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Zulu Dawn (1979)

A dramatization of the Battle of Isandlwana, where the British Army met its match against the Zulu nation.

Director:

Douglas Hickox

Writers:

Cy Endfield (original story and scenario), Cy Endfield (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Burt Lancaster ... Col. Durnford
Simon Ward ... Lt. Vereker
Denholm Elliott ... Col. Pulleine
Peter Vaughan ... Q.S.M. Bloomfield
James Faulkner ... Lt. Melvill
Christopher Cazenove ... Lt. Coghill
Bob Hoskins ... C.S.M. Williams
David Bradley ... Pte. Williams (as Dai Bradley)
Paul Copley ... Cpl. Storey
Donald Pickering ... Maj. Russell R.A.
Nicholas Clay ... Lt. Raw
Phil Daniels ... Boy Pullen
Ian Yule ... Cpl. Fields
Peter J. Elliott Peter J. Elliott ... Sentry
Brian O'Shaughnessy Brian O'Shaughnessy ... Maj. Smith R.A. (as Brian O'Shaunnessy)
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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. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The battle that shook the empire! See more »


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Netherlands | USA

Language:

English | Zulu

Release Date:

15 May 1979 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Amanecer sangriento See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby (as Dolby System Noise Reduction - High Fidelity)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Reportedly, the catering company working on this movie allegedly attempted to get the courts to seize the film negatives when their two hundred fifty thousand dollars account payment was not paid. See more »

Goofs

Bod Hoskins' character is addressed throughout the film Colour Sergeant Williams - and wears the insignia of that rank. However, in the credits he is referred to as CSM (Company Sergeant Major) Williams. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Sir Henry Bartle Frere: [proofreading aloud the ultimatum he has just drafted] Cetshwayo's Zulu army to disband and the warriors permitted to return to their homes.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: One hundred years ago the British Colony of Natal in Southern Africa was surrounded by a vast and independent Zulu Kingdom.

In 1879, a battle took place that was forever to alter the course of Colonial history: ISANDHLWANA See more »

Connections

Referenced in Jeopardy!: Episode #26.181 (2010) See more »

Soundtracks

Men of Harlech
(uncredited)
Traditional
Heard when the troops depart for Zululand
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
Old-fashioned, but good
28 December 2005 | by dr_foremanSee all my reviews

I like "Zulu Dawn," but maybe for strange reasons. I'm glad that it favors plot over characterization, and I appreciate its attention to detail and tactics. Too many modern war movies ignore tactics, and don't place battles in their proper contexts. Here, it's easy to follow exactly what's happening, and why.

What makes the film especially memorable is that it's the story of a military disaster - the biggest defeat of a "modern" army at the hands of a "primitive" one (though I believe the Zulus suffered higher casualties than the British did). The script pretty much telegraphs the battle's result from the beginning; Peter O'Toole, as the British commander, is clearly too stubborn and blind to danger, so the attentive viewer should realize fast that he's heading for a fall.

The ending is somewhat misleading, though. The final caption might suggest to some viewers that the Zulus won the whole war. Sadly, they were beaten pretty rapidly and suffered some hideous defeats. I guess that's what makes this initial Zulu victory so noteworthy - almost unbelievable, really.

As is often the case in war movies, "Zulu Dawn" features big-name actors playing real soldiers. This makes it easier to tell the somewhat thin characters apart. Though nobody gives a career-best performance, it's great to see O'Toole, Burt Lancaster, Bob Hoskins and a solid cast of British character actors together in one movie.

I don't suppose they'd ever make this today. The politics are too awkward; I don't think a modern audience would have much sympathy for the British or the Zulu. And, of course, contemporary movies have rejected old-time spectacle, electing to replace sweeping landscapes and huge crowds of extras with fake-looking CGI.

But, in this case, old-fashioned is good. "Zulu Dawn" is definitely worth checking out in budget DVD form.


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