Watch Zulu Dawn
- 1 hr 55 min
Zulu Dawn is the harrowing recreation of the 1879 British invasion of the Zulu Empire that ended in the decimation of the British contingent at the Battle of Isandlwana. The film begins with the issuing of an ultimatum to the Zulu king Cetshwayo to dissolve his kingdom in order to ensure Cape Colony’s regional power. Cetshwayo’s refusal launches a British incursion into Zululand commanded by Lord Chelmsford (Peter O’Toole), an expedition which immediately encounters disastrous problems with an enemy that refuses to confront them in an open major battle, overstretched supply lines that become less and less defensible as they push further into the Zulu nation and poor military intelligence that would eventually lead to their destruction. British troops in their frustration eventually turn to torturing captured Zulu warriors to find the elusive enemy. The film begins to reach its climax with Chelmsford’s order for the army to camp unprotected at the foot of Mount Isandhlwana; ignoring the recommendations of his Boer guides to entrench the base with the proper fortifications. The following morning, half of the army is led away to go after a perceived Zulu force. Scouts at the remaining camp soon discover the real Zulu army approaching in the valley adjacent the mountain. Skirmish lines, led by Col. Dunford (Burt Lancaster), are deployed to turn back the Zulu advance but a lack of ammunition, thinly spread positions and brilliant flanking maneuvers doom the British troops. The line collapses in a rout with the fighting turning into vicious hand to hand combat. Under Colonel Pulleine’s (Denholm Elliot), two officers attempt a breakout from the battle to save the Queen’s Colours. The flag is nearly captured in the escape as the officers are killed but in a final saving action of Lt. Vereker (Simon Ward) the colors are swept down the Buffalo River to safety. The film concludes with the return of the rest of the British army to discover the gruesome remains of the slaughter and realization that their quick fight has transformed into the Zulu invasion of Natal.