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10th April 2005Zulu Dawn
By Jon
I just watched the film 'Zulu Dawn' and thought that it was brilliant. Near the end, does anyone know why Colonel Pulleine hesitated to shoot the zulu warrior who burst into his tent?
10th April 2005Paul Cubbin
Speaking out the top of my head, I believe the incident was designed to emphasise how unsuited Pulleine was to his job. It shows a pacifist attitude and the resignation to his own death.
10th April 2005Coll

Pulleine, if I remember correctly, for all the years he was in military service, never been in a situation where he had to use his firearm.

The scene, I think, demonstrates this, as it shows he could not bring himself to kill a fellow human being, whether it was lack of actual combat experience, I don't know.

However, in the actual battle, I feel Pulleine, who several people assume was the officer apparently killed in his tent while writing a letter/order, would have behaved like every other soldier on that day, and fought just as hard alongside his men.

I'm sure there was an account saying that he was seen in the midst of a group of soldiers making a stand near to the nek.

11th April 2005Julian whybra
Pulleine had not commanded a large body of troops in battle before - not quite the same as never having used a firearm.
As for the film clip - artistic licence.
11th April 2005Martin Everett
Many of the key players in the AZW have been criticised on this site for lack of battle experience - namely Pulleine, Chard, Bromhead etc. But this fact is true to day with our armed forces.

Returning to AZW - 3 companies of 1/24th did not see any action - and all companies of 2/24th less B Company did not see any action. Yet all received the campaign medal.

There is always a view that the Victorian army was continually on campaign. The 1/24th did not see action again until 'The Retreat from Mons' in 1914 - 35 years
11th April 2005Martin Everett
Re: my last posting
I should have added G Company 2/24th with B Company who of course were at Isandhlwana.
11th April 2005Peter Ewart
Like Jon, I've also (this evening) just watched the film Zulu Dawn, or about 50/60% of it anyway - (younger son's birthday money going on the DVD).

Apart from some wonderful scenery and a chuckle I managed at Bob Hoskins, I was rather "underwhelmed" to say the least, as my jaw dropped very near the beginning and remained in that place for an hour or so.

Looking back, I cannot think of a single scene which even remotely resembled reality, and the battle itself might as well have been Waterloo for any resemblance there was to what happened at Isandlwana. It did, however, become clear why so many questions come up here which make me scratch my head. Anyone whose first (or only) exposure to the story of Isandlwana is via this film is going to spend an awful long time correcting misconceptions in their mind.

I should have known all this already, I realise, and I know it's only an action film & a bit of fun, but it certainly makes ZULU look almost fanatical in its adherence to the facts by comparison. I expected a bit of licence and approximations to fit the requirements of filming, and even a cavalier approach to history, but wasn't prepared for virtually every scene - or was it every single scene? - to be a travesty.

It was nice to see the lovely Martizburg cricket pavilion though. I was sent a coloured cutting from a recent piece in the Witness & it doesn't appear to have changed since the film was made - now, of course, since the sad demise of ours in Canterbury this winter, the only first class ground in the world with a tree inside the boundary (which, I was delighted to spot, partly appears in the film from a certain angle).

Shame about the French cricket, though!


P.S. Sorry for whinging - but it'll need quite an idle hour to persuade me to watch the rest of it.
12th April 2005Peter Ewart
Martizburg sounds interesting but please read Maritzburg!

12th April 2005Paul Cubbin
Thank God for that! I was beginning to get TCLWS - Tenuous-Cricket-Link-Withdrawal-Syndrome. I can now sleep again.
Do watch the rest, Peter. Bob Hoskins is worth it (as is Burt Lancaster's amazing cocktail sausage impression) even if the story takes some wobbly turns.
12th April 2005Peter Ewart

Didn't realise it was so long since I'd mentioned it - will have to remember do so much more regularly!

Seriously, it was certainly the highlight of the film for me. I'd heard it had featured in the film (although it is actually only about 100 years old & wasn't there in 1879, being used for its "colonial style" architecture) but I waited to see if the famous tree would appear when the camera angle was right, and part of it did - so the film does have its redeeming features (or feature). They are rather proud now in PMB that the tree has this winter become unique. I suppose the French cricket can be blamed on the fact that a batswoman was used.

Some "wobbly turns", Paul? That's putting it rather diplomatically. The bit I missed was a chunk in the middle (my boys messing about with the mouse as usual) so I saw the denouement and the nonsense with the Queen's Colour. The strongest emotion I felt throughout, to be honest, was embarrassment. It just seemed to me to be an attempt at some sort of "alternative story", as it were. There were so many scenes where I thought "What ...?" When my boys asked any questions, I had to say "You'd better ask Burt Lancaster (or whoever) that one!" Still, they've now got some more blood and thunder to watch when they want to, and it was his money after all.

The Zulu dancing early on and some parts of the crossing of the Buffalo and the march towards Isandlwana were well done, but the most over-riding feeling is "Why introduce all this fiction when the real thing would have been just as watchable for any audience and have the added merit of authenticity?"

Only a film, as they say. Back to the books ...


12th April 2005Coll
I know it is only a film, but I was wondering if Chelmsford would have used a 'command wagon' when the column was mobile, then after a camp is established, obviously use a Headquarters tent ?

A daft question, but it just crossed my mind.

13th April 2005Paul Cubbin
Peter - if 'Zulu Dawn' s minor nod to cricket interested you then 'Master and Commander' should have you in raptures. Although it does not contain regular cricket matches, references and anecdotes, as do the O'Brien books, it does have a quick 'early cricket match' scene complete with banana shaped bat.
17th April 2005Coll
Does anyone know if there is/are any colour stills from Zulu Dawn available, showing an image of Col. Durnford (Burt Lancaster) standing on the wagon firing his revolver at the surrounding Zulus ?

I've seen some stills from this film, but none of the above scene, as I would really like to frame it.