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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Zulu Dawn [Blu-ray]


(Douglas Hickox, 1979)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: American Cinema Releasing

Video: Severin Films



Region: FREE (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:57:17.947

Disc Size: 24,215,110,512 bytes

Feature Size: 14,864,013,312 bytes

Video Bitrate: 14.65 Mbps

Chapters: 14

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: March 12th, 2013



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1067 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1067 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit



None, (burned in for Zulu language parts)



The History of the Zulu Wars (25:34 in 1080P)

Recreating the War (20:19 in 480i)

A Visit to the Battlefield (16:47 in 480i)

• Theatrical Trailer (3:00 in 480i)

Outtakes (12:14 in 480i)

DVD of the Feature





Description: Burt Lancaster, Peter O'Toole, Simon Ward, Bob Hoskins and Sir John Mills lead an all-star cast in the shocking true story of The Battle of Isandhlwana: In January 1879, arrogant officials of the British colony of Natal, Africa issued a list of unauthorized ultimatums to the Zulu Nation. When the Zulu King refused their demands, the Empire declared war. And in a series of grave tactical blunders, a garrison of 1,500 British soldiers faced an army of 25,000 enraged Zulu warriors in what would become the most horrifying disaster in British military history. Nigel Davenport (CHARIOTS OF FIRE), Denholm Elliott (RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK), Phil Daniels (QUADROPHENIA) and 13,000 actual Zulus co-star in this acclaimed prequel to the classic ZULU, now packed with exclusive Bonus Features, fully restored to its correct aspect ratio, and re-mastered in stunning HD for the first time ever in America.


This film depicts the events prior to the devastating conflict that occurred in 1879 when British soldiers were held siege by thousands of Zulu warriors. Fifteen hundred soldiers were killed in the epic battle. This film portrays the tensions existing between the tribal factions and the British invaders.



The Film:

A motion picture epic of (and about) timeless stupidity. Belonging to the 'overwhelming odds' school of cinematic dross, this recounts the massacre at Isandhlwana in 1879, the worst defeat ever suffered by British forces at the hands of natives, with the big-name colonials battling against well-oiled and statuesque blacks. Embarrassed by the fundamental attraction of this ripping yarn, the film abandons Zulu-style Celtic punk and sells itself instead on spectacle, in a wrap-around package of documentation and social insight (meaning shots of rows of native boobs vs elaborate Brit table manners). You can't fail to be staggered by the discrepancy between the film's wet-nosed anxiety to please, to affect, and its wide-screen parade of nervy little cosmetic clichés.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

''Zulu Dawn,'' at the Thalia, does its best to present both sides of the story. It chronicles a battle that took place Jan. 22, 1879, at the mountain of Isandhlwana, in South Africa. There, British troops under the command of Gen. Lord Chelmsford, played by Peter O'Toole, with only a faint echo of his imperious ''Lawrence of Arabia'' glamour, instigate a disastrous battle against 30,000 Zulu warriors. Though the British troops are armed with rifles against the Zulus' spears, the British are massacred anyway.

The Zulu cause is sympathetically represented, especially when a British messenger orders the Zulu chief, Cetshwayo (Simon Sabela), to change a few tribal customs. Cetshwayo replies that he doesn't try to tell Queen Victoria what to do. The British take this as a declaration of war, and the fighting begins.

Excerpt from the NY Times located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Zulu Dawn has been transferred to 1080P Blu-ray by Severin Films.  I suspect that the image quality would benefit from a more robust rendering.  This is only single-layered and artefacts sneak in here and there. Colors seem brighter and truer than SD could relate although it can tend to look blocky at times. It frequently looks like the print but colors are rich (reds) and and reasonably tight. This Blu-ray showcases some depth but contrast may not be up to its highest standards and background detail can be a shade muddy at times.  It is hard to be sure if there was some digital manipulation but I tend to believe this is the source print and that the 2-hour film probably could have benefited from a higher bitrate.
















Audio :

No boost going on here - audio gives the option of a standard Dolby Digital 2.0 channel track or a DTS-HD Master 1.0 channel mono at 1067 kbps. Of course, there is plenty of action in the audio and the, more authentic, lossless sound exports some of the aggression depth with a notable high-end in the score by Elmer Bernstein. This isn't the most robust uncompressed transfer but it seems to support the film without major flaws. There are no subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE.


Extras :

Severin add some worthwhile supplements starting with a 25-minute piece in HD entitled The History of the Zulu Wars where Ian Knight, author of Zulu Rising: The Epic Story of iSandlwana and Rorke's Drift, gives us a background of the conflicts on the region and "the single most destructive incident in the 150-year history of the British colonization of South Africa". Ian is the leading authority on Anglo-Zulu War. There is also a production-related piece running 20-minutes about recreating the war and another 26-minute documentary Visit to the Battlefield with Knight again. There is a trailer and a dozen minutes of SD Outtakes in pretty poor condition. Plus the package includes a DVD of the feature.



Made 15-years post Cy Endfield's classic Zulu from 1964 - Zulu Dawn doesn't hold up quite as well as its predecessor although I, certainly, found it watchable. It has the strong performances but lacked in the realization of the narrative. The Blu-ray a/v is imperfect but the added supplements are a nice touch that really brought home some of the history of the conflict. If you appreciated Zulu, you will probably find appeal in both the feature and the extras. 

Gary Tooze

March 5th, 2013

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze





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