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Zulu Dawn

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    Ian Jane
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  • Zulu Dawn



    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: March 12, 2013.

    Director: Douglas Hickox

    Cast: Peter O'Toole, Burt Lancaster, Simon Ward, Bob Hoskins

    Year: 1979

    Purchase From Amazon


    The Movie:


    Directed by Douglas Hickox, this prequel to 1964's Zulu takes place in the South Africa of 1879 where the men in charge of the British Cape Colony see the native Zulus as a serious thorn in their side. As the tribesmen have a tendency to prove a hindrance to what the occupying British forces see as a way to exploit the country for economic gain, a plan is put in place to remove the problem permanently.


    In order to set the wheels of this into motion, stubborn British commander Lord Chelmsford (Peter O'Toole) and Sir Henry Bartle Frere (John Mills) decide to provoke Zulu King Cetshwayo (Simon Sabela) into starting a war, knowing full well that their advanced weaponry and more sophisticated tactics will give them the upper hand and lead to an easy victory. Colonel Anthony Durford (Burt Lancaster) is sent to scope out enemy territory and to get a gage on the size of the Zulu army. What Chelmsford doesn't really factor into the equation is that his troops are stretched pretty thin as it is and not nearly as prepared for a war as he assumes them to be. The Zulu Nation, on the other hand, vastly outnumbers them and is fighting for a cause in which they truly believe. This sets into motion a series of events that will culminate in the Battle Of Isandlwana, an event that does not go well for the occupying British troops.


    More interested in story than character, Zulu Dawn nevertheless boasts an impressive all star cast with Burt Lancaster and Peter O'Toole both offering up some impressive work. Supporting efforts from John Mills and Bob Hoskins are also welcome, but this movie is more about the spectacle of the final battle than it is anything else. Shot with over eleven thousand Zulus on location in South Africa, the scope of the film is quite impressive. The widescreen cinematography really does an excellent job of capturing not only the chaos that ensues once the war breaks out but also the beauty of the scenery in many of the scenes leading up to the climactic battle. Great use of color and some nice photography of some arid landscapes make for interesting contrast against the uniforms of the British soldiers while the score courtesy of Elmer Bernstein compliments both the drama and the action of the film quite well.


    We don't get much in the way of character development here but we do get enough of a back story that the battle we're all waiting for at least arrives with enough context to make sense. At two hours the film feels to be about the right length and it does a good job of picking and choosing from the actual historical events to present a reasonably gripping tale of impending military disaster. A solid, old school war movie through and through, Zulu Dawn is worth revisiting for those who can appreciate spectacle and historical drama.


    Video/Audio/Extras:


    Zulu Dawn arrives on Blu-ray from Severin Films in an AVC encoded 2.35.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer. While colors fare very nicely here, what appears to be some very slight noise reduction results in a transfer that is less detailed and film like than some would probably have liked. This trumps DVD clarity but there's still some minor waxiness to the skin that you can't help but notice. More obvious are the mild compression artifacts that pop up here and there, particularly in the darker scenes. As this was put on a 25GB discs, that's likely the reason for this and you can't help but figure that the movie would have looked better had the bit rate been pumped up a bit. Thankfully the picture is free of any major print damage, there are really only a few minor specks here and there. Not a reference quality Blu-ray but watchable enough despite some shortcomings.

    The two audio options on this disc are a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track and a DTS-HD Mono track (which is not listed on the packaging but which is definitely present on the disc). There are no alternate languages or subtitles provided. The lossless option is preferable to the Dolby Digital track as it just has a bit more depth and weight to it, but both tracks here are fine. Dialogue stays clean and clear, and the score sounds quite good. Both tracks do shows the film's age in that there is sometimes limited range and some inherent flatness but outside of that, the movie sounds quite good.


    Extras start off with a new twenty-five minute long HD featurette entitled The History Of The Zulu Wars hosted by Zulu Rising author Ian Knight. This is a very interesting piece for anyone with an interest in military history as it basically gives us a rundown of what lead up to the war and what went right and wrong with the British attempts to colonize South Africa. Knight knows his stuff but also comes across as quite down to Earth so we wind up with a nicely put together featurette that is informative without being too highbrow. Also included here is another featurette entitled Recreating The War which is basically a twenty minute extended interview with the film's historical advisor, Midge Carter. There are some interesting stories told here about the lengths that some of the cast and crew went to in order to get things right and this is a nice addition to the disc. Ian Knight pops up again in a third featurette entitled A Visit To The Battlefield which takes us to the modern day version of the locations which once served as the site of the Battle Of Isandhlwana. At just shy of seventeen minutes in length, this is quite interesting to see. Not mentioned on the packaging but included on the disc is a collection of twelve minutes or so worth of outtakes from the feature. These are in rough shape but Severin did the right thing by including them here.


    Aside from that we get a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter stops. As this is a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, a DVD version of the movie and identical supplements is also included inside the case.


    The Final Word:


    There are some pacing problems here and there but Zulu Dawn turns out to be a well acted picture with some impressive and legitimately epic action set pieces. Severin's Bu-ray doesn't look perfect but it sounds pretty good and contains some pretty decent extras too.


    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!



















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