(director: Douglas Hickox; screenwriters: Anthony Storey/story by Cy Endfield/Cy Endfield; cinematographer: Ousama Rawi; editor: Malcom Cooke; music: Elmer Bernstein; cast: John Mills (Sir Henry Bartle Frere), Burt Lancaster (Colonel Dumford), Peter O’Toole (Lord Chelmsford), Christopher Cazenove (Lt. Coghill), Denholm Elliott (Lt. Colonel Pulleine), Nigel Davenport (Colonel Hamilton-Brown), Simon Ward(William Vereker), Bob Hoskins (CSM Williams), Ronald Lacey (Norris Newman), Anna Calder-Marshall (Fanny Colenso), Freddie Jones (Bishop Colenso),Dai Bradley (Pte. Williams), Simon Sabela (King Cetshwayo); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Nate Kohn; Video Treasures; 1979-USA/Dutch)

Arousing visual spectacle.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A rousing visual spectacle that’s a prequel of the Cy Endfield directed Zulu (1964). He’s this film’s co writer with Anthony Storey, which is efficiently directed by Douglas Hickox (“Entertaining Mr. Sloane”/”Theatre of Blood”/”Brannigan”). It’s based on a true incident in British history. In 1879, 1,300 British troops were massacred at Isandlwana by 25,000 warring Zulus. It shows the Brits as unsympathetic arrogant colonists who wage a foolish war and ineffectively do battle against the spear-chucking natives. It results in the worst defeat ever for the Brits against a native population.

The bull-headed Sir Henry Bartle Frere (John Mills) gives the Zulu chief a ridiculous ultimatum for him to follow English law and have trials or else the Brits will wage war with him. Confident that they are superior to the natives in intelligence because of race and have better weapons (rifles), under the leadership of the arrogant know-it-all Lord Chelmsford (Peter O’Toole) the Brits attack. The Zulu chief, King Cetshwayo (Simon Sabela), is in a hurry to do battle and then go to harvest to feed his hungry people, arranges for three of his warriors to get captured and give the enemy misinformation about their location. Chelmsford falls for this trick and makes the fatal decision to split up the troops. Colonel Dumford (Burt Lancaster) is left alone to face the full brunt of the Zulu attack, after failing to talk Chelmsford out of his decision to hunt down the Zulus based on his faulty intelligence.

The heart of the film depicts the slaughter of the uptight land-grabbing Brits under Dumford and his brave officer William Vereker (Simon Ward), the best soldier of the aristocrats, and the valiant commoner sergeant (Bob Hoskins), who were attacked by wave after wave of Zulus on foot with spears and shields until they were all slaughtered in Zululand.