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Zulu Dawn
USA, UK, South Africa, Netherlands
Drama, Action, Adventure, History, War
IMDB rating:
Douglas Hickox
Burt Lancaster as Col. Anthony Durnford
Simon Ward as Lt. William Vereker
Denholm Elliott as Colonel Pulleine
Peter Vaughan as Q.S.M. Bloomfield
James Faulkner as Lt. Melvill
Christopher Cazenove as Lt. Coghill
Bob Hoskins as C.S.M. Williams
David Bradley as Pte. Williams
Paul Copley as Cpl. Storey
Donald Pickering as Maj. Russell R.A.
Nicholas Clay as Lt. Raw
Phil Daniels as Boy Pullen
Ian Yule as Cpl. Fields
Brian O'Shaughnessy as Maj. Smith R.A. (as Brian O'Shaunnessy)
Michael Jayston as Col. Crealock - Chelmsford's Headquarter Company
Simon Sabela as Cetshwayo - Zulu Kraal
Anna Calder-Marshall as Fanny Colenso - The Garden Party
Nigel Davenport as Col. Hamilton-Brown - Chelmsford's Headquarter Company
Peter O'Toole as Lord Fredric Chelmsford - Chelmsford's Headquarter Company
John Mills as Sir Henry Bartle Frere - The Garden Party
Freddie Jones as Bishop Colenso - The Garden Party
Storyline: In 1879 South Africa, the administrators of the British Cape Colony have designs to eliminate the Zulus as a hindrance to their colonial economy. To that end, the British present King Cetshwayo with an impossible ultimatum to provoke a war they are sure they can win easily with their rifles and artillery against native spears. However, that war proves more difficult than the arrogant British commander, Lord Chelmsford, expects as his overburdened army fruitlessly searches for the elusive enemy. However, in the shadow of a hill called Isandlwana, the overconfident British army learns to its sorrow just how badly they have underestimated the tactical skill and might of the Zulu nation.
Type Resolution File Size Codec Bitrate Format
DVD-rip 512x288 px 1389 Mb mpeg4 1726 Kbps avi Download
An unfairly maligned epic war film prequel
This well-intentioned prequel to the superior ZULU is an unfairly maligned movie that almost died on its box-office release. This is a real shame, because in many instances it resembles the genre of the 'epic' movie, with magnificent African location photography and culminating in one of the most ferocious, frightening, and unstoppable battle sequences put on film. The first hour or so is a little slow, as there are many characters to be introduced, although as is almost always the case with these 'all star' productions, most of the big names have very little to do.

Still, bit players like Bob Hoskins and Denholm Elliott put in small performances (the former as comic relief, the latter quite poignant) whilst the heavy stuff is left to the likes of Lancaster (as an Irish hero) and O'Toole (as a leader, making the same mistakes as he does in TROY). In addition, a literate script helps the viewer in understanding the principles behind the battle and the reasons that it turned into a massacre for the British (underestimating the enemy and poor supplies are the biggest issues here). In all a very good movie, well directed by Douglas Hickox and a fine portrayal of a historical event.
Great confused battle
It's 1879 South Africa. It's a clash of civilizations between the British empire and the Zulu nation under King Cetshwayo. When the King refuses to comply with the latest British ultimatum, the British declares war and invade. The British are under the command of the arrogant over-confident British commander Lord Chelmsford (Peter O'Toole). The troops cross the Buffalo river into Zulu lands and meet infamy at a hill called Isandlwana. Col. Durnford (Burt Lancaster) commands the Natal Native Contingent who tries to warn Chelmsford.

The first half has a bit too many uninteresting scenes. The British side especially needs to be streamlined. The encounter with King Cetshwayo is at least something different and has some tension. This has a great cast and a big production. It builds up to a great final battle. What I like most about the final battle is its wide ranging and scattered nature. It has the feel of reality as the British troops go into disorganized retreat.
Review of "ZULU DAWN" - by one of the crew & cast
This movie had the potential of being great - what with us going well over budget ($52mill) We had the stars - most being very professional but with two major flaws - with incompetents such as Douglas Hickox and Peter O'Toole (directly responsible for the over-budgeting) 2nd Unit Director, David Tomblin and Peter Mc Donald - 2n Unit film Director were largely responsible for saving the production - in many more ways than one.

Our skeleton crew had to re-shoot many scenes. It took a lot of serious brainstorming and communication with the amaZulu to be able to complete this very important depiction of one of many battlers that took place between the "natives" and the invading colonialist (Boer & British) armies.

The passion, pathos, emotion and pain of reliving this momentous battle had an immense effect on myself, especially as I was one of the isiZulu Interpretors and Liaison people - as well as one of the second assistants.

The scenery may well have been spectacular; but working in such close/intimate - trusting proximity with 6000 amaZulu warriors was an experience beyond all comprehension.

I still regard this movie to be a very valuable one - especially since the fall of the previous South African regime and highly recommend it.
An impressive recreation of the events leading up to and of the battle of Isandlwana. The cast quality was first class, but the film jumped about from British to Zulu camps and back again to much, and some more footage of the Zulu rulers and their decisions would have been nice.

As it is the film gave a fairly balanced account of both sides. The actual battle scenes were very impressive but given the area at Isandlwana were not as tightly shot as in Zulu nor as good, and thus the same atmosphere just wasn't there, with scenes jumping around, and you could not relate to the individual characters as much as in Zulu, as they were on and off screen to quickly.

The Zulu charge though was frightening, and you felt for the soldiers who had to meet it. In short, not as good as the original, and with some mistakes in the British weapons and some equipment, but a very good introduction to Zulu if you were to see both movies back to back.

After the amazing Zulu I expected this prequel to be more of the same. Sadly not. Although the location and battle scenes are stunning you never quite believe that it actually happened,unlike Rorkes Drift. A must own for Zulu war fanatics but that's about it.
You win some and you LOSE some.
1879, Sir Henry Bartle-Frere and General Lord Chelmsford decide to invade Zulu territory when King Cetshwayo turns down Queen Victoria's policy. This leads Cetshwayo to scrummage up his many of thousands of Zulu warriors to encounter the moving British forces. After capturing a couple of Zulu warriors, they feed them false information and Chelmsford splits up his force. Believing that their weaponry with overcome the vastly overwhelming numbers of the Zulus. This leaves his minor garrison of just over 1,000 British and African soldiers at Isandhlwana being swamped from all sides by over 20,000 Zulus.

Sometimes that perfect run has got to come to an end. Gloriously… disastrous and very downbeat does this large-scale war piece (a prequel of course) turn out to be and that's how it should. This underrated companion piece to the extravagantly triumphant "Zulu (1964)" is totally the opposite in manner and follows the true historical recount of the arrogant and disgraceful downfall of an unprepared army biting more than it could chew. Cy Endfield (the director and co-writer of "Zulu") penned the tactical screenplay and takes every opportunity to pinpoint the obvious blunders with sneering intent and that of the colonials' interference on cultural customs. It's truly a calculated and politically drawn up feature that goes for depth in its high moral ground and engagingly well-diverse characters.

Those looking for constant action (in the form of "Zulu") will surely be disappointed, as the pacing can get languid with little more than overly padded scenes making up most of the running time. Although sitting through it is worthwhile for its completely gallant and compelling final act. It's all about the film's final payoff and the closing battle is one extremely exciting and exceptionally staged passage of grand, intense combat. Watch as wave after wave of Zulus (quite a scary sight) outsmart and eliminate their enemies with such ease. In what you can call only a resounding massacre. The nail biting, non-stop action lasts for about 25 spectacular minutes and the spacious photography gives it a lot of scope! With multiple angles getting us in the thick of it. Elmer Bernstein's alarmingly heady music score sufficiently provokes the ever changing emotions of the situations. Director Douglas Hickox handles the action crisply and assembles many stirring visuals amongst the towering manoeuvres. Sturdy direction and vivid camera-work handsomely captures the exquisitely sprawling and lush backdrop to great effect. The tension is raised superbly and fittingly gets you anxious on what's to come, as most of the fool hearty British officers have no idea just how desperate their plight is.

A classy, all studded cast is on hand, but there's so many characters coming and going that some roles are more limited than others. A strikingly good Peter O' Tool plays the glassy, pig-headed General Lord Chelmsford and Sir John Mills provides very little to his sly profiteer Sir Henry Bartle-Frere. A dependably potent and gruff Burt Lancaster makes headway as Col. Durnford and a finely compelling Simon Ward as Lt. William Vereker a few of those who are concerned for. A lively amusing Bob Hoskins is part of the comic banter and gets a lot of those humorously witty dialogues. The drama side of the story might not be flawless, but you can't go wrong with the battles… oh no!

"Zulu Dawn" is a personal favourite of mine that seems to impress and improve exceedingly more each time I gaze upon it. A very detailed, and highly crafted war piece that's unjustly left in the shadow of "Zulu".
For an excellent explanation of true events at the battle
The film is excellent for the atmosphere it creates at what it must have been like with 20 odd thousand Zulu's coming at you in full force.

The Zulu battle tactic of the 'horns of a bullalo' are not explained at all in the movie and also the fact that the entire camp was surrounded and swallowed up in less than an hour.

Melville was given the colours to save on his own. He met Coghill at the Buffalo river, Having crossed the river, they were killed as Coghill was helping Melville climb up the river bank on the far side. Go to for an excellent write up on the battle.

There is an excellent audio cd by Ratray on the Anglo Zulu Wars that are a must for those interested.
Good and enjoyed it
Enjoyed the film as a prequel to ZULU. Not totally historically accurate, but reasonable. What ever happened to actor/stuntman Peter J. Elliott (Sentry)? Burt Lancaster seemed a little out of place, but at least he died well! O'Toole can always be relied upon to "lift" any film he appears in and Nigel Davenport always was a bit sneaky. I get the feeling that possibly the ZULU's would have remembered the battle slightly different. After all, they won! Not a glorious time in English history, but a very colourful one.
Contains one major spoiler
I am not a huge fan of war movies,but I felt that Zulu Dawn was a very good war movie.I find it entertaining to watch a high ranking English officer argue with subordinates,underestimate the strength and cleverness of the enemy,and commit a complacent tactical blunder.However,don't misread this review.There is much more to this movie than just an English officer making a mistake.Zulu Dawn contains everything that a good movie should have.Good plot,good dialogue,good battle scenes,a star studded cast,and a fine ending.One of the many things that I enjoyed about this movie was the stark contrast between the opposing armies.The English were very well dressed and equipped with advanced weaponry for that time period.Gun powder,cannon ball,and cavalry.The Zulu were hardly dressed at all and their weapons were very primitive.Spears and shields.It makes for an interesting battle. While I can't comment on the historical accuracy of this movie(I wasn't alive in 1798)I will say,without going into explanation,that I thought Zulu Dawn was a much better movie than it's predecessor, Zulu.If you like a war movie with very realistic action/battle scenes,I recommend Zulu Dawn.
Good war-drama
Good depiction of one of Britain's worst military defeats. Historically quite accurate. The writer and director do a decent job of building the main characters, though probably not enough, as you don't feel much empathy for any of them. Good battle scenes.

American Burt Lancaster as Irishmen Colonel Durnford was a bit of a stretch, and a miscasting. I assume they needed him to provide the action-star quality. Peter O'Toole is excellent as Lord Chelmsford. Solid performances from the supporting cast.

In the end, a good war-documentary-movie, but lacks that extra something to make it special.
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