Zulu (1963)

A thoughtful account of British soldiers’ heroic defence of an outpost against vastly superior Zulu forces in 1879, famed for its gripping battle sequences.
“We re-enacted all the fight sequences in our playground... As a boy’s own adventure, it stands tall and proud, but I think it’s something way, way beyond that.” Stephen Woolley, introducing a BFI screening of Zulu, 2011 With a small band of red-coated British soldiers holding off hordes of African warriors, Zulu could easily be seen as a celebration of imperial might. But that would be to overlook the leftist credentials of director Cy Endfield – in exile after blacklisting in his native America – and writer John Prebble, author of Culloden. The filmmakers insist on the defenders’ respect for their Zulu foes, while highlighting class tensions between the English officers (Stanley Baker and Michael Caine) and their Welsh troops. The real appeal, however, lies in the expert build-up and final eruption of tension in an extended sequence of escalating combat, aided by one of John Barry’s most rousing scores. Director Cy Endfield also worked with Stanley Baker on Hell Drivers (1957) and Sands of the Kalahari (1965), and later co-wrote a prequel, Zulu Dawn (1979).
1963 United Kingdom
Directed by
Cy Endfield
Produced by
Stanley Baker, Cy Endfield
Written by
John Prebble, Cy Endfield
Richard Burton, Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins
Running time
135 minutes