We film buffs are a funny lot. We like nothing better than to criticise and show off our knowledge. So let me say that the assessment of Zulu in yesterday’s Rust was enthusiastic and fairly accurate.
There were a few omissions. The Zulus ran 48 miles with assegais on their back after their victory at Isandlwana. The South Welsh Borderers were defending a small place and had the Enfield repeat rifle. The Zulus were empire loyalists and totally mystified as to why they should be attacked.
As to the making of the film, Producer Joe Levine was on his uppers. A crucial role was played by Bob Porter, an expert in bringing in a film within budget. He came up with some strokes – as for example the famous scene when the Zulus gather on the escarpment he uses long shields and sticks, but no men – to save cost.
Although the film made Michael Caine a new star, this was not to be in the languid public school mould Grenville Broomhead but as the cockney in Alfie, The Italian Job and The Ipcress File films. Sadly it marks the demise of Jack Hawkins, but it produced memorable performances from Stanley Baker as Lieutenant Chard, James Booth as Hookie and Nigel Green as Colour Sergeant Bourne.
The other day I was in a film memorabilia shop. Dick Owen and Michael Caine are the only ones alive now from the cast and Owen has a collection of Zulu film memorabilia. He knew Caine early on in his film career and was instrumental in advising him on his successful audition.
Many great and not so great films are factually flawed, most recently Captain Phillips, where the reality is the crew are suing him. Daphne Du Maurier was furious about the portrayal of her husband Boy Browning in A Bridge Too Far. I don’t see this as substantive criticism. Although there are parts of the film that question war and warfare, notably the army surgeon played by Patrick Magee and the final conversation at the end between Chard and Broomhead it is essentially a film about valour and combat. It is rightly regarded 50 years on as a classic of British cinema.