Review: Zulu Dawn (UK 1979)

If the British clinging on by a thread in Zulu (1964) pissed you off, this is the movie to watch. A prequel to Zulu, Zulu Dawn shows the British stumbling into the absolute fiasco that was the Battle of Isandhlwana, as a combination of greed and arrogance leads British colonial forces to a crushing defeat at the hands of the Zulus.

I wish I could say that any of the Zulus have huge roles, but at least they are portrayed as competent, courageous, and strategically-minded, while the Brits are the very embodiment of the proverb “pride goeth before a fall.” 

The main reasons to watch this, though, are the stunning, large scale action sequences and the deep cast bench. You’ve got Peter O’Toole as the icy, patrician colonial commander, Burt Lancaster as a swashbuckling cavalryman, Bob Hoskins as a gruff sergeant, Denholm Elliott as an officer out of his depth, and on and on. Not essential viewing, or entirely successful, but aficionados of historical war films will find much to enjoy. And it certainly lead me down a fascinating Wikipedia hole.

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