DirectorCy Endfield
StarringMichael Caine
Stanley Baker
Jack Hawkins
Running Time135 mins

Defending the Mission Station

This is an extremely stirring film about one of the most famous battles of the imperial era; Rorke's Drift. The film tells the story of how a handful of soldiers in this small mission station withstood an attack by over 4,000 Zulus. The battle is made all the more poignant when the defenders find out that the main British column has been wiped out, days before, at the battle of Isandhlwana. A desperate fight ensues with some spectacular action shots. In fact, the film is truly a ripping yarn of the highest order. This is partly mythology as the Victorian Press needed to find an antidote to the disaster of Isandhlwana. The battle of Rorke's Drift fit that bill perfectly. Nevertheless, the history and this version of the story are nothing less than remarkable.

The young Michael Caine (this was his first film) plays a dapper subaltern who finds out that he has just been outranked by the Royal Engineer at the station played by Stanley Baker. The film follows their ambiguous relationship as they mature into mutual respect for one another. The star of the film is probably the Colour Sergeant (Nigel Greene) who of course plays the kind of NCO who is the backbone of the British army. And of course their is the lovable rogue thrown in for good measure; Private Hook.

The historical accuracy of the film is of course dubious to say the least, but do not let that put you off this film. This is one inspiring film with some simply breathtaking shots of charging Zulu impis and desperate hand to hand fighting. The sound track and Richard Burton's narration help to make this film a landmark in imperial filmography.

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by Stephen Luscombe