The "ZULU" Films

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Posted by Rich on May 31, 1999 at 09:49:16:

Mentioned the movie "Zulu" yesterday ... though it takes place, obviously, in Africa, the situation there was very similar to that here in North America ... substitute Zulus for Indians, British for, well, BRITISH (and Americans).

Here's a bit more, in case any of you are interested in this fascinating era ... actually, there are 3 superb films, that are not only fun viewing, but excellent history lessons - as films go, extremely true to the real events.

The first, "Zulu," is the one on the History Channel in June. Filmed in 1964, it stars Michael Caine & Stanley Baker (not Trevor Howard as the History Channel blurb I quoted stated). Like Champ, I won't give away the ending, but it's a riveting, action packed, story of a little more than 100 British soldiers defending a remote mission outpost against 4000 Zulu warriors. Powerful soundtrack, great performances, beautiful scenery, bravery & sacrifice from both opposing forces, stellar action sequences ... and it stays true to the real events. You'll actually know what really happened after viewing this film. Its quality belies its '64 making!

The prequel to this, released in 1979 (I think), is "Zulu Dawn", starring Burt Lancaster. All the above accolades apply. This film covers the initial British invasion of Zulu Land. The entire second half is a brilliant depiction of the Battle of Isandlwana - 20,000 Zulus battling a strong British force, in the open, under the shadow of the mountain for which the battle is named. 4,000 warriors, who never really got involved in the fray, went on to launch the attack on Rourke's Drift, the subject of the first film.

Then there is the lengthy, multi-part, epic, "Shaka Zulu." A while back I think I recommended this film as a good example of history explained from the both the viewpoint of written history & oral tradition. It runs something like 9 or 11 hours, I forget, but you won't get bored! It's the story of Shaka (I don't know the name of the actor who plays the part, but he's brilliant in the role - defines it really, much like Wes Studi as Magua). This was made in the 80's, but the story predates the other two films. It, in great detail, tells the tale of Shaka, and how he turned a small, weak tribe into the most powerful military force on the continent, redefining African warfare in the process. Robert Powell (?) - the actor who plays Jesus in "Jesus of Nazareth" - puts in a strong performance as well.

Watch 'em all, in historical sequence, and you will absorb a WEALTH of knowledge - and have a good time to boot! I can't think of another subject that is covered in as historically accurate fashion - while maintaining a good story - as this one is.

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