDB. I've stopped reading those because they are crawling with fools. I'm amazed how wrong so many of the comments are and how often they turn to venom. Half of what I read completely misunderstands the movie and it seems a lot of people can't just dislike a movie, they need to find it evil as well.

What's ironic about calling this movie racist is that it's absolutely not racist in any way -- in fact, it presents both sides as honorable, it presents the Zulus as more "in the right", and the one racist statement gets repudiated by the Afrikaner who warns the British that the Zulus are not mindless savaged, but are in fact skilled warriors.

Also, the purpose of this film was to make an anti-empire, anti-racism statement. This is a film with a message that basically said, "Britain has no right or reason to suppress native populations to hold a meaningless empire." That's hardly a racist message. YET, clearly, the morons who leave comments at IMDB don't understand the message and they only see white soldiers killing black natives... ergo, must be racist! What simpletons.

Backthrow said...

I agree entirely. I love ZULU, a truly great film that sucks me in every time. The British Blu-ray release --which is all-region compatible, so regular American Blu-ray players can play it-- is amazing... so crystal clear and colorful, it looks like it was made today.

While not on quite as high a level as ZULU, Endfield and Baker also collaborated several other films, including two other really good movies that are worth checking out, HELL DRIVERS (1957), in which ex-con good guy Baker gets a job at a crooked trucking firm and has to deal with psychotic rival Patrick McGoohan, and SANDS OF THE KALAHARI (1965), where Baker, Susannah York, Stuart Whitman, Theodore Bikel, Harry Andrews and Nigel Davenport crash in the middle of the title locale and try to survive against formidable odds.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, I wasn't aware the British BluRay was all region compatible! Interesting... looks like another purchase is in order. :)

This film sucks me in too. If it's on television, I will watch it. And every once in a while I whip out my DVD of it and watch it too.

I haven't seen Hell Drivers or Sands of The Kalahari. In fact, I think the only other time I recall seeing Baker was in Guns of Navarone.

K said...

Then they immediately drifted right back to their nasty totalitarian ways only under hypocritical language.

It's an occupational hazard of the progressive utopian mindset - sooner or later some regime gets power using your agenda, murders a few million inconvenient people and starts a world war. Then it takes an awful lot of political ads, tenured idiots and lying yer ass off just to get back to square zero.

Mike said...

Sorry, kept writing the abbreviation wrong; IMDb. Banging away on the keyboard so fast because I get excited when someone writes about something that's so dear to my heart like Zulu.

I woke up the cat with my snorting after reading your comments about the left and esp.the 2nd paragraph about Damon. He's a pretty fair actor for someone who is such a blockhead. Just goes to show you that talent and brains are not mutually inclusive.

I consider myself a "small L" libertarian, btw. I won't vote for a Dem. and don't see me doing it anytime soon. There are no more Zell Millers that I know of and none here in Texas, for sure. I also haven't been to the movies since Titanic (or maybe it was Starship Troopers, one of the two). I'll watch a movie a year later on DVD, but I see no reason to subsidize an industry and people who belittle where I live, how I vote and my core beliefs.

Mike said...

Not always mutually inclusive, meant.

AndrewPrice said...

An occupational hazard! LOL!

True. It's amazing how "socialism has never been tried before." Ug. Delusional idiots and liars. The truth is that socialism has been tried everywhere in all kinds of forms and it has a 0% success rate and tends to end in a really high murder rate.

AndrewPrice said...

Mike, Same here. I think of myself as a "classical liberal in the 19th Century mold" with libertarian leanings. I've never voted for a Democrat and I kind of have to hold my nose when voting for most Republicans. I understand that government has a place, but it's a much smaller place than it occupies today and it's a much less corrupt place at that, and I would love to see a more streamlined, more open, less crony government.

Glad to hear that you like Zulu. I get the sense that a lot of people love this film because there really is so much to love about it -- great scenery, great writing, great acting, great music, tension (even when you know what's coming) and a rousing adventure mixed with some very thought-provoking lessons. In a lot of ways, this is a model for what films should hope to achieve.

In terms of seeing movies, I rarely go. I usually wait until they come on television or I can rent them. Part of it is that I don't want to support people whose views I don't like and who insist on smacking me with them, but part is also that most modern films just aren't worth the price. That said, when I find one that I think is really worth it, I do buy it because I like to support people who make great films. :)

On Damon... agreed. He's a really good actor and can be very likeable on film. I just try to avoid his political films and I don't like him at all personally.

Mike said...

I guess I still give Hollywood some money when I buy an older video out of the bargain bin at WalMart, but at least it's not nearly as much as it would be if I went to the theater.

The reason I've been making mistakes in my posts is because I'm exhausted; I've spent most of the evening reading and commenting on some posts about the Bush library. The thing that's been annoying me most is those saying Bush was a moron. Graduating from Yale and learning to fly a fighter jet isn't something a moron could do.

On one Amarillo TV station's Facebook post, a person said how stupid Bush was and I went to their wall to find that they had dropped out of a local 3rd rate JUCO and their page was full of linked posts from HuffPo and D.U. There was a quote from Julia Roberts about where Republican was in the dictionary, I'm sure you know the one. When your source of wisdom is a ditzy actress...well, there's no sense in arguing with that person. It's easy to see they're projecting when calling Bush a moron.

I wonder if Howard Zinn owed Damon a kickback for touting his book in Good Will Hunting?

AndrewPrice said...

Mike, Liberals like to believe that they are smarter than everyone else. There are several reasons for that. For one thing, projection -- people like to project their own worst failings onto others. For another, liberalism is the ultimate herd-instinct belief system, so they need to believe that anyone who isn't part of the herd must be stupid because that reinforces their belief that they have made the right choice. Also, liberalism is premised on arrogance, the idea that I know better than you how you should live your life. Hence, they label their opponents as stupid -- always have.

In terms of Bush, I don't think he was a stupid man, but I think he didn't understood politics. He seemed to believe that turning the other cheek is an effective political strategy even though that's probably the worst thing you can do in politics. So he let the left define him and that built on itself day after day and issue after issue until it basically paralyzed his administration. I think he was also beset by bad advice that resulted in lots of little mistakes that kept coming back to bite him. Obama is no better, but his mistakes get covered up the MSM. And I would argue that Obama is probably a good deal dumber as a person than Bush.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

There are no traitors or evil CIA people manipulating events...

To be fair, from what I've read in recent years, the FBI and CIA have their own bureaucratic incompetence to deal with. I was actually thinking about this the other day: it's a thin line between portraying one of those agencies as "evil" vs. "prone to occasional mistakes."

Like you said, it's cliched to have the token CIA villain but we both know some folks out there will take umbrage if the US is portrayed as anything less than perfect!

As for this movie... never saw it, but I plan on rectifying that situation one day, hopefully soon.

Re: He can tell you his heritage back before time began and he sees himself as the descendent of the heroes who shaped the world.

Wasn't General Patton the same way? In that film, George C. Scott has a speech to this effect (he sees himself in a similar way) and even Goldsmith's score plays its role in this, with its echoplexed trumpets reinforcing Patton's belief.

Michael K said...

"Not sure if it's factual, but I once read that the British were badly beaten at the previous Battle of Isandlwana because they couldn't get their ammunition boxes open quickly enough; it seems no one could find or they had forgotten the pry bars used to open them."

Victor Davis Hanson in "Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power" has a chapter on the Zulu War with a detailed account of Rorke's Drift. As Mr. Price mentioned the British at Isandlwana were too spread out limiting the effectiveness of their breech loading Martini-Henry rifles.

Michael K said...

The Zulu War occurred during Disraeli's premiership. Disraeli's Conservative-Tory party pushed for imperialism. It was Liberal Party led by Gladstone who opposed Disraeli's colonial adventures. The label Liberal referred to a classical liberal/libertarian ideology.

Retro Hound said...

How does this compare with Zulu Dawn (1979)? Are they the same story? Is Dawn the earlier battle? Would they make a good double billing?

Backthrow said...

Retro Hound,

I haven't seen ZULU DAWN myself yet, but the general consensus, from I've read, is that it's a good film (co-written by Endfield, but not directed by him this time) but stands in the shadow of ZULU's overall greatness, even though it features some bigger stars (Burt Lancaster, Peter O'Toole). It's about the earlier battle, so it's very much a prequel. It would probably make an excellent double bill, though a long one; together, a program both films would run about 5 hours.

Here's a concise, but pretty detailed review of a recent Blu-ray release from one online critic who's been a long-time fan of ZULU DAWN. He's normally pretty left-wing in his views, but largely behaves himself here.

BIG MO said...

Won't be able to read this for some time, but thanks for the review! This film's been on my must-see list for a long time. (I've only caught parts of it on cable.)

djskit said...

Zulu is on Netflix streaming...as stated, this is one of the finest war movies ever made and is on my "must watch" list for any war film buff.

The sheer "spectacle" of the production should also be mentioned. No CGI and it would appear they had thousands of locals assembled for some of the scenes. The chanting and singing of this many warriors is chilling.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Hollywood doesn't portray the CIA as incompetent, it portrays them as packed with double-agents and people with secret agendas. Also, since the CIA is no longer menacing enough, they switched to the NSA and then "an agency few people have even heard of.

Patton claimed to be reincarnated from some of histories greatest warriors.

AndrewPrice said...

Michael, From what I've read, the ammo problem existed as well and it was caused in part by the lines being spread out so far that they couldn't be supplied quickly enough.

You're right about the difference between conservatives and liberals at the time. It's interesting how the labels in other countries and at other times don't match our yet, we tend to think they do.

AndrewPrice said...

Retro Hound, Zulu Dawn is the later "prequel" to Zulu. It was written by Cy Endfield and co-directed by Endfield. IMO though, it just "lacks" compared to this film. It doesn't have nearly the same level of tension, the amazing cinematography or the great acting.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, I've seen it and I thought it was a good film... but doesn't quite compare to Zulu. Everything about Zulu just pulls you in, whereas Zulu Dawn has more of a "you are watching a film" feel to it.

AndrewPrice said...

Retro Hound, Sorry, let me correct something: Endfield did not direct Zulu Dawn -- just looked it up to make sure. He just wrote the screenplay.

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, It's totally worth seeing. This is a very strong film -- as evidenced by it's staying power.

AndrewPrice said...

djskit, Agreed completely. This is one of the finest war films ever and is a must-see.

I'm also very thankful this was done before the age of CGI. This film would stink with 43 million CGI Zulu pixels charging 10 million British pixels. This film feels completely real because they used real people.

Critch said...

A remarkable movie and favorite of every military lifer I've ever met. Those of us who spent a lifetime in the military see discipline, courage, and planing as the lifesaver for the British soldiers. The Zulus were tough, capable, and brave; qualities you don't want to see in your enemy. Thsi is one of my all time favorite movies, I must 3 or 4 copies of it in VHS and DVD...no Blu-Ray yet,,,my favorite quote is from the old Colour Sergeant, "They don't like it up'em, sir." That's from a time when bayonets were bayonets, and not tent pegs.

AndrewPrice said...

Critch, I wasn't aware this was so popular in the military, but I can understand why. It shows an enemy who is a real challenge -- an enemy you have to respect. It shows that what won the day is exactly what you say -- courage, discipline and excellent planning. It shows the kind of camaraderie you get when people are put under extreme pressure. It shows people achieving their best when the chips are down. And it's just fascinating to watch. Even knowing the ending, it's still tense throughout, it's that well shot. Seriously, look at how close the bodies end up and imagine if you were just a second slower.

My favorite line is anything said by the Sergeant who is just amazingly calm throughout.

LL said...

Highly recommended reading:

Like Wolves on the Fold: Defense of Rorke's Drift (Col. Mike Snook)

How Can Men Die Better: The Secrets of Isandlwana Revealed (Col. Mike Snook)

If you enjoy the subject, you'll enjoy the read.

AndrewPrice said...

LL, Thanks! I'll check those out. I find this whole era rather fascinating.

T-Rav said...

I would recommend The Politically Incorrect Guide to the British Empire to anyone wanting to know more about the fight against the Zulus and colonial rule in South Africa in general. It's pretty fascinating, and that was where I learned about the Battle of Rorke's Drift.

All Michael Caine films are good, with very few exceptions, and Zulu is not one of those.

AndrewPrice said...

Caine really is a guy who not only does an excellent job acting, but also does seem to pick quality films.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

Caine is also open about the movies he's done strictly for the money.

Re: Jaws 4, he once said, "I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific."

Critch said...

The British line was spread way too thin at Isandlwana, they could not concentrate their fire. The rifles were a single shot Martini-Henry 45 caliber rifle, similar to our 45-70. I'm not sure it was ever said outright, but books most certainly suggested that the British were way too cocky going into Zululand, much like Custer did a few years before.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I think I've heard that quote before. Either way, it's exceedingly honest -- something you rarely see in Hollywood.

AndrewPrice said...

Critch, I would think that arrogance definitely mattered. Plus, it seems that whenever a war starts, the commanders are usually one-war behind in terms of tactics.

PikeBishop said...

Racist?

How about the fact that the opening scene is a mass Zulu wedding, observed by the missionary and his daughter. It shows their traditions in a respectful way (the lovely bare breasted girls were a bonus treat when I first saw this at 14, but hey).

They depict these men as real human beings, off to battle and leaving many of those girls widows after their wedding night, not CGI created, stereotypical eeeeeeeevvvvviiiillll villians that the heroes waste by the thousands, as Andrew puts it so well.

A line that always gives me chills...."At one hundred yards......volley fire....present......FIRE!

AndrewPrice said...

Pikebishop, I think the re is a segment of the population who have been told that basically anything that touches upon race is racist unless it's done by a recognized modern liberal with racial cred and it shows minorities as superior to whites. I think those people are incapable of understanding any sort of nuance or grasping messages.

Ironically, if Spike Lee did the identical film frame by frame, I would bet that they would consider it to include a strong anti-racism message. That's how stupid I think those people are.

Patriot said...

Andrew.....Two favorite scenes/lines from the movie:

Colour Sergeant: Wait for it

Scene: When Chard has the riflemen line up in 3 rows when there is no where else to go and they shoot volleys by line. "First line - - FIRE; Second Line - - FIRE; Third line - - FIRE" two or three times and the warriors just pile up at their feet. Basically, a constant hail of fire not so dissimilar as a Gatling gun at the time.

Great movie and excellent review.

Oh yeah....another favorite scene....
Lieutenant John Chard: [the Zulus are chanting before their final charge] Do you think the Welsh can't do better than that, Owen?

Private. Owen: Well, they've got a very good bass section, mind, but no top tenors, that's for sure.

LL said...

What most people fail to connect is that the Zulus were armed with firearms, not merely asgais when they encountered the 24th at Islandwana. The same thing (sales of firearms to natives) was going on there that was going on in North America at the same time (sales of firearms to the Souix) that led to the demise of most of the 7th Cavalry at the Little Big Horn, a few years before.

The movie fails to point this out as it fails in some other somewhat important aspects -- though I'm a fan of the film.

PikeBishop said...

Another great one:

COLOUR SGT. BOURNE: It's a miracle,Sir?

CHARD: Well if its a miracle Colour Sergeant then its a short chamber Boxer-Henry point four five caliber miracle.

BOURNE: And a bayonet sir, with a bit of guts behind it.

AndrewPrice said...

LL, Zulu actually implies the opposite by saying that the rifles the Zulus are using were taken from the destroyed column. There are other historical inaccuracies too. Still, I don't hold it against the film because as historical films go, this one is pretty accurate.

AndrewPrice said...

Patriot, That is impressive, isn't it? I couldn't imagine charging into that. I just don't see how you could survive.

I like that line too.

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, That's a good line to. It very much says, "give credit where credit is do -- this was a man-made miracle."

Voz said...

"I saw you Hitch...you're alive..." "Thank you very much sir!"

I saw this movie when I was a kid and have loved it since...the version I saw when I was little had the wedding scene in the beginning but later versions I've seen cut it out, as well as the column of cavalry riding through and not staying to help...
I was never sure why those scenes were cut but it didn't seem to cut into the story so I didn't mind too much...but I've had the music from this movie in my head since I first saw it...I haven't forgotten it.
Another great scene was when they British soldiers all start singing back to the Zulus.

AndrewPrice said...

Voz, That's pretty funny -- "I saw you Hitch."

I'm not sure why they cut the things they do. My guess is that they thought audiences weren't tuning in for those things, but I think they definitely add to the story.

El Gordo said...

Zulu is a great movie (with the Blu ray, I have now paid for my third copy). But the leftism of its makers is quite evident, it just feels restrained because modern audiences have been hit over the head with agitprop so often.

As a crew member says on a commentary track, Endfield, Baker ... "they were all communists". I think they knew that the audience wouldn´t accept blatant anti-British propaganda. I also like to think that they had a lingering respect for the soldiers, with the good war in recent memory. And it is true that the old-style lefty was often different from the modern type.

The final chapter of George McDonals Fraser´s war memory "Quartered safe out here" gives a good account of what his fellow soldiers wanted in 1945 and why they voted for Labour despite their admiration for Churchill. They simply wanted a degree of respect, a less class-ridden society, social mobility. As Fraser tells it, they were horrified when the left went on to destroy their whole culture within thirty years.

Nonetheless, that is what happened. Did the filmmakers belong to the old left or the new left? I don´t know. They did as much as they could get away with. The drunken useless priest is an invention. The cry of the surgeon "God damn you butchers" is an invention and not something an officer would have said to a fellow officer at a time when they were all fighting for their lives. Making a malingering antiauthoritarian rebel out of "model soldier" Henry Hook was seen as an insult by his family. And so on.

It´s still a great movie because at the time there was enough moral capital left in Britain and so a balance was reached. The endpoint is something like the 2002 version of The Four Feathers, a truly ahistorical, stinking pile of political correctness.

AndrewPrice said...

El Gordo, There's no doubt that the filmmakers leaned left and intended a leftist message. But ironically, the message they came up with leans rather libertarian.

I think that was because the left had adopted classical liberal ideas at the time because they knew they couldn't win the public with the hardcore leftist stuff they had been pushing because it was too close to Nazism and Soviet communism. So they adopted classical liberalism as a means to win over the public with the hope that, once they won the public, they could pull in the other aspects of socialism.

The end result was a lot of leftists saying things that today would be considered deeply anti-left. In fact, if this film was made today, I would imagine leftists howling in anger at almost everything about it.

Totally agree about Four Feathers, what a worthless smarmy film.

PikeBishop said...

Hey Andrew, El Gordo brought it up, I think its time for a "Four Feathers" 2002 version Commentarama review? What say you?

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, Sadly, that means I would need to watch it again, which isn't really something I want to do very much. Let me think about it.

El Gordo said...

"In fact, if this film was made today, I would imagine leftists howling in anger at almost everything about it."

Definitely. But who would make a film today that has the left howling? The liberals don´t hide their bias anymore. John Milius seems to be retired. I can´t think of anyone else.

Reviewing The Four Feathers might be an easy fish-in-a-barrel kind of exercise but it is probably not worth the time. It´s funny though. This is one movie I hated from the very first minute. If you remember, it begins with blurry shapes crashing into each other and somehow I knew immediately what the director was doing. It´s a football game, they are keeping it out of focus so we don´t know if we are seeing a game or men fighting in war. One team is wearing red like the red tunics of the British soldiers at the time. Violent sport prepares young men for war. Someone had obviously heard the phrase that British wars were "won on the playing fields of Eton"... Somehow it seemed such a cheap and obvious metaphor that it turned me off within ten seconds. The whole movie turned out to be predictable like that.

AndrewPrice said...

El Gordo, I can't say I hated it from the opening, but it lost me very, very quickly. It felt like a film without a point -- like it was a film someone made because they thought it should be made, but not because they wanted to. And then add all the other problems.

Post a Comment