Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
United Kingdom, 1964. Diamond Films. Screenplay by John Prebble, Cy Endfield, suggested by an article by John Prebble. Cinematography by Stephen Dade. Produced by Stanley Baker, Cy Endfield. Music by John Barry. Production Design by Ernest Archer. Costume Design by Hilda Geerdts. Film Editing by John Jympson.
Michael Caine‘s major film debut came about in this sober but exciting war drama. Following the defeat of British forces at the battle of Isandlhwana in January 1879 by South African natives, a British hospital readies itself when it is discovered that the victorious Zulu army of 4000 is heading their way. The men are barely an army, basically a group of Welsh infantrymen who are joined by the nearby Royal Engineers who are in the area to build a bridge. The Brits know themselves to be massively outnumbered, but stick around to give it their best anyway; meanwhile, the Zulu army is heading for victory but, as we know from history, the consequences to the country’s future are devastating. Cy Endfield directs with equal attention to action as to character, and allows more than a fair share of irony in this tale of battle that never easily labels any of its characters’ behaviour as heroic.