It’s strange when a film becomes a home video perennial without ever getting the proper treatment it deserves. For a long time, this was the fate of Zulu Dawn: VHS and subsequent DVD versions were always cropped to some degree and had a muddy look that did no favors to its epic production values. Thankfully, Severin Films has stepped up to bat to give this deserving title a home video makeover – and they’ve even managed to throw in a few extras to further sweeten the deal.
The transfer is a dramatic improvement, particularly if you watch the blu-ray version: for the first time on U.S. home video, it’s presented in the proper 2.35:1 aspect ratio and the high-definition presentation really enhances the color palette (the reds in the British military uniforms really pop on the screen). There’s a certain degree of noise reduction going on here but there’s still an impressive bump in the level of detail. In terms of audio, the mono soundtrack is retained. Go for the lossless option on the blu-ray: it’s a nicely balanced mono track and shows some bombast during the battle sequences.
Severin has also produced a trio of new extras for this set, all in featurette form. “The History Of The Zulu Wars” is built around a chat with historian and author Ian Knight, who lays out all the historical specifics surrounding the Battle of Isandlwana in this twenty minute piece. It’s a nice crash course for those who aren’t familiar with this incident and more importantly, he discusses what happened between the British and the Zulu Nation after this battle, how this defeat affected the international perception of the British Empire and what became of the commanders behind this tragedy. If you liked the movie, you’re going to need to watch this afterwards.
“Recreating The War” is an interview with Midge Carter, who served as the historical advisor on this film. It’s a pretty engaging piece, with Carter discussing his memories in a direct, uncompromising style as he reveals the lucky circumstances that led him to this job, the errors in script and production design that he had to correct during pre-production and his memories of being on the production. The latter element makes for some eye-opening commentary, especially Carter’s highly critical assessment of director Douglas Hickox.
The final featurette is called “A Visit To The Battlefield” and it again features Ian Knight as he takes the viewer on a tour of the outdoor locations used for the film’s battle sequences. There are some issues with the sound on this segment (it sounds like wind interference against the microphone) but it’s worth sticking with because Knight knows his stuff and shows how different areas were located for the historically correct locations to suit the practical needs of filmmaking.
The last extra is an original theatrical trailer that makes the film look like an old-fashioned Hollywood epic, dividing its time between choice dialogue bits from the marquee actors and clips of the film’s impressive battle sequences. All in all, this set is a dramatic improvement on Zulu Dawn‘s past video incarnation and well worth the time for war movie fans.