Sunday, February 19, 2017

Book Review: Zulu Dawn

After writing my double feature movie reviews last month, I decided to finally read the old copy of Zulu Dawn that's been occupying space in my library for, oh, I don't know for how long.

Zulu Dawn was written by Cy Endfield, who co-wrote the screenplay of the same name.

The book provides in-depth character backstories and introspection, as well as a more detailed narrative about the chain of events...

...that led up to the Battle of Isandlwana...

...along with its immediate aftermath.

Many of the scenes play out differently in the book than in the movie, but end with similar, if not identical results.

The Zulus themselves have a greater role in the book.  This part of the story focuses on the young warrior Bayele, who is selected for one of many scouting missions.  When he returns with news about the British invasion, he's chosen to lead a deception operation by allowing himself, along with two others, to be captured.  Only after getting thoroughly roughed-up, he and his comrades try to mislead the British about the location of the main Zulu army.

Bayele gains his revenge by killing Colonel Henry Pulleine...

...and Lieutenant Vereker...

...who's fate in the movie was never clarified.

Since I like the movie, I liked the book, even though it doesn't even show up on a Google search for the best books about the Battle of Isandlwana.

While Zulu Dawn may not be the most scholarly work, Enfield's narrative is very readable, especially when describing the chaos of battle.  Plus, after watching the movie so many times, it was easy for me to visualize the story.

Zulu Dawn gets a sunny 4-star rating.


DeanM said...

Great movie and write up, Ted. I'm sure you saw the TV miniseries Shaka Zulu too. That's one of my favorites too

Ted Henkle said...

Yeah, I saw "Shaka Zulu" once, decades ago when it aired on TV. I consider it my favorite TV miniseries too. My only complaint though about the miniseries in-general back-in-the-day was that they always seemed anti-climatic.

Merkw├╝rdigliebe said...

Funny-- I saw this when it came out and loved it; read the novel; devoured Washing of the Spears (at least big chunks of it). But nowadays all the PC-isms in the movie annoy me "The Final Solution to the Zulu problem" being one of the big howlers.

Added to that, after reading Mike Snook's two outstanding tomes on Isandhlwana and Rorke's Drift, it's amazing how much was wrong in both films and Morris' Washing of the Spears, mainly due to lack of access to primary source material and--sadly--Morris' tendency to "fill in the gaps" when he didn't have info.

Thus, Pulleine, who was killed on the firing line with his men, is depicted as something of a doddering Marcus Brodie like character who doesn't seem to have much clue where he is, let alone how to command a battalion of infantry. Highly unlikely, given the levels of professionalism in the late Victorian army, especially at these sorts of "little wars."

Also, the whole QM won't issue ammo thing was great theater, but not history. The big problem was Durnford's deployment way too far forward to be supported properly, and Pulleine's attempt to extend his right flank to the point where the British line was badly overextended--the real reason for ammo supply problems. The QMs were actually dishing out rounds as fast as they were requested.

That said? I still love both movies (even with Stanley Baker's insertion of what was then non-existent Welsh nationalism into the story). The 24th was still the 2d Warwickshire Regiment in 1879. They didn't become the South Wales Borderers until 1881. Only about 20-25 percent of the personnel were Welsh, anyway.

All that said, no way they'd ever make either of them today without larding on additional PC nonsense. The latest remake of the Four Feathers was an atrocity compared to the brilliant 1939 film.

Oh well...

Ted Henkle said...

Thank your for your comment Merkwurdigliebe!
I've had to give some sort of back-story, or historical correction to everyone I've introduced to "Zulu" and "Zulu Dawn."
I've never seen the 1939 version of "The Four Feathers," fortunately I didn't waste a couple hours of my life watching the 2002 version either--thanks to your warning.
I hardly see movies on the big-screen anymore, because more often than not it's loaded with political correctness.