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Zulu (1964)

The true story of the defence of a mission station and hospital called Rorke’s Drift, where 139 soldiers of the South Wales Border regiment held off 4,000 Zulu warriors during the Zulu War of 1879 – this is the stuff epics are made of.

On 22 January 1879, the British Army suffered one of its worst defeats when Zulu forces massacred 1500 of its troops. After the battle, a Zulu force of over 4,000 advanced on Rorke’s Drift. Zulu focusses on the ensuing 12-hour battle.

zulu-1964-001-michael-caine-fighting-zulu-warrior-00m-y9zThe battle scenes – which take up nearly half the movie – are superb and Michael Caine – in his first major screen role – is endearing (if not over-convincing) as upper-class twit Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead. Stanley  Baker, the Welsh Sean Connery, is an impressive study in big-sideburned machismo as Chard, in charge of the defence.

There are some great touches from the Welsh stereotypes on show too:  “They’ve got a good bass section but no decent tenors”, observes the troops’ choir leader of the massed scores of Zulus chanting war songs from the top of the ridge, before leading his comrades in a rendition of Men of Harlech.

Zulu was shot on location in the Royal Natal National Park, South Africa, and is narrated by Richard Burton (he performed the narration as a favour to Stanley Baker who co-produced the film).

Only 500 Zulus were available to work on the film, with 4,000 required for the battle scenes, so artificial figures were created.

zulu1964Watch carefully as they gather on the hilltops and look out for the legless, pre-digital Zulu “extras”.

Lieutenant John Chard R.E.
Stanley Baker
Otto Witt
Jack Hawkins
Margareta Witt
Ulla Jacobsson
Private Henry Hook
James Booth
Colour-Sergeant Bourne
Nigel Green
Richard Burton
Private Owen
Ivor Emmanuel
Surgeon James Reynolds
Patrick Magee
Sergeant Maxfield
Paul Daneman
Private Thomas
Neil McCarthy
Private Hitch
David Kernan
Corporal William Allen
Glynn Edwards
Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead
Michael Caine
Private Cole
Gary Bond
Private 612 Williams
Peter Gill
Private 593 William Jones
Richard Davies
Private 716 William Jones
Denys Graham
Gunner Howarth
Dafydd Havard
Corporal Friedrich Schiess, NNC
Dickie Owen
Private Hughes
Larry Taylor
Sergeant Windridge
Joe Powell
John Sullivan
Lieutenant Adendorff, NNC
Gert Van Den Bergh
Acting Assistant Commissary Dalton
Dennis Folbigge
Kerry Jordan
Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi
Daniel Tshabalala

Cy Endfield