Wednesday, 11 June 2014

The Big Night - Zulu 50th Anniversary

So as mentioned already on the blog last night was the big night – the 50th Anniversary screening of the British epic Zulu. I have to say I was as excited as and excited man could be…

Tuesday morning I checked I had the tickets before I set off for the train…check.

Just before lunch I decided to check the tickets were still there…check, however I also started to read through the blurb that accompanied them and noticed to my horror that Suits and Ties were the appropriate dresscode. Damn my lightweight linen trousers just weren’t going to cut the mustard. Fortunately I had promised myself a new suit given I have just found a new job so I headed off into the shops near the office. As I approached my destination I realised that the sole on my shoes was rather flapping about – a new pair of shoes as well – this was going to cost a small fortune.

Suffice to say and a few quid later I walked out of the store resplendent in a new blue suit and a smart pair of brogues. No more lead for this month ;-(.

The afternoon seemed to drag endlessly on, I shouldn’t complain too much as I am currently working out my notice and have a whole eight weeks off before I start my new role in late August.

Finally the clock struck 4.30 and I dashed off to meet my old man at Waterloo. The station was a nightmare, a double whammy of a train hitting a bus on a level crossing and somebody being taken ill at Vauxhall. Id agreed to meet him at 5.15pm but at 5.30pm no sign of him. Now my father has never got to grips with technology and despite buying him several prepaid mobiles over the last few years he steadfastly refuses to use them so I had no option but to sit and wait it out. All this time the leather in my new smart shoes is cutting into my ankles !

Panic over as I see him disembark from the train. A short hop to Leicester Square puts us outside the Odeon. The doors don’t open til 6pm so there time for quick pint in a local hostelry.

We make our way to the cinema. The crowd has somewhat grown. Its an eclectic mix of old aged men, middle aged men, several forces personnel and for some strange reason quite a few young women. I quickly realise that many of these young ladies are accompanying the older men – I guess it’s the second wife syndrome where you trade in the old model for a new model. Fortunately Mrs Shed has worn rather well over the years so I am not looking to replace her.
My father is wearing his old regimental tie (the Royal Fusiliers) which looks uncannily like one the guards regiment ties – apparently the bars on his are wider. So whilst waiting he was a accosted by several other old gentlemen looking for somebody to talk to.


The gates opened and we were ushered through onto the red carpet. There was an urgency to get folks through so little time was available to study the re-enactors on display and the Welsh Goat that had been brought along.

Into the cinema…by luck or by design all the seats were clad in leopard print ! We find out seats in the upper circle on which sits a rather fetching pink goody bag inside of which are some rather tasty apple crisps (dinner), a programme and a digitally remastered 50th edition DVD of the film. This has apparently a talk over by some leading historian who has studied the film.

We settle down and before we know it the programme begins.

Mark Kermode, the film critic, came out and praised the film and told the story of when his old man took him to see the film in the 1970’s – this all sounds very familiar to me and his poignant message that tonight was going to be only the second time he had seen the movie on the big screen strikes a chord. I can see that my old man is just so chuffed to be there.

Following Mark we have a presentation from Dan Snow, self titled the History Guy. Dan does a nice short synopsis on the Zulu Wars but judging by the audience only the young ladies are going to learn anything here.

A three piece singing set from Blake follows – pretty dire, sounds all wrong – enough said
Obviously the night was a charity event so we got the fundraising videos – all very good, not too slick which was nice, and carried the right emotion. Well done

 Then out marched the Welsh Military Choir – I had expected at least 30 or 40 guys but I suppose down to army cuts we got 8 men and a goat. They looked great resplendent in their uniforms but quite frankly their singing was atrocious. Their rendition of Men of Harlech should have been a highlight of the night but something was clearly lacking (more men I suspect).

The pints I had earlier were now starting to work their evil magic so I started to make my way down the stairs to the exit. I was abruptly stopped in my tracks by a burly security guard telling me that I had to sit down until Prince Harry had taken his seat. I sat down.

The next uncomfortable few minutes were spent listening to some bloke who had studied the Movies history and had some unseen footage from the film. It was interesting but I need a wee.

I had been hoping that Michael Caine might make an appearance. But he didn’t. He did however send a video with a short message wishing everybody well.

I wanted the toilet !!

Finally Prince Harry arrived and no sooner had he sat down, me and probably half the audience made a beeline for the loos. I returned to my seat just as Blake and the Welsh Choir started to sing the National Anthem. All good stirring stuff but no where near the buzz you get at Twickenham.

Finally, Finally the Movie started….

This was real joy to watch on the big screen  - it was emotional watching the movie with so many other fans – the picture was fantastic and the colours so vibrant. Sadly nothing had been done to augment the sound. When the film was originally made it was done in mono and I suppose in todays big blockbusters we are used to hearing surround sound. Last nights performance only had the sound emanating from the front of the stage and it was a little muted – if I can switch this onto four speakers at home I was surprised they didn’t do that in the cinema. This didn’t diminish the experience it merely could have been further enhanced.

As I settled down to watch this movie for what is probably the 50th time in my life I realised that the build up to the action is every bit as good as the final battle scenes. Indeed the big screen affect of seeing all the Zulus dancing in the Kraal was hypnotic, I wanted more. It also dawned on me that there were some fantastic characterisations in this movie – and the humour in the screenplay really came through with an audience surrounding me.

I suppose when you re watch a movie with the plot already known you can begin to take in the nuances and the pictures the director is trying to paint with the screenplay. This was particularly noticeable with the use of silence on screen. The next time you watch the movie its really worth watching out for these moments. At the other end of the scale John Barry’s score has stood the test of time. Perhaps my favourite part of the film is towards the end when the Zulus are charging and you can hear the Men of Harlech emanating from the mealie bag ramparts.

 Before I knew it the film was finishing off with Richard Burtons masterful narration.

A great end to a great film, a film that has delivered so many wonderful memories and continues to excite 50 years on.

A big thank you to my wife for giving me these tickets and a big thank you to my old man who introduced this movie to me so many years ago.  







  1. Sounds like a great night! Glad you enjoyed it, despite the royal inconvenience!

  2. "Zulu" is probably my most favourite film of all time like you I've seen it well over 50 times (including once in German without subtitles !) and will always watch it on the TV, but the first time I saw it when it first came out in the 70's, it left its mark on me for all time.
    It does sound like you were with a large number of like minded people and had a great time i whish I'd been there.

  3. Great review, gave me a real sense of 'being there'!

  4. I think your Mrs Shed is a top lady. Well done to her and to you for a top report.