There’s a Michael Caine-sized hole in this two-disc SE, something that inevitably compromises an otherwise worthy celebration of a gloriously un-PC Britflick that’s wowed generations with its stiff upper-lipped heroics. Indeed, apart from some vintage B-roll of a bare-chested Sir Maurice soaking up the South African sunshine, there’s precious little to suggest what a pivotal moment this 1964 war yarn was in his nascent career.
Had Terence Stamp won the role of Lieutenant Bromhead, of course, things might have been different. Caine’s atypically plummy performance, however, is just one of the highlights in Cy Endfield’s thrilling recreation of the 1879 battle of Rorke’s Drift, that saw a record number of Victoria Crosses given to the survivors. Shot for a mere $2m, Endfield and producer-star Stanley Baker worked wonders in their salute to the courage underpinning one of the British military’s most celebrated engagements – not least in using a little sleight-of-hand to make their 250 Zulu extras resemble a force of thousands.
With Caine busy and Endfield, Baker and numerous others pushing up the daisies, it’s left to writer Sheldon Hall and second unit director Bob Porter to supply a commentary that’s as long on nostalgia as it is short on specifics. Both appear in a two-part Making Of from 2002 featuring late actor James Booth and an anecdote from Baker’s widow about British and African crew members bonding to a Tom Jones disc. Of the featurettes, though, only a brief delve into John Barry’s score justifies its inclusion.