Saturday, January 23, 2010

This Day in History: Battle of Rorke's Drift and the opening scene of Zulu.

One of the greatest war film openings of all time somehow seems fitting. Today marks the 131st anniversary of the Battle of Rorke's Drift. It was one of the defining moments for both the British Empire, and some historians argue the west writ large. The werewolf is an unapologetic military and imperial history buff, and a huge fan a classic war films. Richard Burton's dour voice-over along with the scenes of the devastation of the annihilated British column pave the way to one of most timeless cinematic experiences out there. Not to mention, it was one of Michael Caine's breakout roles.

Imagine roughly 130 English soldiers at a trading post in the middle of hostile Zulu country, about forty of whom are wounded or ill, getting the news of the total annihilation of their main force a few miles away. On top of that bad news, they learn that 4000 Zulu's are bearing down on them and Zulu culture does not permit prisoners to be taken. They are low on ammunition, in a weak tactical position, and going up against an emboldened warrior nation that outnumbers them more than 35 to 1. Intense.

It many regards, Rorke's Drift is a Victorian era version of the Battle of Thermopylae. The legacy of the battle showed that extreme discipline and cohesion allowed the British to successfully repel enough Zulu assaults to allow time for reinforcements to arrive. A great moment in military history when David routes Goliath. Can you dig it? The werewolf sure as hell can.

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