perhaps one of Stanley Baker's greatest achievements in a movie career
which spanned both acting producing and directing. So impressed was
he with the real battle of Rorke's Drift between the indigenous Zulu
warriors and the British Army during the reign of Queen Victoria, that
he financed the entire movie project more or less on his own.
only produced but also starred alongside the young, fresh-faced Michael
Caine. Baker plays Lt John Chard, Officer Of Engineers who marginally
out ranks the rather pompous & arrogant Lt Gonville Bromhead (Caine).
army doesn't like more than one disaster in a day.' (Chard)
'Looks bad in the newspapers and upsets civilians at their breakfast'.
very much a pragmatic engineer (probably from a middle class family)
in his late twenties with plenty of military experience but mainly building
things. In contrast, Bromhead is very much a blueblood, with a family
tree full of high ranking officers but with little or no combat experience.
As these two tussle at the start of the film Bromhead assumes that fighting
is not unlike shooting tigers for sport – Chard knows that combat
is awful but resolves himself stoically to it.
A wonderful script is brought to life by some great acting, the greatest
of which is by Nigel Green as Colour Sgt. Bourne. His portrayal of Bourne
as a seemingly impossible combination of stern disciplinarian yet gentle
paterfamilias to his men, some of whom are barely past boyhood, is powerful
and downright moving in places; it ranks as one of the finest screen
performances I have seen, and makes the movie worth seeing for it alone.
If his work here is indicative of his ability, I am at a loss as to
why we never saw more of this fine actor.
superb contribution is that of Gert Van den Bergh who Adendorff –
the clever Boer who helps the British. It is sad to note that this actor
died just four years after making the film at only 48.
course Jack Hawkins nearly steals the scene as the pacifist missionary
whose parish encompasses the Zulus kingdom. A lovely scene is where
he tries to persuade the soldier guarding him to let him go –
only to be gently scolded by Col Sgt Bourne. Another great perfroamanmce
is by James Booth who plays the insurcable Pvt Henry Hook - a mailnger
and criminal. In the greatest form of redemption he undertakes to help
his fellow soldiers at the risk of his own life, thus winning their
repsct and a VC to boot.
can also forget the simply marvellous sound and editing – that
methodical drumming as the Zulus close in on the small camp. Well shot
camera angles (especially during the fire) brings the whole film to
colourful life. The DVD is in its original ratio of widescreen and very
much gives the film a Lawrence of Arabia feel with some very wide angle
panoramic shots of the African countryside.