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March 14, 2014

Movie Review: Zulu (Blu-ray, Twilight Time)

Reviewed by: Mike Heenan

Years ago, at the height of my 35mm collecting I got an unused dye transfer Technicolor trailer for Zulu.  Never having seen it before but knowing Michael Caine was in the film, I was excited to see it projected and when I finally did, I was hooked.  The colors simply just popped off the screen.  The film content itself looked very interesting as I’m a big fan of older epic films, but I never managed to see it until receiving Twilight Time’s amazing Blu-Ray release.

The film is a true life account of a regiment of British troops led by Stanley Baker and Michael Caine who are stationed in Africa at a missionary depot.  They are warned by traveling missionaries that a large group of Zulu warriors, having achieved mighty success earlier on against another regiment, are headed their way.  The regiment fortifies the mission and Stanley Baker pleads with no luck to traveling Boer horsemen to stay and fight with them.  In the vast distance appears 4,000 Zulu warriors, ready to battle against the 150-something troops.  The warriors initially attack with rifles.  The British are surprised at this and guess the warriors must have claimed the weapons from the earlier defeated regiment. The battle rages on in droves and the British manage to maintain their hold on the depot.

There is superb acting from Stanley Baker as Lieutenant John Chard, and Michael Caine as Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead.  Bromhead is initially miffed at Chard, who takes charge of the depot while Chard becomes the subordinate.  Actor Richard Burton provides narration of the story while not appearing in the movie itself.  The film is slow in some parts but the battle scenes makes up for it.

The video transfer projected on my 10 foot screen looks nothing short of spectacular.  Twilight Time has done another bang up job here with no or minimal noise reduction and the bright, saturated reds of the British Army’s uniforms stand out against the greens and browns of the surrounding landscape.  I have not viewed the British Blu-ray release, but after combing other reviews of it, this transfer seems to be the best.  The source is apparently from the 65mm master, and there is minimal damage to the print; occasionally there are white dust speckles.

The disc contains a DTS MA mono track as well as a DTS MA 2.0 stereo track.  70mm release prints contained a 6 track mag soundtrack, but perhaps those elements weren’t available for mastering. An audio commentary track with historians Lem Dobbs and Nick Redman details some of the film’s production as well as talking about how the film compared to the real life events.  An isolated score track is included as well and fans of John Barry’s work will really appreciate it.  There is also a MGM 90th Anniversary trailer as well as the film’s theatrical trailer, all in 1080p.  Even though extras are a bit sparse, Twilight Time deserves some accolades for trying to improve some of their titles from the bare bones existence.

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