Directed by Cy Endfield
Written by Cy Endfield and John Prebble
This is a very classic period style movie. One of these ones where everyone is very clean and their clothes well pressed, they speak to each other as if they’re on stage. Based on a true story of the Anglo-Zulu war, it feels in the current political climate, like it’s made to be pro-war propaganda. I suppose it was just made to celebrate the war heroes though.
It’s a pretty classic ‘small group defending against a huge army’ story, but with a confusion of invading forces and who’s in the right. Obviously we’re supposed to identify with the white people, the mix of Welsh, English, Swiss who have invaded the land of Natal and made farms alongside the ‘savages’ but I find it hard to care too much about them. It is African soil they’re standing on ‘defending’ and the Zulu seem to have a pretty fair point in getting rid of them.
It was filmed on location in South Africa and the cinematography of the landscape is lovely. The sweeping shots of the massive Zulu army, the sequences where they vanish into the tall grass, it’s all very beautiful. However the special effects of the fighting is very much a let down. There’s clear stabbing past people, someone dying because a bayonet was gently pressed against his belly, and red paint when they do show blood (rarely). It enhanced the feel of it all being a play. I feel like better fight and make up were available at this point in cinema history but I imagine the budget went towards the hundreds of extras and filming on location maybe?
Does it make me love the people? Like, sort of. I like Hook, who pretends to be sick so he doesn’t have to fight. I think because I can relate to it a bit. I wouldn’t want to fight either.
I liked the singing sequence, the Zulu song was beautiful and the retaliation of the English with their song, it’s a nice moment. Probably my favourite in the movie. Then when the Zuly return at the end to sing for the honour of the English fighters it’s a nice follow up. More war films with singing, say I.
Bechdel test: There are a whole lot of unnamed Zulu women, and we get to see their breasts because it’s ‘savage’ etc, but only one named white woman.
Mr Witt: you’re all going to die! Can’t you see? Don’t you realise? You’re going to die! DIIIIEEEE!
(okay so this bit is pretty bleak, but still. It was pretty on the money.)
State of Mind: Richard Burton does have a lovely narration voice, doesn’t he? Maybe I’ll listen to the War of the Worlds again. Overall this movie felt very samey for me, much like others I’ve watched, not too many surprises, not too much to make me feel sympathy or fear. I’d rather watch Magnificent Seven than this again (same basic plot). I mean, yeah, impressively made. But not exactly enjoyable.