35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Africa's Warrior King Returns To DVD In This Re-release Of 1986's Controversial Miniseries
, November 30, 2012
This review is from: Shaka Zulu (Remastered Edition) (DVD)
Run Time: While the listing as of the review date charts this at 300 minutes, this is in error. The miniseries runs approximately 8 hours and 40 minutes on this release.
DVD Details: If you own the prior DVD release and are only interested to know if this is a noteworthy upgrade, I'm not sure it's worth a reinvestment. While the picture is cleaned up with this remaster, it doesn't make a huge difference overall. Also, there are no audio option choices and the soundtrack can still feel a bit thin at times. No new special features are included either. The interviews with William C. Faure, Dudu Mkhize and Henry Cele are carried over. In short, if you already own--I wouldn't bother with this as an upgrade. If you don't own it, I do recommend it.
Sadly, I am old enough to remember when the epic 10-part miniseries "Shaka Zulu" debuted on American television in the mid-eighties. At the time, TV miniseries were a prominent and successful genre on network stations and many of them combined historical themes with personal stories to become rating blockbusters. This presentation from the South African Broadcasting Company (it is filmed entirely in South Africa) was picked up by cable affiliates to capitalize on that current interest. Like many entertainment programs with a basis in history, "Shaka Zulu" has been criticized through the years for playing fast and loose with the facts and for being largely speculative in detailing the more intimate moments of the story. That may well be and is certainly not uncommon for this type of programming, but I never expect a precise historical lesson when watching fictionalized entertainment. What the show did, and quite successfully, was to introduce a completely new world to viewers. This was my first exposure to the Shaka Zulu legend and I found the miniseries refreshingly different. So I jumped at the chance to pick up this newly remastered 4 DVD set.
"Shaka Zulu" tells the story of a nineteenth century African King who came to power through a combination of cunning and aggression. After uniting the warring tribes of his nation into a spectacular force, he then turned against Colonial rule in a stunning show of strength. It's nice to see the production shot from Shaka Zulu's perspective (as opposed to the British) and the story is characterized by a brutality that was uncommon at the time of its premiere. It is a terrific biography told over 8 hours and 40 minutes, but it is not always a perfect one. The pacing of the show can fluctuate wildly. Some moments are incredibly intense and unforgettable, other segments lull. There are elements of soap opera intrigue dropped into the story to personalize the characters that sometimes seem at odds with the rawness (and grandness) of the rest of the tale. Exiled as a boy, fighting in a ravaged land, and ascending to the top of the political spectrum in the ultimate act of defiance--sometimes there is almost too much going on to keep track of. Other times (including the first episode), you wish that more would be happening. Yet despite some of these minor issues, I heartily recommend "Shaka Zulu" to fans of historical fiction.
Perhaps the strongest selling point of this interpretation is the bold and fearless leading performance by Henry Cele. Cele is so strong and so magnetic, it is hard to tear your eyes away from him. His role has many layers, and Cele can be both charming and horrifying in equal proportion. The cast also includes some familiar faces in Christopher Lee, Edward Fox, and Trevor Howard. But despite the recognition factor and the uniformly good performances across the board, this really is Cele's piece to carry and he does so quite ably. Again, I won't contend that "Shaka Zulu" is a perfect presentation. Some of the authenticity factor is lost, as well, with an English soundtrack. It does, however, look great. The locations, staging, and other technical aspects are noteworthy. And I really think this stands as an interesting counterpoint to what American networks were producing at the time. Bold, riveting, and sometimes unpleasant, "Shaka Zulu" (despite a few issues) is still a relevant and entertaining look at a fascinating historical personage. KGHarris, 11/12.
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