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September 26, 2003
DVD Upgrade

About a month ago, I wrote

whoever put the DVD version of Zulu on the market needs an assegai stuck squarely into his chest.
I wasn't kidding.

Zulu, for the uninitiated, is the story of the Battle of Rorke's Drift. Told with the usual in-filling of artistic license, the film nevertheless conveys a pretty good picture of the battle, 22-23 January 1879, in which some 150 British soldiers held off about 4,000 Zulu warriors, forcing them to withdraw with heavy casualties. Redcoats of the 24th Foot, a mostly Welsh regiment, were awarded 11 Victoria Crosses for the action.

[By way of comparison, only four men received the Medal of Honor for the D-Day landings at Normandy. And yes, the British are notoriously stingy with the V.C. - in 1879, there was no allowance for posthumous awards, for instance.]

The DVD release of Zulu which I had was put out by some outfit called Diamond Entertainment. I bought it because it was the only DVD release available in 2000.

It profoundly sucked.

In every way a DVD could be awful, this one was. My heavily-worn VHS copy from 1988 was better than that craptastic DVD. Extra features: nonexistant. The video quality was appallingly bad, as though someone had videotaped it off a screen in a theater - complete with "pan and scan". The sound was equally bad - a particularly awful flaw for a movie so heavily reliant on singing.

[Singing? In a war movie? Yes, singing in a war movie. Think "Welsh Choir meets Ladysmith Black Mambazo." But it fits - and really works. You have to see and hear it.]

At the local Circuit City yesterday, I spotted a Zulu DVD on the shelf... but it was different. This one was from MGM Studios - and at $10, worth picking up just on the off chance that it was better than what I already had.

Oh, yeah. Clean clear widescreen video - possibly remastered, but more likely taken from a clean print of the film. The audio was spectacular - I kept hearing things in there that I'd never heard before. Bear in mind that this is one of my all-time favorite films - I know it backwards and forwards... or I thought I did, at any rate. Add to that a bit of hearing loss I've suffered since 1988; the fact that I'm hearing new things speaks very well of this edition of the film.

Go. Buy. Now.

[Diamond Entertainment execs still deserve assegais in their chests for producing what has become my newest coffee-mug coaster.]

Posted by Russ at 11:51 PM, September 26, 2003 in DVD

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