In 1879, the British suffer a great loss at the Battle of Isandlwana due to incompetent leadership. Cy Endfield co-wrote the epic prequel Zulu Dawn 15 years after his enormously popular Zulu. Set in 1879, this film depicts the catastrophic Battle of Isandhlwana, which remains the worst defeat of the British army by natives, with the British contingent outnumbered 16-to-1 by the Zulu tribesmen. The film's opinion of events is made immediately clear in its title sequence: ebullient African village life presided over by King Cetshwayo is contrasted with aristocratic artifice under the arrogant eye of General Lord Chelmsford (Peter O'Toole). Chelmsford is at the heart of all that goes wrong, initiating the catastrophic battle with an ultimatum made seemingly for the sake of giving his troops something to do. His detached  manner leads to one mistake after another.

Movie Data


Status Released

Original Language English

Runtime 1h 53m

Budget -

Revenue -

Homepage -

Release Information

  • May 15, 1979



Cast 21

  1. Burt Lancaster

    Burt Lancaster
    Col. Anthony Durnford

  2. Denholm Elliott

    Denholm Elliott
    Colonel Pulleine

  3. Bob Hoskins

    Bob Hoskins
    C.S.M. Williams

  4. Peter O'Toole

    Peter O'Toole
    Lord Chelmsford

  5. John Mills
  6. Nigel Davenport
  7. Simon Ward
  8. Phil Daniels
  9. Peter Vaughan
  10. Ronald Lacey
  11. Ronald Pickup
  12. Michael Jayston
  13. DB
  14. Christopher Cazenove
  15. James Faulkner
  16. Paul Copley
  17. IY
  18. Nicholas Clay
  19. Donald Pickering
  20. CC
  21. Freddie Jones

Crew 8


  1. OR

    Ousama Rawi
    Director of Photography


  1. DH

    Douglas Hickox


  1. MC


  1. James Faulkner

    James Faulkner

  2. NK

    Nate Kohn


  1. Elmer Bernstein

    Elmer Bernstein
    Original Music Composer


  1. CE

    Cy Endfield

  2. AS

    Anthony Story

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