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Zulu

Year: 1964
Production Co: Diamond Films
Director: Cy Endfield
Producer: Cy Endfield
Writer: Cy Endfield
Cast: Michael Caine, Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins
We meet the occupants of a British military outpost in the unspoiled and beautiful wilds of South Africa as they try to stay civilised in the midst of chaos approaching over the hill. Even the power struggle between camp commandant Chard (Baker) and the slightly more rough-edged Bromhead (Caine, in his debut role) is handled in a manner befitting gentlemen, and the British will need all the mettle they can muster.

When their 140-strong company (including wounded) is cut off from their supply by the devastating defeat of a British company nearby by the native Zulus, they find themselves squarely in the path of the advancing enemy as it seeks to rid the area of them.

Over the course of the next few days and while running out of water, food and ammunition, the British (with the help of a Boer informer) repel wave after wave of Zulus, unafraid of the English guns and only too happy to die for their cause.

Partly a historic document, partly a love letter to the civilised nature of the British way of life as it conducts everything from making tea to waging war. Owing to the era, there's a surprisingly balanced view of the Zulu as people rather than dark hordes, but somehow still a childlike, cowboys-and-Indians mentality of ridding the world of brute savages, the Zulu fighters fodder for English guns as the fear of them overrunning the camp rises.

Thanks to a grandeur vision and the visual and editing patience to carry it out, Cy Endfield's sweeping account of the Battle of Rorke's Drift and the surrounding green hills and baking dirt are reminiscent of the work of David Lean and the shots that seemed to take in the entire Arabian desert.

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