Friday, October 1, 2010

Movie Meme of the Day -- Zulu

This one's for Shazzy.

From the 1964 film ZULU, A small company (149) of Welsh soldiers, horribly miss-managed by their English superiors and nearly out of ammo, sing Men Of Harlech in the face of an overwhelming (over 3,000) force of Zulu Warriors.

Filmed in 1963 and Directed by American blacklisted director Cy Endfield, ZULU tells the story of the Anglo-Zulu war fought in the 19th century and marked the end of the Zulu empire in Africa.

The sequence is notable for its use of music, juxtaposing the Zulu war chants with the Welsh singing.  The action is fairly accurate to 19th century British warfare and accounts of the battle of Rorke's Drift.

Also accurate are the construction and use of the Zulu Iklwa.  Invented by Shaka Zulu himself, the Iklwa was a short spear with a long metal head used like sword or bayonet rather than thrown and the heavy shield.  Known as the Spartans of Africa, these methods and weapons built one of the world's great empires.

Africans used call and response singing in warfare for perhaps thousands of years to intimidate the opposition, but Shaka Zulu was particularly noted for his effective use of the method and his songs are remembered by his people to this day.

News reached the company at Rorke's Drift that a much larger Brittish force was slaughtered by the advancing Zulus.  More British forces were days away from offering any relief so the Welsh company at Rorke's Drift knew they had to defend themselves.

With only two stone and thatch buildings to protect them, the Welsh company of less than 150 and a handful of African guides made a perimeter around their camp using wagons and sacks of flour and provisions when a cloud of over 3,000 Zulu warriors appeared on the horizon.

The Zulus attacked in waves and the Welsh repelled them with volley fire of single-fire rifles and a few pistols.  Through the night the Zulus set fire to the roofs of both camp buildings and continued their attack.

The Welsh suffered fourteen dead to over six hundred Zulu.  At dawn the Zulus abandoned the field, not knowing the Welsh were moments away from being entirely out of ammo and defenseless save their bayonets and valor. 

Men of Harlech is a traditional Welsh song dating to the fifteenth century and used as the official march of Welsh forces even today. 

Men of Harlech, march to glory,
Victory is hov'ring o'er ye,
Bright-eyed freedom stands before ye,
Hear ye not her call?

At your sloth she seems to wonder;
Rend the sluggish bonds asunder,
Let the war-cry's deaf'ning thunder
Every foe appall.

Echoes loudly waking,
Hill and valley shaking;
'Till the sound spreads wide around,
The Saxon's courage breaking;

Your foes on every side assailing,
Forward press with heart unfailing,
'Till invaders learn with quailing,
Cambria ne'er can yield!


  1. Zulu is on my all-time favorite list, as much for the "Men of Harlech" scene as for anything else.

    Some additional trivia about the film: its opening credits include "Introducing Michael Caine"; Cetshwayo, the Zulu king in the opening sequence, was portrayed by a direct descendant, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who became a leading figure in South African politics shortly thereafter.

  2. One of the greatest films ever made. Love this movie.

  3. The story of getting the film made is about as interesting as the film itself. It was a triumphant return for Endfield who, only a few years before, was nearly hounded out of the business by the McCarthy Commission.

  4. YAY!!! come on ye Welsh

  5. Welsh kick ass!!! woot!!

  6. Bizzare coincidence time lol
    the actor James Booth appeared in the film Zulu ( the hospital fight ) and was also in "In the Doghouse"
    you might find the plot amusing boyd and apt.

    Your pal
    Dick T.

  7. the plot summary is "An entire species of aliens fleeing from a doomed planet sends an agent ahead to the planet Earth to prepare the way for the arrival of their minds, the only part of themselves they have been able to preserve. Since killing another sentient species is against their moral code, their agent decides that the most common and widely beloved non-sentient species on the planet, dogs, are to serve as the new vessels for his fellow aliens' minds. This he arranges for them by designing and selling a small solar power plant--disguised as a doghouse--that produces enough energy to serve the needs of an entire household with plenty to spare. This product is wildly successful, and soon there are more than enough doghouses with dogs in them to accommodate his people.

    When he brings his people into their new home, however, neither he nor his people have the foresight to realize that humanity is too blinded by its egotism ever to see its dogs as anything but pets. As such, he has doomed them all to the horrible fate of never being allowed to be anything but servants to the dogs' owners, since the humans are not aware of the aliens' intellectual superiority.

    Dick T.

  8. You may or may not like to know that the oficer and senior NCO were anglo-irish and English. I read that less than 15 percent of the regiment were Welsh (I'm guessing they were off sick at the time).

    You'll find that the English form regiments from all over the old and current empire. I have personal knowledge of English men who have and do command even Scots soldiers!

    The movie is wrong Boyd. I'm sure there were some Welsh people there, but I don't think it's right to change history on the strength of a movie. I expect you think that American pilots won the battle of Britain also.


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