Zulu review, Time, July 10, 1964, p. 96
Grand & Gory
Zulu vividly re-creates an episode from the British conquest of Zululand in 1870. Its heroes were some 130 redcoats who made a blood-and-guts stand against 4,000 proud Zulu warriors besieging the mission outpost at Rorke's Drift, Natal. Eleven of the survivors were later awarded Britain's coveted Victoria Cross, the most ever given after a single military action.
Improving on history, Director Cy Endfield has made a battle film in the grand carry-on-lads tradition of Four Feathers and Gunga Din. His characters are swiftly etched stereotypes, a drawback easily overlooked once the action begins to surge against the eye-filling sweep of Natal's brooding, beautifully photographed Drakensberg Mountains.
Soon an insidious clacking sound echoes through the surrounding hills. It is the primitive, awful din of short-stabbing spears hammered against rawhide shields. Now the threat becomes palpable. Across the horizon stretches a line of warriors clad n animal skins and necklaces of baboon teeth, wailing "Ustuto! Usuto!" (Kill! Kill!) The first wave sacrifices itself to test British firepower; then on they come, wave after wave, lunging, hacking, dying. For all but the squeamish, it is a grisly good show, and the film's climax is visually and dramatically stunning--when the fierce Zulus, some 18 hours later, roar acknowledgement of their enemy's die-hard courage and withdraw, shields raised in tribute.
That moment alone explains, perhaps, why Zulu is currently raking in more pounds sterling than any other film in the history of British cinema. After a spate of "kitchen dramas" filled with whining social protest, Zulu's bloodbath refreshes the spirit with its straightforward celebration of valor, tenacity and honor among men.