Friday, February 27, 2015
FEBRUARY SHORT STORY READALONG: The Battle of Lake Borgne
The second story in our readalong is appropriately about the Battle of New Orleans. Appropriate because it is the bicentennial anniversary of the famous battle. Here in Louisiana we take that battle seriously and do not buy the bull crap that because it was fought after the Treaty of Ghent was agreed to, it was laughably useless. Would the British have given New Orleans back if they had taken it? Highly unlikely. You know why that is a big "what-if"? Because Andrew Jackson whipped British ass so we did not have to find out the answer to that question. The story is entitled "The Battle of Lake Borgne" by George Eggleston.
Most people, including Louisianians, don't know that the climactic showdown of January 8 was the third of three noteworthy actions. George Eggleston included the stories of these two neglected actions in his book "Strange Stories from History" which was published in 1886. Eggleston aimed his book of nonfiction short stories at a young audience and they read like adventure stories. Surprisingly, the stories are not "gosh-wow". The two I read as part of this project are on the Battle of Borgne and the "Battle in the Dark".
The "Battle of Lake Borgne" tells the story of the British assault on a small flotilla of American gunboats that were trying to prevent a British landing on the shore of Lake Borgne. Eggleston does an excellent job outlining the British and American strategies. We understand why the battle took place and the advantages and disadvantages of each side. This builds to the description of the action which has a ring of swashbuckling to it. Eggleston does exaggerate the fighting for his boyish audience (it actually lasted only five minutes), but he does not blatantly tamper with history. He is much more constrained than a movie would be.
The second story tells the tale of the night assault by Jackson on the British camp. Eggleston refers to Jackson's army as a "posse comitatus of ragamuffins". Possibly the only time that awesome phrase has ever been used in literature. His description of the chaos of the attack is outstanding. I have never read anything better that points out why generals are reluctant to roll the dice on night actions. This passage, more than the main battle of January 8, confirms what a bad-ass Jackson was. Eggleston makes the pitched battle in pitched dark exhilirating. Since most readers will not know the outcome, there is quite a bit of suspense. I loved the description of how units would identify themselves and then wade in if it turned out they were on opposite sides. Needless to say there was a friendly fire issue.
Eggleston closes the story with an aftermath that outlines the importance of the tactical defeat for the Americans. He only briefly touches on the main battle, but manages to destroy that old chestnut that the Americans used cotton bales as part of their barricades. You the man, Eggleston!
At first I was a little upset that the story was nonfiction. I assumed all the stories would be fictional. I read enough nonfiction already. However, because of the nature of Eggleston's style and the audience he was writing for, the story reads like fiction. Since I have a bit of the fourteen year old boy in me, I really enjoyed it. It has a certain verve to it. More importantly, Eggleston is quite complimentary of the British. He is not just stoking the flames of patriotism. He credits bravery when he sees it. Not only is the story entertaining, but it does a better job on the history of the battles than I found in several encyclopedia entries.
GRADE = A
Next up: The Boy Commander of the Camisards
Saturday, February 21, 2015
CRACKER? The Great Santini (1979)
“The Great Santini” is a military movie based on the novel by Pat Conroy. Conroy used his own father as the main character and the novel is the story of growing up in a family run by a domineering military man. The movie was directed and co-written by Lewis John Carlino. It opened so poorly that the studio tried changing the name to “The Ace” and then sold the rights to HBO. The reviews were so good that the studio tried reopening it, but its debut on HBO destroyed its box office. The movie did receive two Academy Award nominations - Best Actor (Robert Duvall) and Best Supporting Actor (Michael O’Keefe).
Lt. Col. “Bull” Meechum is introduced as “the warrior without a war”. He is a hard-drinking asshole who is prone to jeopardizing his career by showing contempt for his superiors. He runs his family like a Drill Sergeant. The further he is from action, the more hell they catch. None of his family is remotely like him. His wife is a classic military wife, but not a classic war movie wife. She does not give her husband any ultimatums and he does not have to choose the service over his family. In this respect, she is more typical of a military wife than what you see in most war movies. She loves her husband, but has to act as buffer between him and his children. His oldest son Ben (O’Keefe) is a star basketball player, but too sensitive for Bull. In a crucial scene, Bull bullies his son in a one on one basketball game. Bull really hates to lose. Later, he forces Ben to man up during one of his high school games. Bull hates any show of weakness. He refers to his youngest son as “a little homo”. His daughter Mary Anne (Lisa Jane Persky) plays the role of the rebellious teenager. She is feisty and funny and Bull does not know what to make of her, of course.
A subplot involves the friendship of Ben with a black teenager named Toomer. Since the movie is set in Beafort, South Carolina (and shot on location there), Toomer is the target of local racists. Ben gets caught in the conflict and it culminates in a tragedy. The crisis results in a family moment of catharsis that moves them on the path to reconciliation and the movie toward a happy ending which is thankfully avoided.
As I mentioned, “The Great Santini” is not really a war movie, but it can be described better as a movie about a military family. Having grown up in a similar family, I can attest to the realistic depiction of a family that is run by a Lt. Col. as though it is a military unit. I am pleased to say that the family dynamics in my family were not as Hollywood-worthy as those of the Meechum family. Thankfully, Bull is not representative of all fighter pilots during peacetime. The movie takes your stereotypical hot shot pilot and gives him a family in peacetime and then lets matters take their course. The movie has been commended as an accurate portrayal of a fighter pilot’s family, but while that fraternity certainly chaffs at the lack of action, only a small minority take it out on their families like Bull does. They are the ones whose sons write novels about them. My father may have awakened his kids with “It’s time to get up in the morning!” like Bull does, but he and his comrades were more warriors doing their peacetime job than warriors without a war. Hollywood loves outsized personalities so we get troglodytes like Meechum. By the way, I have read that the Marines cooperated with the film because they found that Bull’s outstanding leadership qualities and his deep-down love for his family would make him the new Sgt. Ryker. But Ryker was not such an asshole and did not inflict himself on a family.
|the cowed and the Bull|
The strength of the movie is in the acting. The cast is excellent. Duvall is his usual outstanding self and has a rare role where he hams it up a bit (another is the similar Kilgore from “Apocalypse Now”). He does such a good job that you wonder if the movie does not have a happy ending after all. O’Keefe is able to stand his ground against a force of nature. Danner is perfect as the anachronistic wife. I can only wonder if my own mother would have put up with a Meechum-like husband or what it would have been like to have a father like him. I know I appreciated my father after watching this movie.
The movie has a made-for-television feel to it because of the low budget. In spite of that, it gets the atmosphere right. Filming in South Carolina adds to the Southern flavor and lends itself to the subplot of racism. The scene in the high school gym reminded me of many small town gyms I have been in. The flight scenes are excellent and that is attributable to the cooperation of the USMC which provided a squadron of F-4s. The movie even manages to get a mock dog fight in.
“The Great Santini” is an excellent soap opera set in a military context, but it cannot be considered for my 100 Best War Movies because I am not comfortable with it as a war movie. Plus I cannot get past feeling it misses its mark due to the main character being odious, in my opinion.
GRADE = B-
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Hell is for Heroes (1962)
“Hell is for Heroes” is an anti-war movie released in 1962. The movie originated with writer Robert Pirosh who had already scored with “Battleground”. Pirosh was a veteran of WWII. He had been a Master Sergeant in the 35th Division and served in the Battle of the Bulge. He was awarded the Bronze Star. The incident in the movie was supposedly based on his experiences. Unfortunately his war experiences did not prepare him for working with Steve McQueen. McQueen arrived on set unhappy and stayed that way. He did not want to be in the film and made it clear to everyone involved. It was not method acting. He was a huge pain in the ass and Pirosh (who was supposed to direct) walked out on the production. Don Siegel (his only war movie) replaced him which was probably for the better as he was able to stand up to the obstinate star. The filming was an unpleasant experience for all involved with his fellow actors being nettled by McQueen’s surliness. Siegel put his stamp on the movie by insisting that it be bleakly anti-war. He took all of Pirosh’s black comedy out, but the studio forced him to include the Bob Newhart telephone monologue.
The movie is set near the Siegried Line in 1944. A squad is sent to an outpost to deceive the Germans into remaining on the defensive. It is your typical heterogeneous unit of potential survivors. Thrown into the mix is the recent replacement named Reese (McQueen). He comes with a chip on his shoulder the size of a log. He was recently demoted and is surly about it. It seems he is a decorated warrior who “cracks up when the pressure is off.” On the other hand, his comrades are not happy with the advent of new pressure. Their mission is to maintain a stretch of the front line and make the more numerous Germans across no man’s land think they are a much larger unit. This involves stunts like rigging up a jeep to sound like a tank. When they discover a listening device in their bunker, this gives Newhart (who plays clerk PFC Driscoll) to do one of his popular telephone routines pretending they have a much larger force. This is one of the most bizarre moments in war movie history.
The attempts at deception are only semi-successful because the Germans raid during the night and let the whittling begin. We started with eight and won’t end up with eight. For some faux tactical reason, Reese convinces the men that tit deserves tat. He leads a raid on a German pill box. This involves a suspenseful crawl through a mine-field (suicidally using their hands instead of knives to probe). Reese sets himself up for redemption in the climactic assault against the Siegfried Line.
“Hell is for Heroes” has developed a cultish reputation over the years. This is in spite (or due to) its limited budget and Siegel’s direction. The movie was filmed mainly at the studio and they should have been thankful they did not have to film in Siegel’s back yard since the suits were very stingy. The cast was constantly angry about things like malfunctioning weapons. The movie ends abruptly because they ran out of film! The obstacles overcome (including McQueen) adds to the mystique of the movie.
The cast is first rate with James Coburn, Bobby Darin, Fess Parker, and Nick Adams. McQueen dominates as was his wont, but he gives a remarkable performance as one of the iconic anti-heroes. Of course, you could argue that he was not actually acting. He was acting out. He certainly has the thousand yard stare down pat. It was Newhart’s debut and his phone routine, while hilarious, is out of place in this particular film. Unfortunately, other than the Reese character, there is little character cdevelopment.
The movie has a made-for-television feel to it - specifically, “Combat!” (which Pirosh went on to create). The movie even has music straight out of that TV series. The dialogue is sparse with little of the soldier banter you would expect from men awaiting possible death. The action is well-staged with some good combat scenes. At one point Reese is fighting hand-to-hand and throws his helmet at a German. Most of the action takes place at night which adds to the vibe. This was not a Siegel touch, but instead was called for because of the brutally hot daytime temperatures. The cinematography has some bells and whistles and the sound is good for a low budget effort. The set is nice with authentic looking dragon’s teeth and fox holes. The weapons are fine with Reese using a grease gun (a very cranky M3), but not carrying the correct ammunition. The technical adviser must have slept through most of the production.
Pirosh’s script was reworked a bit and ended up being Siegel-worthy bleak. It does not avoid clichés as it has a fallen hero who finds redemption. The old heel to hero arc. It is firmly in the “who will survive?” subgenre. It lacks in realism as some of the deceptions are borderline silly, but it’s hard to get upset with a movie that does not care what you think about Newhart doing one of his comedy routines.
Does it crack my 100 Best Movies list? I doubt it, but it is a must-see for war movie buffs
GRADE = B-
Thursday, February 12, 2015
HISTORY or HOLLYWOOD: Zulu (1964)
"Zulu" is often mentioned when the most historically accurate war movie is discussed. Let's see how it holds up to scrutiny.
1. The Witts are visiting the village of Cetewayo and witness a mass marriage ceremony when word arrives about the Zulu victory at Isandhlwana.
2. Chard is an engineer building a pont at Rorke’s Drift.
3. Bromhead returns from a hunting trip and meets Chard for the first time.
4. Word of the defeat at Isandhlwana arrives from a Boer named Adendorff.
5. Rorke’s Drift is a supply depot/camp that is also the site of the Witts’ mission.
6. Chard takes command because of his seniority of just two monthes.
7. Witt claims Cetewayo is part of his parish and he wants to take the sick to safety. Witt is an alcoholic.
8. Adendorf describes the Zulu “buffalo horn” tactic.
9. Bromhead suggests going into the hills and ambushing the Zulu. Chard decides to defend the post by building walls out of mealy bags and wagons.
10. A unit of Boer cavalry arrives, but refuses to stay and reinforce the garrison.
11. Witt encourages the native troops to run away. Chard arrests him and later sends him away.
12. The Zulu sneak up and then stand clashing their spears on their shields. They advance, but stop to take fire. Adendorf explains that the Zulu leaders are determining the strength of the British garrison. They then withdraw. Adendorf estimates that there are 4,000 Zulu.
13. A Zulu unit armed with rifles start firing from a ridge overlooking the camp. It is implied that the Zulu are armed with Martini-Henrys taken at Isandhlwana. The British return fire (including Chard with his pistol at 300 yards).
14. The Zulu attack in waves. Chard shifts men to hot spots. Bromhead leads a reserve squad. The fighting is bayonet to assegai. Some of the Zulu break through the walls.
15. Cpl. Schiess leaves the hospital to help and ends up saving Chard’s life. Chard is wounded in the neck and is taken to the hospital where Surgeon-Major Reynolds is taking care of the wounded.
16. The Zulu assault the hospital and set fire to the roof. Bromhead climbs on the roof to fight. The Zulu get into the hospital and the patients and soldiers cut holes in the walls to escape from room to room.
17. Hooks is a malingerer, but becomes a hero in the defense of the hospital.
18. At a crucial point in the battle, the cattle get loose from the kraal and blunt a Zulu attack.
19. During the night, to the light of the burning hospital, the attacks continue. The movie implies that the attacks are piecemeal and held off by gunfire.
20. The next morning the two sides serenade each other. The British sing “Men of Harlech”.
21. The Zulu launch one last assault and the British retreat to the last wall. Volleys end the attack.
22. A calling of the roll leaves the impression that the percentage dead is high.
23. The Zulu salute the British and then leave.
1. The Witts are visiting the village of Cetewayo and witness a mass marriage ceremony when word arrives about the Zulu victory at Isandhlwana. HOLLYWOOD Otto Witt was a Swedish Lutheran pastor who had purchased Rorke’s Drift and established a mission. His attempts to Christianize the Zulu’s on the other side of the border had been unsuccessful and he attributed this to the traditionalism of Cetewayo. He actually favored the British invasion and would not have been a guest at a Zulu ritual on the eve of the battle. Witt was at Rorke’s Drift the whole time and he had sent his family away. He did not have an adult daughter. The movie implies that when the King hears of the battle, he orders the attack on Rorke’s Drift. Actually, Ceteswayo had given orders for the Zulu army to stay on its side of the border.
2. Chard is an engineer building a pont at Rorke’s Drift. HISTORY Chard was assigned the task of constructing the pont and actually had been to the camp at Isandhlwana and returned the morning of the battle.
3. Bromhead returns from a hunting trip and meets Chard for the first time. HOLLYWOOD The two officers had met earlier and their relationship was not adversarial as depicted in the film.
4. Word of the defeat at Isandhlwana arrives from a Boer named Adendorff. HISTORY Adendorf was one of several survivors who stopped at the camp and reported the disaster. He was the only one to stay and was thus the only person to fight in both battles.
5. Rorke’s Drift is a supply depot/camp that is also the site of the Witts’ mission. HISTORY
6. Chard takes command because of his seniority of just two months. HOLLYWOOD Maj. Spalding was in command and when he left to get reinforcements, he left Chard in command after checking who had seniority. Chard was three years senior to Bromhead.
7. Witt claims Cetewayo is part of his parish and he wants to take the sick to safety. Witt is an alcoholic. HOLLYWOOD Witt left to go to his family after witnessing the Zulu army approaching from a hillside. A Reverend Smith stayed for the battle. He helped hand out ammunition and gave moral support. There is no evidence Witt was an alcoholic.
8. Adendorf describes the Zulu “buffalo horn” tactic. HISTORY The Zulu’s are famous for using a tactic that involved double envelopment. They did use this tactic at Isandhlwana, but the movie includes this scene to imply they used it at Rorke’s Drift when in reality it was mainly piecemeal frontal attacks.
9. Bromhead suggests going into the hills and ambushing the Zulu. Chard decides to defend the post by building walls out of mealy bags and wagons. HISTYWOOD Bromhead and Chard did consider evacuating the post, but it was Assistant Commissary Dalton who insisted that leaving in a column with the wounded would play into Zulu hands. The British did construct walls out of mealie bags, biscuit boxes, and overturned wagons. This process had already been started by Bromhead and Dalton by the time Chard returned from the pont.
10. A unit of Boer cavalry arrives, but refuses to stay and reinforce the garrison. HISTYWOOD A unit of Durnford’s native cavalry (they would have been mostly black) did arrive and was posted forward, but they withdrew when the Zulu approached because they were low on ammunition and felt the situation was hopeless. They were not led by Stephenson, he was the leader of the native infantry that runs away.
11. Witt encourages the native troops to run away. Chard arrests him and later sends him away. HISTYWOOD Witt had nothing to do with this incident. They deserted soon after the cavalry left. Two British officers (including Stephenson) went with them and one of them was shot in the back by a British soldier. These soldiers would not have been in uniforms, by the way
12. The Zulu sneak up and then stand clashing their spears on their shields. They advance, but stop to take fire. Adendorf explains that the Zulu leaders are determining the strength of the British garrison. They then withdraw. Adendorf estimates that there are 4,000 Zulu. HOLLYWOOD In the first attack, the Zulu did not attempt to surround the camp. They came straight on and the British opened fire at 500 meters and the Zulu returned fire. The Zulu were quiet. They came on steady until about 50 meters out when they were enfiladed by volleys from wall by the storage building. This blunted the attack and some of the Zulu regrouped and made a dash for the front of the hospital where some crossed the barricade and there was some bayonet to assegai contact. This lasted only several minutes before the Zulu retreated to the brush. Smaller attacks followed. Adendorf’s estimate is a good one.
13. A Zulu unit armed with rifles start firing from a ridge overlooking the camp. It is implied that the Zulu are armed with Martini-Henrys taken at Isandhlwana. The British return fire (including Chard with his pistol at 300 yards). HISTYWOOD The Zulu did fire from the hillside. It was basically a nuisance due to the inaccuracy of the motley weapons the Zulu had. They were not armed with captured Martini-Henrys. The movie implies the Zulu were the army coming on after its success at Isandhlwana when actually the force was the Zulu reserve which had not tasted blood in that battle and wanted some glory of its own.
14. The Zulu attack in waves. Chard shifts men to hot spots. Bromhead leads a reserve squad. The fighting is bayonet to assegai. Some of the Zulu break through the walls. HISTYWOOD The movie accurately reflects the intensity of the fighting, but exaggerates the number of bayonet and assegai wounds. Most of the deaths were caused by bullets. Eventually, Chard withdraws to the wall by the storage building abandoning the hospital.
15. Cpl. Schiess leaves the hospital to help and ends up saving Chard’s life. Chard is wounded in the neck and is taken to the hospital where Surgeon-Major Reynolds is taking care of the wounded. HISTYWOOD Schiess is one of the heroes of the battle. He was in the hospital with blisters and was subsequently shot in the foot, but at one point he left the hospital to kill several Zulu who had approached the wall. I found no evidence that he saved Chard’s life or that Chard was wounded and went to the hospital. Reynolds did do great work with the wounded, but it is unlikely that he was not cynical as portrayed in the movie. He even left the hospital area occasionally to deliver ammunition. His fox terrier Dick was by his side throughout the fight.
16. The Zulu assault the hospital and set fire to the roof. Bromhead climbs on the roof to fight. The Zulu get into the hospital and the patients and soldiers cut holes in the walls to escape from room to room. HISTORY The Zulu did concentrate on the hospital and managed to capture it after several assaults. Bromhead fighting on the roof is pure Hollywood, but the depiction of the chaotic fighting in the hospital is a strength of the movie.
17. Hooks is a malingerer, but becomes a hero in the defense of the hospital. HISTYWOOD The character assassination of Hooks is the biggest canard in the movie. He was actually a good soldier and a teetotaller. He was assigned to help defend the hospital. His family was incensed with his portrayal. As far as his actions once the battle began, they are well done. By the time Hook escaped from the building it was dark and Chard had withdrawn to the inner perimeter.
18. At a crucial point in the battle, the cattle get loose from the kraal and blunt a Zulu attack. HOLLYWOOD The Zulu captured the kraal after several attempts, but I found no reference to patriotic cattle helping the Brits.
19. During the night, to the light of the burning hospital, the attacks continue. The movie implies that the attacks are piecemeal and held off by gunfire. HISTORY The movie downplays the numerous attacks during the night by the light of the burning hospital. These assaults were held off by rifle fire. The attacks died down after 2 A.M. and there were only desultory shots ceasing around 4 A.M.
20. The next morning the two sides serenade each other. The British sing “Men of Harlech”. HOLLYWOOD Pure bull shit. It was not even a Welsh regiment so they would not have sung that particular song.
21. The Zulu launch one last assault and the British retreat to the last wall. Volleys end the attack. HOLLYWOOD There was no fighting after 4 A.M.
22. A calling of the roll leaves the impression that the percentage dead is high. HOLLYWOOD Out of 140 men, the British lost only 17 killed and 10 wounded. The Zulu deaths were estimated at over 500.
23. The Zulu salute the British and then leave. HISTYWOOD A large force of Zulu (probably unrelated to the ones who participated in the battle) did appear on a hill and stayed for about an hour before moving on. There was no equivalent of a salute.
RATING = .46
I am aware that this rating will upset some people. Many will be surprised that is much more inaccurate than "Zulu Dawn". I am a fan of "Zulu" and think it is one of the great war movies, but too many people think that because it combines great entertainment with history that it is great history. It is not. The treatment of Hooks alone eliminates it from any discussion of the most accurate war movie. I did a lot of research on the battle, but I am open to any corrections.
Monday, February 9, 2015
HISTORY or HOLLYWOOD: Zulu Dawn
1. Frere issues an ultimatum to Cetshwayo accusing him of abusing his people. He and Chelmsford plot together to bring on the war so the British could invade Zululand.
2. Chelmsford’s army consists of a mixture of regulars, native militia, Durnsford’s cavalry, and colonial volunteers like Vereker.
3. A Zulu collaborator delivers the ultimatum to Cetshwayo.
4. Some of the British are against the invasion and question Frere’s justification.
5. Norris-Newman is a newspaper correspondent who is critical of Chelmsford.
6. The first contact comes soon after crossing the Buffalo River when some Zulu scouts are run down and killed.
7. Three Zulu warriors allow themselves to be captured and tortured in order to give false intelligence about the location of the Zulu army. They later escape to warn the Zulus.
8. Chelmsford refuses advice from a Boer about the advisibility of laagering the camp at Isandhlwana.
9. A Boer rancher arrives and tells Chelmsford that the Zulu army is heading his way, but Chelmsford prefers to believe the tortured captives.
10. Durnford arrives and tells Chelmsford that the main Zulu army is heading their way seeking a battle before harvest time. Chelmsford orders Durnford to reinforce Pulleine.
11. Chelmsford takes part of the army to find the Zulu army and ends up camping eight miles away and stopping for a luncheon.
12. Durnford sends Vereker to set up some pickets and in the process of chasing some Zulu herders, they run into the Zulu army which immediately moves on the British camp.
13. The British regulars set up double lines outside the camp.
14. The Congreve rocket battery is isolated and quickly overrun.
15. Chelmsford receives a vague message that Pulleine is under attack, but does nothing.
16. Durnford leads his cavalry forward and runs into the enemy and makes a stand.
17. Quartermaster Bloomfield is slow in distributing the ammunition.
18. Vereker’s unit joins Durnford, but they are forced to withdraw and as soon as they make it back to the camp the Zulu’s come storming in.
19. Melville, Coghill, and Vereker try to save the colors.
20. Pulleine commits is killed in his tent.
21. Durnford is shot from on top of a wagon and is then speared.
22. Chelmsford arrives at dusk to survey the disaster site.
1. Frere issues an ultimatum to Cetshwayo accusing him of abusing his people. He and Chelmsford plot together to bring on the war so the British could invade Zululand. HISTORY A Boundary Commission had found no evidence of Zulu intentions to expand across the border so Frere had to fall back on the killing of two of Cetshwayo’s wifes who had taken refuge in Natal. Frere decided to take action on his own against government policy because a done deal would be accepted.
2. Chelmsford’s army consists of a mixture of regulars, native militia, Durnsford’s cavalry, and colonial volunteers like Vereker. HISTORY The total force was 6,670 regulars of the 24th Infantry, 2,000 of the Natal Native Contingent, 2,000 colonials, 17 cannons, and one Congreve battery. The force was divided into three columns and Chelmsford led the central column which is covered in the movie. The movie does not accurately depict the hundreds of large wagons pulled by up to twenty oxen.
3. A Zulu collaborator delivers the ultimatum to Cetshwayo. UNKNOWN I could not determine how Cetshwayo found out about the ultimatum, but the movie does accurately show how he decided to call out his impis and fight for their land.
4. Some of the British are against the invasion and question Frere’s justification. HISTORY
5. Norris-Newman is a newspaper correspondent who is critical of Chelmsford. HISTYWOOD There was a Norris-Newman and he exemplifies the embedded Victorian journalist. They typically sided with the army that they were travelling with and it is unlikely he would have been a cynic. There public would have been expecting pro-British articles.
6. The first contact comes soon after crossing the Buffalo River when some Zulu scouts are run down and killed. HOLLYWOOD The crossing was watched by Zulu scouts but it was uneventful.
7. Three Zulu warriors allow themselves to be captured and tortured in order to give false intelligence about the location of the Zulu army. They later escape to warn the Zulus. HOLLYWOOD I assume this was inserted into the movie to develop a recognizable Zulu warrior, to show the craftiness of the Zulu, and to highlight British treatment of Zulu captives. In fact, when two Zulu scouts were actually captured and reported the position of the Zulu army, Chelmsford insisted it was elsewhere.
8. Chelmsford refuses advice from a Boer about the advisibility of laagering the camp at Isandhlwana. HISTORY Chelmsford had total faith in the power of the Martini-Henry and felt laagering the camp would be an unnecessary waste of time.
9. A Boer rancher arrives and tells Chelmsford that the Zulu army is heading his way, but Chelmsford prefers to believe the tortured captives. HOLLYWOOD
10. Durnford arrives and tells Chelmsford that the main Zulu army is heading their way seeking a battle before harvest time. Chelmsford orders Durnford to reinforce Pulleine. HISTYWOOD Chelmsford sent out a reconnaissance force under a Maj. Dartnell. When he encountered Zulus he went on the defensive and called on Chelmsford for reinforcements. Chelmsford sent orders to Durnford to go to Isandhlwana, Durnford did not receive the orders personally from him.
11. Chelmsford takes part of the army to find the Zulu army and ends up camping eight miles away and stopping for a breakfast. HISTORY Chelmsford left with 2,000 men, but when he made contact with a Zulu force he called for more force and thus ended leaving only 1,350 at Isandhlwana. The breakfast has been overblown as there was no wagon and no fine china and silverware.
12. Durnford sends Vereker to set up some pickets and in the process of chasing some Zulu herders, they run into the Zulu army which immediately moves on the British camp. HISTYWOOD A picket sent out by Durnford led by Lt. Raw (not Vereker) was chasing some Zulu scouts when they crested a ridge and encountered the main Zulu force. Although the Zulu had not planned on fighting until the next day because of an ominous new moon. The Zulu quickly adjusted and launched their attack.
13. The British regulars set up double lines outside the camp. HISTORY The lines were advanced further than the movie indicates, but that is no big deal.
14. The Congreve rocket battery is isolated and quickly overrun. HISTORY The rockets went out with Durnford and were only able to get off a few rounds before being swamped.
15. Chelmsford receives a vague message that Pulleine is under attack, but does nothing. HISTORY Chelmsford was confident the camp could take care of itself. He still felt the main Zulu army was in front of him. In fact, when another more strident message arrived causing a unit to head toward the camp on its officer’s initiative, Chelmsford recalled the unit!
16. Durnford leads his cavalry forward and runs into the enemy and makes a stand. HISTORY Durnford pushed forward to make contact and was forced to go to ground soon after.
17. Quartermaster Bloomfield is slow in distributing the ammunition. DISPUTED Recent scholarship has revised the characterization of Bloomfield as an officious buffoon. He apparently was just being protective of the Chelmsford’s reserve supply and was under orders. He was soon convinced that the crisis overrode the orders. There has also been questioning of the belief that the British regulars were defeated due to a shortage of ammunition. The movie does do a good job of portraying the popular view of this issue.
18. Vereker’s unit joins Durnford, but they are forced to withdraw and as soon as they make it back to the camp the Zulu’s come storming in. HISTYWOOD Vereker fought on ridge separate from Durnford. Durnford’s retreat led to the collapse of the British right.
19. Melvill, Coghill, and Vereker try to save the colors. HOLLYWOOD Vereker did not participate in this. He was in the camp horseless when the final moments arrived. He found an abandoned horse and was going to attempt to escape when a soldier claimed the horse was his, so he gave it up and that was the last that was seen of him. Melvill did leave with the colors but they were furled. Coghill did not accompany him but was in the same group of escapees. They both died trying to cross the Manzimnyama River and the colors were lost to be recovered downstream later.
20. Pulleine is killed in his tent. HISTYWOOD No one can be completely sure how he died. A Zulu warrior was eyewitness to the death of a British officer similar to how the movie depicts Pulleine’s death, but it could have been another officer.
21. Durnford is shot from on top of a wagon and is then speared. HISTORY Durnford went down fighting in the chaos of the camp. The death is a bit enhanced, but it is acceptable.
22. Chelmsford arrives at dusk to survey the disaster site. HISTORY This actually happened after dark.
RATING = .68
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