When Zulu came out, I was around 8-9. It was the most stunning thing I’d ever seen. Admittedly I didn’t have a wealth of cinema experience to compare it to – Mary Poppins, A Hard Day’s Night, a couple of Hayley Mills films and Saturday morning B movies, but the thin red Welsh line on the Tooting Granada wide-screen was a vision to behold. Actually, I think I was most affected by the chanting in the fantastic Zulu wedding scene, but the whole thing was overwhelming to my tender emotions.
I fear it still is, if I were to watch it again.
Word spreads like wildfire on the savannah, so the whole male half of Gorringe Park Junior School had made the same pilgrimage at various points through the fortnight of its showing. This resulted in the design of a new playground game – yep, you guessed it – Zulu! To modern eyes, it was about as politically correct as Bernard Manning, but there was a smattering of black kids among the throng – on either side.
As you may also have guessed, this involved most of the school gathering at one end of the tarmac playground while about a dozen kids knelt at the other end behind a bench with pretend rifles. A terrifying scream was then let out by the many as they then ran hell for leather at the thin red line the other end, shouting “Zuluuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!” and waving imaginary spears. Many would then fall over dead on to the tarmac, because that’s what Zulus did. The ones who reached the other end then engaged in some kind of mock hand-to-hand combat. I’m not sure if anyone “survived”. Once the smoke of battle was cleared, we would do it all over again.
Needless to say, the whole spectacle inspired terror in the hearts of the teachers, who – after a glorious fortnight or so of freedom, and many injuries to the participants – banned it. Such Philistines. I fear the euphoria of running across a terrain en masse shouting slogans might have been the inspiration which sparked the subsequent adolescent lifestyle choice of several participants – that of 1970s Chelsea football hooligan.
I’ll get my coat.
By Andy Davey