Fifteen years after the successful release of the classic 1964 film Zulu, a long-planned prequel finally made it to the cinemas.
In 1879 South Africa, British forces are conspiring at Cape Colony to demolish the Zulu natives around them to make way for more industrial space.
The scheme is led by Sir Henry Bartle Frere (John Mills) and Lord Chelmsford (Peter O’Toole), Commander of the British garrison, who deliberately present a ridiculous dissolution plan to one of the Zulu leaders, King Cetshwayo (Simon Sabela).
The pretext works well enough to mount a planned invasion despite reservations from some of the other British soldiers – particularly Lieutenant Vereker (Simon Ward) – while one-armed veteran Colonel Durford (Burt Lancaster) and his escorts are sent to scout and determine the size of the Zulu army.
The end result – the Battle of Isandhlwana on 22 January 1879 – became one of the biggest blunders in military history. Despite orders to the contrary from the British government, the English forces attack Cetshwayo, leading to the massacre of 1,500 British soldiers by 25,000 Zulu warriors.
O’Toole, in particular, gives an excellent, restrained performance and the supporting cast is full of familiar faces like Denholm Elliott, Phil Daniels, Nicholas Clay, and Bob Hoskins.
Zulu Dawn has never been regarded with the same esteem as its predecessor, partially because many audiences only saw it theatrically in a severely shortened 98-minute version to accommodate it more easily on double bills.
Sir Henry Bartle Frere
Lieutenant William Vereker
Colonel Anthony Durnford
Muntu Ben Louis Ndebele
Mr de Witt
Mrs de Witt