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 Posted:   Nov 16, 2016 - 6:59 AM   
 By:   Chris.McEneany   (Member)

ZULU DAWN (ELMER BERNSTEIN) BSX



Taking the bit between his teeth, Elmer Bernstein marched to war with the imperial redcoats, and heroically went down alongside them on the gore-soaked slopes beneath Isandhlwana before the unstoppable army of Zulus ... and on the day right before John Barry fought them off with the best of the South Wales Borderers at Rorke’s Drift. Whilst Barry’s rousing theme for Cy Enfield’s magnificent 1964 film, Zulu, is justifiably legendary, I actually much, much prefer what Bernstein brought to the battle for Douglas Hickox in 1979. His music is the spikiest, most jarring and ferocious, most downright convincing ever written for physical warfare, and yet majestically noble and valiant and wholly period-evocative at the same time. Like Barry he imbues his score with a sun-scorched African character and generates might and passion on a colossal scale.

Although this battle, in which the arrogant and tactically imbecilic, and operationally hamstrung British army was annihilated by the Zulus, who totally outnumbered and outmaneuvered them on the day (January 22nd 1879), was overshadowed and painfully glossed-over with the understandably glorified victory that an even smaller force of redcoats had directly afterwards in the famed defence of Rorke’s Drift, the true story of Isandhlwana is no less spectacular in terms of troop action and individual bravery. In fact, it is perfectly true that the victorious Zulus actually praised the magnificence of the British soldiers who, to a man, went down fighting. Once bullets ran out and their bayonets were snapped away, they turned their rifles into clubs. Once these were wrenched from their hands, they stood back-to-back and used their penknives, selling their lives with a bravery matched only by the indomitable fearlessness of their surrounding foes.



This much-lauded resilience didn’t stop the inevitable, of course, and the British were savagely overrun and wiped-out. Every single man wearing a redcoat was killed – as per the orders of the Zulu King Cetshwayo – so only a handful of officers wearing blue patrol jackets, some mounted policemen in black and some contracted auxiliaries were able to get away.

And, as with the true story of British strategic failure and rank humiliation, Hickox’s film, too, suffered in the wake of Enfield’s classic saga of victory because it told of defeat. Like any film depicting Custer’s Last Stand (another prime example of a technically superior force being completely destroyed by a “primitive” indigenous opposition) the ending is clearly foretold and ... not everyone likes their endings to be unhappy. Me? I love them though. I’m addicted to last stand tales. And I especially adore this chapter in history, and its graphic movie depiction.

Not only is it an extremely accurate depiction of what happened that day in a location that is an incredible dead-ringer for the real Isandhlwana, but it boasts Bernstein’s powerful, exciting and stout-hearted score that captures all the ferocity and terror of close-quarter battle, the regal adventure that many of the arrogant British military foolishly believed they were undertaking, the majesty of the landscape and the tribal pride of the Zulus, themselves. John Barry’s actually quite short score managed to produce significant personalities for both warring creeds and smash them together in orchestral fury. Elmer Bernstein achieves this too ... but, arguably, with more distinctly opposed venom ... and yet he still manages to hurl these disparate elements, British invaders and Zulu defenders, into one boiling pot to produce, quite literally, a musical maelstrom of violence.

A couple of grandly authentic military marches – Regimental March and a glorious reworking of the famed Men of Harlech, made vocally ballistic by Ivor Emmanuel in Zulu – enable an embroidery of empirical might and splendour. These are colourfully naive and clash their chin-jutting pomposity and chest-pumping over-confidence with the belching chants, tambourines, shakers, percussion and poised woodwinds of the Zulu themes. The meat and bones of this enormously aggressive score, however, are composed for suspense and all-out action. But, with this in mind, there is one track that seems to combine both that stiff-upper-lipped and gleaming military endeavour with a galvanising sense of momentum and action, and that is the extraordinarily epic and stimulating River Crossing, in which the main theme is introduced with adventurous aspirations. This is as stirring and pompous as you could wish for. The snare-drums beat fastidiously, brass flourishes step-up the pace, low woods suggest the exertion of getting animals, wagons and equipment across the precarious, heavy-flowing ford. But, in a stunning little about-face, Bernstein ends the track with a reminder of why we are here, and what we are about to encounter, as hints of the Zulu motif creep in with almost magical grace. This lacing of tribal mysterioso continues in Scouting, as redcoats penetrate enemy territory and far too brazenly begin to probe the enemy side of the Natal border.

But Bernstein then hurls into a frenzied set-piece of volatility in The Hunt. Zulus are spotted and chased down by mounted lancers. The track commences with a faster interpretation of River Crossing, more demonstrative, marked by a steady chiming of metal percussion and the guttural voices of the male choir. Once the skirmish takes place, Bernstein’s jagged flurries of brass and strings detail riders plucked from their horses and Zulus dropped by bullets. As the rout continues, one Zulu is pursued by a lancer and skewered to a tree. Bernstein conveys both the desperation of the fleeing Zulu and the fierce determination of the lancer as he bears down upon his prey.



He provides some skin-crawling suspense in Stand To when resting British troops picketed on the periphery of the huge encampment become unnerved by the sound of approaching forces in the night. Nervous woodwinds gently spread the alert over distant drumming, wafting on the air like the flickering of the soldiers’ flaming torches. The ghostly, echoing drums here actually remind me of Barry's reverberating deep bass drums from Zulu's opening. A fitting touch.

There is the blisteringly exciting track, Escape, which depicts several Zulus brilliantly absconding from British captivity with stealthy and vicious commando-like tactics. Here, Bernstein ratchets-up the tension with bashed piano, searing strings, shakers and pounding percussion, and ingeniously twists our allegiances back-and-forth between the prisoners making their violent getaway (they have been beaten and abused and we know that they aren’t the bad guys in their own country) and the British who, letting their guard down, are sealing their own fate when these captives get word of their camp’s position the vast Zulu army.

When the army of Zulus are spotted by a British patrol, Bernstein’s music erupts with spine-tingling tension. It is a dark moment of awe and terror. Anvil, trombones, lurching percussion and brass wailing signify the colossal threat that was nestling just around the corner from the camp. Harp glissandi, anvil, strings and the snare drums get the word to the troops that they are about to come under attack. We then have a reminder of the pomp and optimism of the British colonial force in Glory, which is just a reworking of the great River Crossing main theme. It is not in the film in this variation, but serves the album as stop-gap before all hell breaks loose.

Formation is an awe-inspiring track of demented suspense. The male chant sounds as though James Earl Jones leads it as the British watch the amassed ranks of over 20,000 Zulus appear on the horizon and proceed to blot it out. Rattles, shakers and tambourine dance above the tribal drums. Fiercely low brass shakes the ground as the immense army moves forward, and then jagged jabs of wood and percussion bleat out the signal for the charge to commence. It is breathtaking in its sense of looming, gigantic threat. There is excitement and controlled wariness found in Into Battle, which provides another small moment in which to take stock and prepare for the danger ahead. Piano, strings and harp deliver the urgent bad news to blithely unconcerned ears, but long, slower lines for woods and violins slow things down with a refusal to believe that the Zulus pose any serious threat.

Once the big battle begins, Bernstein enthusiastically energises his orchestra with a palpable bloodlust. The strings are on steroids. The piano recoils as though Thor, himself, is hammering at it. There is seriously thunderous use of big bass drums that deliver a beat so forcefully you would swear they could summon King Kong. Brass is thrusting and furious, replicating the shrill nastiness of flesh-rending slaughter with rib-rattling, squirm-inducing brutality. It is gorgeously thrilling to hear how he twists moments of prior dread and Empire-soaked adrenaline into sheer pandemonium and sinew-tightening, last gasp courage.



In a battalion of awesome tracks, the standout just has to be More Zulus. The flimsy British lines are quaking as the enemy gets nearer and their ammo is running out and, all around the field, different units are being overwhelmed or turned-about in full-blown retreat back towards the camp. Bernstein mimics not only the nasty stabbing of the Zulu spears, their assegais, but the sheer threat of them. Even just listening to the score, you are bracing yourself for some horrible pointy penetration to come. In one absolutely incredible moment of ultra dynamic writing, orchestration and movie editing all coming together, the canon roars, Burt Lancaster’s one-armed Col. Durnford and his mount, react to the shell whizzing over their heads, and Zulus are hefted left and right by its impact, and all amidst the greater confusion and madness of a large-scale conflict. It is impressive stuff. Christopher Palmer’s blitzkrieg orchestration shines throughout. You can be under no doubt that the players in the orchestra must have felt like they'd fought the battle, itself, by the end of it.

The music hits the bullet-smacking, spear-plunging mark so damn well that the images from the film play indelibly in your mind as you hear it. You can cry “mickey-mousing” all you like – I know some people are wont to do – but this is musical accompaniment and image illustration absolutely and scintillatingly on-point. The cacophony, the rush and the exhilaration are immediate, raw and vividly musicalised. Bernstein’s ability to convey the breadth and scope of the unfolding military disaster, pinpointing various established characters amid the chaos and following the pockets of action with a descriptively florid eye is superlative. He matches the ebb and flow of conflict, the short-lived hopes and minor triumphs, and the enveloping sense of doom with insight and symphonic muscle. His music carries you around the battlefield with ruthless finesse.

Indeed, he commands the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra like a regiment of redcoats, only his tactics are far superior to those whose final hour he is scoring. He enlists harp and vocal chanting, the soul-clutching glamour of an anvil and bone-scattering litany from xylophone, throwing these vicarious ranks into the fray with stoic strategy.
Isandhlwana Parts 1 and 2 contain so much in-yer-face might and steerage that you are turned this way and that in the musical melee that has engulfed you. You catch onto a tumbling drum roll, a passionate call from horns, or the jarring rattle of piano as if they are streams of fleeing soldiers seeking refuge, but swirling strings swiftly have you ducking and diving again, squalls of brass and pugilistic bass reminding you that there is nowhere to hide. Part 2 also highlights the encircling Zulu motif, tribal aggression closing the net.



Individual vignettes – the conveyance of the much needed and much belated ammunition, the defiant headbutt that Bob Hoskins’ awesome Colour-Sergeant delivers to a Zulu before being run-through, a last bullet spat on for luck, the terrific overturning of a speeding gun-carriage – are richly heralded with passion, texture and an ever-escalating anxiety. Trumpet signatures incur wood, piano and cymbal retaliation. Strings serenade increasingly smaller clusters of red buckling under a tsunami of black.

In Durnford, the strings soar with a forlorn and dignified salute as the Colours are passed to officers tasked with carrying them to safety, and in a heartbreaking rendition of the main theme, Burt Lancaster’s Colonel sends out a last messenger with a final word of farewell to a loved one. The tide has turned and the end is near.

An anguished melody for strings during the first part of Saving The Colours confirms the heroic pathos of Durnford’s last stand, whilst the rest of this electrifying track chronicles the valiant, but futile attempt to keep the regimental flag from falling into enemy hands. Although slightly embroidered for the film, this sequence is as accurate a depiction of the final act of heroism as we can expect. The two officers were each awarded the Victoria Cross for their efforts to cross the Buffalo River and escape, but Zulus were already on the other side waiting for them and other fugitives scrambling away. Repetition of earlier themes and motifs serves to encourage and bolster last-ditch bids for salvation, and Bernstein cunningly twists and builds upon an earlier track entitled The Chase, in which a Boer is rescued from Zulus by a passing British patrol, as well as The Hunt, to depict the rapidly changing fortunes of those riding out with the Colours. The strings jab, and the piano gets battered again. God knows how many keys had to be replaced during the recording sessions! Zulu motifs suddenly appear, catching up with an unyielding Olympian beat. Finally, competing together with cymbals, hollering woods and drums, the elements crash out as a single, death-grip bullet saves the Colours and sends it down river and away from the carnage.



Bernstein’s final track, Aftermath, is a dirge for the fallen. This is slow and painful, with little hints of the Imperial theme wavering in the dark as the foolish British commander-in-chief, Lord Chelmsford (Peter O’ Toole), walks among the bodies of the men he erroneously left to die when he led the main column off in the wrong direction, leaving the camp at the mercy of the Zulus. Sombre woods wring his hands and curse his studipidy. A haunting glimmer for harp appears as news reaches him that the sky above the mission station at Rorke’s Drift “is red with fire” and the track then softens with melancholy as an unseen dog whimpers in pain as Chelmsford draws near. It is a fabulously fitting and poignant finale.

Elmer Bernstein’s Zulu Dawn is the best musical depiction of ferocious last stand battle ever composed. Craig Safan did extremely well with Son of the Morning Star (though he freely admitted that Zulu Dawn was a clear inspiration) his jabbingly violent, set-piece episodic and elegiac score for Custer’s luck finally running out at the Little Bighorn. But this remains the stalwart, go-to example of bygone might meeting tribal defiance and it is inconceivable to me that it is so often overlooked. His skillful integration of ethnic and Imperial motifs resounds with a classically bewitching clash of cultures, the suspense he creates is tangible, and his action is savagely exciting and tragically impassioned.

If I ever face bloodthirsty and seemingly insurmountable odds, this score will be coursing through my veins.

And I’ll survive!

Your thoughts on this score are more than welcome ...

Chris

 
 Posted:   Nov 16, 2016 - 8:27 AM   
 By:   Yavar Moradi   (Member)

What a great love letter to a great score!

Yavar

 
 Posted:   Nov 16, 2016 - 9:51 AM   
 By:   laurent   (Member)

Great "old school" score by Bernstein

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 16, 2016 - 10:15 PM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

Chris this an amazing and stunning analysis of this score. I think it has been decades since I watched this movie and heard the score. I hope TCM brings it back so I can tune in to all the cues that you analyzed.

This took a lot of time and effort, and I appreciate your hard work. Let's hope the movie plays soon. I'm going to print your analysis to keep. Thanks!! 5 out of 5 stars.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 17, 2016 - 1:20 AM   
 By:   Chris.McEneany   (Member)

Thanks for the comments, folks!

Joan, I am really pleased that you found this entertaining and informative. That's the main thing. And if it can help in the appreciation of a score, then my job is done. I hope you get to see (and hear) Zulu Dawn again soon. It may lack the charisma of the original Zulu, but as for the recreation of a true-life battle, it is second-to-none.

There will be more Reflections to come ...

Cheers

Chris

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 17, 2016 - 9:03 AM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

Good, I'm glad you will be doing more "reflections." I have done a few and enjoyed doing them.
Yavar has done some wonderful reflections on Goldsmith's known and lesser known scores, and our Deputy Riley has analyzed many scores.

I love those reflections, and I hope they point many FSM EARS in specific directions. As Yavar stated, they are Love Letters.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 17, 2016 - 9:24 AM   
 By:   betenoir   (Member)

Best analysis and review I have ever seen. And I agree, by the way. Excellent work, Chris.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 17, 2016 - 10:11 AM   
 By:   BillCarson   (Member)

A lot of work Chris. Well put across. Big fan of the film. It didnt have nigel green and his withering one liners "Quiet there will you, there's a good gentleman, you will upset the lads" or the malingering james Booth "We're next, boys" but it was a valiant effort and decent movie. I liked Hoskins and Lancaster in the film and o'Toole played his part well.
Truly excellent Bernstein score though - he really got the temperature of the film.
For me if Zulu was a 9, i would give Zulu dawn a 7, up to an 8 because of Elmer's accompaniment. But just my opinion.

When this score arrived in the uk in a box from the post office, i was in 58 dean street and the first copy James Fitzpatrick put on the stereo, i bought. Dont mean sod all now but back then i got a kick out of it. From my memory - which is dodgy - the LP wasnt released with the film, the score LP came out some while after. Cant remember exactly how long but it seemed like a year or more. The score had a lot of fans when the film came out, i recall a lot of collectors at film fairs bemoaning there was no release. Bob DiM or someone may know more accurately how much gap there was.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 18, 2016 - 1:50 AM   
 By:   Chris.McEneany   (Member)

Best analysis and review I have ever seen. And I agree, by the way. Excellent work, Chris.

Thanks so much for the comments!

I've got more analysis, review and personal thoughts in store. Hope you enjoy them as much.

Cheers

Chris

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 18, 2016 - 2:00 AM   
 By:   Chris.McEneany   (Member)

A lot of work Chris. Well put across. Big fan of the film. It didnt have nigel green and his withering one liners "Quiet there will you, there's a good gentleman, you will upset the lads" or the malingering james Booth "We're next, boys" but it was a valiant effort and decent movie. I liked Hoskins and Lancaster in the film and o'Toole played his part well.
Truly excellent Bernstein score though - he really got the temperature of the film.
For me if Zulu was a 9, i would give Zulu dawn a 7, up to an 8 because of Elmer's accompaniment. But just my opinion.

When this score arrived in the uk in a box from the post office, i was in 58 dean street and the first copy James Fitzpatrick put on the stereo, i bought. Dont mean sod all now but back then i got a kick out of it. From my memory - which is dodgy - the LP wasnt released with the film, the score LP came out some while after. Cant remember exactly how long but it seemed like a year or more. The score had a lot of fans when the film came out, i recall a lot of collectors at film fairs bemoaning there was no release. Bob DiM or someone may know more accurately how much gap there was.


Hi Bill,

Thanks for the comments! Much appreciated.

Regarding Zulu Dawn, I was able to go to its cinema premier in London - aged all of 10 - because my father provided some authentic uniforms and weaponry and even supplied some technical consultancy for the film. He was - well, still is (barely - he's 90 now) - a military historian, hence my own fascination. I grew up in a house with Zulu shields and Martini-Henry rifles on the wall. WOW! Everyday I was enamoured with tales of glory and derring-do.

I got the LP of Bernstein's score and the original Cerberus CD, but the BSX release with its extra tracks is definitely the one to go for. Incidentally, when I wrote that article I was wearing the full uniform of the 24th Regiment of Foot with the score belting out. That's the way to do it!

Coming up next is a little something from Max Steiner. And I'll be dressed appropriately for that too! (And don't say King Kong - ha!) Expect it this weekend.

Cheers

Chris

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 18, 2016 - 5:37 AM   
 By:   BillCarson   (Member)

I once looked up colour sergeant Bourne - nigel green in Zulu ("Do your tunic up, where do you think you are, man!")
His character after Rourkes Drift and the zulu wars had become Lieutenant Colonel Bourne and had remained in the army as a career soldier. Laterly he was an armourer and demonstrated weapons. I did read that his grave is at Bexleyheath cemetary in Kent. Thought i might like to visit it one day.

So after Lee Strasbourg's actor studio, you are now expanding method acting to method writing??!
Typing in an red army tunic, bit drastic, but what the hell, ive always liked soundtracks on when writing and i like to have a cup of tea next to my keyboard, so horses for courses.

Great story about you dad.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 29, 2016 - 2:28 PM   
 By:   James MacMillan   (Member)

Bravo, Chris, that made for pleasant reading. One thing I would have added, though, is the brief burst of strings at the end of "Saving the Colours" as the flag-pole becomes blocked by rocks in the river and the banner unfurls gently in the flowing waters... An exquisite moment, signifying the sadness of the occasion, the waste of life and (perhaps) end of empire.

Bernstein's career throughout the 1970s was fairly mixed, but it ended on a high with this B-I-G picture, and he responded with a great return to form. It is indeed a grand piece of film-making, still under-rated. Distribution of the film was kind of haphazard : I recall that it played in Glasgow for only a week and I was fortunate to be able to experience it on a big screen.

They really DON'T make 'em like this any more...

James.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 29, 2016 - 4:00 PM   
 By:   The Wanderer   (Member)

Great review, Chris. Made me want to watch the film and listen to the score. Sadly, I own neither! Bah!

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 29, 2016 - 6:03 PM   
 By:   Illustrator   (Member)

I did read that his grave is at Bexleyheath cemetary in Kent. Thought i might like to visit it one day.


Just to save you the trip it's actually in Beckenham. I grew up in Bromley and Mum's funeral was at that Cemetery, just up the road from (fittingly enough given the composer) Elmer's End station. Many trips to Dean Street Records started at that station!

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 30, 2016 - 4:22 AM   
 By:   Chris.McEneany   (Member)

Bravo, Chris, that made for pleasant reading. One thing I would have added, though, is the brief burst of strings at the end of "Saving the Colours" as the flag-pole becomes blocked by rocks in the river and the banner unfurls gently in the flowing waters... An exquisite moment, signifying the sadness of the occasion, the waste of life and (perhaps) end of empire.

Bernstein's career throughout the 1970s was fairly mixed, but it ended on a high with this B-I-G picture, and he responded with a great return to form. It is indeed a grand piece of film-making, still under-rated. Distribution of the film was kind of haphazard : I recall that it played in Glasgow for only a week and I was fortunate to be able to experience it on a big screen.

They really DON'T make 'em like this any more...

James.


Hi James, glad you liked it.

And you're absolutely right ... that little forlorn fanfare is another perfect moment from Bernstein. Your description of it is spot-on, sir. I couldn't have worded it better.

Aye, the film wasn't treated too fairly, which is a real shame as it marks the last time that a studio could garner together so many big stars - Burt Lancaster, Peter O' Toole, John Mills, Simon Ward, Peter Vaughan, Denholm Elliott, Nigel Davenport alongside a regiment of up 'n' comings - and thrust them into a large-scale historical reproduction. Well, until Gladiator gave the money-men and the audiences a taste for period epics all over again. I always chuckle to see a young Christopher Chittel, sporting a monocle, amidst Lord Chelmsford's entourage. He, of course, went on to play Eric Pollard in Emmerdale right up until today!

Although still rousing and exciting, people and studios still don't like their cast to be massacred, I suppose.

Thanks mate

Chris

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 30, 2016 - 4:24 AM   
 By:   Chris.McEneany   (Member)

Great review, Chris. Made me want to watch the film and listen to the score. Sadly, I own neither! Bah!

Thanks very much!

You now owe it to yourself to obtain copies of both and report back!

Honestly, you won't be disappointed.

Cheers mate

Chris

 
 Posted:   Dec 2, 2017 - 5:38 AM   
 By:   raferjanders   (Member)

Didn't like the 'ghost' image.

https://www.albumartexchange.com/covers/474309-zulu-dawn

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 2, 2017 - 6:44 AM   
 By:   martyn.crosthwaite   (Member)

ZULU DAWN (ELMER BERNSTEIN) BSX



Taking the bit between his teeth, Elmer Bernstein marched to war with the imperial redcoats, and heroically went down alongside them on the gore-soaked slopes beneath Isandhlwana before the unstoppable army of Zulus ... and on the day right before John Barry fought them off with the best of the South Wales Borderers at Rorke’s Drift. Whilst Barry’s rousing theme for Cy Enfield’s magnificent 1964 film, Zulu, is justifiably legendary, I actually much, much prefer what Bernstein brought to the battle for Douglas Hickox in 1979. His music is the spikiest, most jarring and ferocious, most downright convincing ever written for physical warfare, and yet majestically noble and valiant and wholly period-evocative at the same time. Like Barry he imbues his score with a sun-scorched African character and generates might and passion on a colossal scale.

Although this battle, in which the arrogant and tactically imbecilic, and operationally hamstrung British army was annihilated by the Zulus, who totally outnumbered and outmaneuvered them on the day (January 22nd 1879), was overshadowed and painfully glossed-over with the understandably glorified victory that an even smaller force of redcoats had directly afterwards in the famed defence of Rorke’s Drift, the true story of Isandhlwana is no less spectacular in terms of troop action and individual bravery. In fact, it is perfectly true that the victorious Zulus actually praised the magnificence of the British soldiers who, to a man, went down fighting. Once bullets ran out and their bayonets were snapped away, they turned their rifles into clubs. Once these were wrenched from their hands, they stood back-to-back and used their penknives, selling their lives with a bravery matched only by the indomitable fearlessness of their surrounding foes.



This much-lauded resilience didn’t stop the inevitable, of course, and the British were savagely overrun and wiped-out. Every single man wearing a redcoat was killed – as per the orders of the Zulu King Cetshwayo – so only a handful of officers wearing blue patrol jackets, some mounted policemen in black and some contracted auxiliaries were able to get away.

And, as with the true story of British strategic failure and rank humiliation, Hickox’s film, too, suffered in the wake of Enfield’s classic saga of victory because it told of defeat. Like any film depicting Custer’s Last Stand (another prime example of a technically superior force being completely destroyed by a “primitive” indigenous opposition) the ending is clearly foretold and ... not everyone likes their endings to be unhappy. Me? I love them though. I’m addicted to last stand tales. And I especially adore this chapter in history, and its graphic movie depiction.

Not only is it an extremely accurate depiction of what happened that day in a location that is an incredible dead-ringer for the real Isandhlwana, but it boasts Bernstein’s powerful, exciting and stout-hearted score that captures all the ferocity and terror of close-quarter battle, the regal adventure that many of the arrogant British military foolishly believed they were undertaking, the majesty of the landscape and the tribal pride of the Zulus, themselves. John Barry’s actually quite short score managed to produce significant personalities for both warring creeds and smash them together in orchestral fury. Elmer Bernstein achieves this too ... but, arguably, with more distinctly opposed venom ... and yet he still manages to hurl these disparate elements, British invaders and Zulu defenders, into one boiling pot to produce, quite literally, a musical maelstrom of violence.

A couple of grandly authentic military marches – Regimental March and a glorious reworking of the famed Men of Harlech, made vocally ballistic by Ivor Emmanuel in Zulu – enable an embroidery of empirical might and splendour. These are colourfully naive and clash their chin-jutting pomposity and chest-pumping over-confidence with the belching chants, tambourines, shakers, percussion and poised woodwinds of the Zulu themes. The meat and bones of this enormously aggressive score, however, are composed for suspense and all-out action. But, with this in mind, there is one track that seems to combine both that stiff-upper-lipped and gleaming military endeavour with a galvanising sense of momentum and action, and that is the extraordinarily epic and stimulating River Crossing, in which the main theme is introduced with adventurous aspirations. This is as stirring and pompous as you could wish for. The snare-drums beat fastidiously, brass flourishes step-up the pace, low woods suggest the exertion of getting animals, wagons and equipment across the precarious, heavy-flowing ford. But, in a stunning little about-face, Bernstein ends the track with a reminder of why we are here, and what we are about to encounter, as hints of the Zulu motif creep in with almost magical grace. This lacing of tribal mysterioso continues in Scouting, as redcoats penetrate enemy territory and far too brazenly begin to probe the enemy side of the Natal border.

But Bernstein then hurls into a frenzied set-piece of volatility in The Hunt. Zulus are spotted and chased down by mounted lancers. The track commences with a faster interpretation of River Crossing, more demonstrative, marked by a steady chiming of metal percussion and the guttural voices of the male choir. Once the skirmish takes place, Bernstein’s jagged flurries of brass and strings detail riders plucked from their horses and Zulus dropped by bullets. As the rout continues, one Zulu is pursued by a lancer and skewered to a tree. Bernstein conveys both the desperation of the fleeing Zulu and the fierce determination of the lancer as he bears down upon his prey.



He provides some skin-crawling suspense in Stand To when resting British troops picketed on the periphery of the huge encampment become unnerved by the sound of approaching forces in the night. Nervous woodwinds gently spread the alert over distant drumming, wafting on the air like the flickering of the soldiers’ flaming torches. The ghostly, echoing drums here actually remind me of Barry's reverberating deep bass drums from Zulu's opening. A fitting touch.

There is the blisteringly exciting track, Escape, which depicts several Zulus brilliantly absconding from British captivity with stealthy and vicious commando-like tactics. Here, Bernstein ratchets-up the tension with bashed piano, searing strings, shakers and pounding percussion, and ingeniously twists our allegiances back-and-forth between the prisoners making their violent getaway (they have been beaten and abused and we know that they aren’t the bad guys in their own country) and the British who, letting their guard down, are sealing their own fate when these captives get word of their camp’s position the vast Zulu army.

When the army of Zulus are spotted by a British patrol, Bernstein’s music erupts with spine-tingling tension. It is a dark moment of awe and terror. Anvil, trombones, lurching percussion and brass wailing signify the colossal threat that was nestling just around the corner from the camp. Harp glissandi, anvil, strings and the snare drums get the word to the troops that they are about to come under attack. We then have a reminder of the pomp and optimism of the British colonial force in Glory, which is just a reworking of the great River Crossing main theme. It is not in the film in this variation, but serves the album as stop-gap before all hell breaks loose.

Formation is an awe-inspiring track of demented suspense. The male chant sounds as though James Earl Jones leads it as the British watch the amassed ranks of over 20,000 Zulus appear on the horizon and proceed to blot it out. Rattles, shakers and tambourine dance above the tribal drums. Fiercely low brass shakes the ground as the immense army moves forward, and then jagged jabs of wood and percussion bleat out the signal for the charge to commence. It is breathtaking in its sense of looming, gigantic threat. There is excitement and controlled wariness found in Into Battle, which provides another small moment in which to take stock and prepare for the danger ahead. Piano, strings and harp deliver the urgent bad news to blithely unconcerned ears, but long, slower lines for woods and violins slow things down with a refusal to believe that the Zulus pose any serious threat.

Once the big battle begins, Bernstein enthusiastically energises his orchestra with a palpable bloodlust. The strings are on steroids. The piano recoils as though Thor, himself, is hammering at it. There is seriously thunderous use of big bass drums that deliver a beat so forcefully you would swear they could summon King Kong. Brass is thrusting and furious, replicating the shrill nastiness of flesh-rending slaughter with rib-rattling, squirm-inducing brutality. It is gorgeously thrilling to hear how he twists moments of prior dread and Empire-soaked adrenaline into sheer pandemonium and sinew-tightening, last gasp courage.



In a battalion of awesome tracks, the standout just has to be More Zulus. The flimsy British lines are quaking as the enemy gets nearer and their ammo is running out and, all around the field, different units are being overwhelmed or turned-about in full-blown retreat back towards the camp. Bernstein mimics not only the nasty stabbing of the Zulu spears, their assegais, but the sheer threat of them. Even just listening to the score, you are bracing yourself for some horrible pointy penetration to come. In one absolutely incredible moment of ultra dynamic writing, orchestration and movie editing all coming together, the canon roars, Burt Lancaster’s one-armed Col. Durnford and his mount, react to the shell whizzing over their heads, and Zulus are hefted left and right by its impact, and all amidst the greater confusion and madness of a large-scale conflict. It is impressive stuff. Christopher Palmer’s blitzkrieg orchestration shines throughout. You can be under no doubt that the players in the orchestra must have felt like they'd fought the battle, itself, by the end of it.

The music hits the bullet-smacking, spear-plunging mark so damn well that the images from the film play indelibly in your mind as you hear it. You can cry “mickey-mousing” all you like – I know some people are wont to do – but this is musical accompaniment and image illustration absolutely and scintillatingly on-point. The cacophony, the rush and the exhilaration are immediate, raw and vividly musicalised. Bernstein’s ability to convey the breadth and scope of the unfolding military disaster, pinpointing various established characters amid the chaos and following the pockets of action with a descriptively florid eye is superlative. He matches the ebb and flow of conflict, the short-lived hopes and minor triumphs, and the enveloping sense of doom with insight and symphonic muscle. His music carries you around the battlefield with ruthless finesse.

Indeed, he commands the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra like a regiment of redcoats, only his tactics are far superior to those whose final hour he is scoring. He enlists harp and vocal chanting, the soul-clutching glamour of an anvil and bone-scattering litany from xylophone, throwing these vicarious ranks into the fray with stoic strategy.
Isandhlwana Parts 1 and 2 contain so much in-yer-face might and steerage that you are turned this way and that in the musical melee that has engulfed you. You catch onto a tumbling drum roll, a passionate call from horns, or the jarring rattle of piano as if they are streams of fleeing soldiers seeking refuge, but swirling strings swiftly have you ducking and diving again, squalls of brass and pugilistic bass reminding you that there is nowhere to hide. Part 2 also highlights the encircling Zulu motif, tribal aggression closing the net.



Individual vignettes – the conveyance of the much needed and much belated ammunition, the defiant headbutt that Bob Hoskins’ awesome Colour-Sergeant delivers to a Zulu before being run-through, a last bullet spat on for luck, the terrific overturning of a speeding gun-carriage – are richly heralded with passion, texture and an ever-escalating anxiety. Trumpet signatures incur wood, piano and cymbal retaliation. Strings serenade increasingly smaller clusters of red buckling under a tsunami of black.

In Durnford, the strings soar with a forlorn and dignified salute as the Colours are passed to officers tasked with carrying them to safety, and in a heartbreaking rendition of the main theme, Burt Lancaster’s Colonel sends out a last messenger with a final word of farewell to a loved one. The tide has turned and the end is near.

An anguished melody for strings during the first part of Saving The Colours confirms the heroic pathos of Durnford’s last stand, whilst the rest of this electrifying track chronicles the valiant, but futile attempt to keep the regimental flag from falling into enemy hands. Although slightly embroidered for the film, this sequence is as accurate a depiction of the final act of heroism as we can expect. The two officers were each awarded the Victoria Cross for their efforts to cross the Buffalo River and escape, but Zulus were already on the other side waiting for them and other fugitives scrambling away. Repetition of earlier themes and motifs serves to encourage and bolster last-ditch bids for salvation, and Bernstein cunningly twists and builds upon an earlier track entitled The Chase, in which a Boer is rescued from Zulus by a passing British patrol, as well as The Hunt, to depict the rapidly changing fortunes of those riding out with the Colours. The strings jab, and the piano gets battered again. God knows how many keys had to be replaced during the recording sessions! Zulu motifs suddenly appear, catching up with an unyielding Olympian beat. Finally, competing together with cymbals, hollering woods and drums, the elements crash out as a single, death-grip bullet saves the Colours and sends it down river and away from the carnage.



Bernstein’s final track, Aftermath, is a dirge for the fallen. This is slow and painful, with little hints of the Imperial theme wavering in the dark as the foolish British commander-in-chief, Lord Chelmsford (Peter O’ Toole), walks among the bodies of the men he erroneously left to die when he led the main column off in the wrong direction, leaving the camp at the mercy of the Zulus. Sombre woods wring his hands and curse his studipidy. A haunting glimmer for harp appears as news reaches him that the sky above the mission station at Rorke’s Drift “is red with fire” and the track then softens with melancholy as an unseen dog whimpers in pain as Chelmsford draws near. It is a fabulously fitting and poignant finale.

Elmer Bernstein’s Zulu Dawn is the best musical depiction of ferocious last stand battle ever composed. Craig Safan did extremely well with Son of the Morning Star (though he freely admitted that Zulu Dawn was a clear inspiration) his jabbingly violent, set-piece episodic and elegiac score for Custer’s luck finally running out at the Little Bighorn. But this remains the stalwart, go-to example of bygone might meeting tribal defiance and it is inconceivable to me that it is so often overlooked. His skillful integration of ethnic and Imperial motifs resounds with a classically bewitching clash of cultures, the suspense he creates is tangible, and his action is savagely exciting and tragically impassioned.

If I ever face bloodthirsty and seemingly insurmountable odds, this score will be coursing through my veins.

And I’ll survive!

Your thoughts on this score are more than welcome ...

Chris


Wonderful write up to a quite outstanding film and film score...I saw the movie in cinema and in all the years of cinema going this visit was the only time the entire audience stood up and applauded at the end of a film and if you are wondering if I was the only person in the cinema you are wrong ...it was full.........such a pity that no label has released it on BD with good picture and sound........the release at present is awful...

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 2, 2017 - 6:44 AM   
 By:   martyn.crosthwaite   (Member)

ZULU DAWN (ELMER BERNSTEIN) BSX



Taking the bit between his teeth, Elmer Bernstein marched to war with the imperial redcoats, and heroically went down alongside them on the gore-soaked slopes beneath Isandhlwana before the unstoppable army of Zulus ... and on the day right before John Barry fought them off with the best of the South Wales Borderers at Rorke’s Drift. Whilst Barry’s rousing theme for Cy Enfield’s magnificent 1964 film, Zulu, is justifiably legendary, I actually much, much prefer what Bernstein brought to the battle for Douglas Hickox in 1979. His music is the spikiest, most jarring and ferocious, most downright convincing ever written for physical warfare, and yet majestically noble and valiant and wholly period-evocative at the same time. Like Barry he imbues his score with a sun-scorched African character and generates might and passion on a colossal scale.

Although this battle, in which the arrogant and tactically imbecilic, and operationally hamstrung British army was annihilated by the Zulus, who totally outnumbered and outmaneuvered them on the day (January 22nd 1879), was overshadowed and painfully glossed-over with the understandably glorified victory that an even smaller force of redcoats had directly afterwards in the famed defence of Rorke’s Drift, the true story of Isandhlwana is no less spectacular in terms of troop action and individual bravery. In fact, it is perfectly true that the victorious Zulus actually praised the magnificence of the British soldiers who, to a man, went down fighting. Once bullets ran out and their bayonets were snapped away, they turned their rifles into clubs. Once these were wrenched from their hands, they stood back-to-back and used their penknives, selling their lives with a bravery matched only by the indomitable fearlessness of their surrounding foes.



This much-lauded resilience didn’t stop the inevitable, of course, and the British were savagely overrun and wiped-out. Every single man wearing a redcoat was killed – as per the orders of the Zulu King Cetshwayo – so only a handful of officers wearing blue patrol jackets, some mounted policemen in black and some contracted auxiliaries were able to get away.

And, as with the true story of British strategic failure and rank humiliation, Hickox’s film, too, suffered in the wake of Enfield’s classic saga of victory because it told of defeat. Like any film depicting Custer’s Last Stand (another prime example of a technically superior force being completely destroyed by a “primitive” indigenous opposition) the ending is clearly foretold and ... not everyone likes their endings to be unhappy. Me? I love them though. I’m addicted to last stand tales. And I especially adore this chapter in history, and its graphic movie depiction.

Not only is it an extremely accurate depiction of what happened that day in a location that is an incredible dead-ringer for the real Isandhlwana, but it boasts Bernstein’s powerful, exciting and stout-hearted score that captures all the ferocity and terror of close-quarter battle, the regal adventure that many of the arrogant British military foolishly believed they were undertaking, the majesty of the landscape and the tribal pride of the Zulus, themselves. John Barry’s actually quite short score managed to produce significant personalities for both warring creeds and smash them together in orchestral fury. Elmer Bernstein achieves this too ... but, arguably, with more distinctly opposed venom ... and yet he still manages to hurl these disparate elements, British invaders and Zulu defenders, into one boiling pot to produce, quite literally, a musical maelstrom of violence.

A couple of grandly authentic military marches – Regimental March and a glorious reworking of the famed Men of Harlech, made vocally ballistic by Ivor Emmanuel in Zulu – enable an embroidery of empirical might and splendour. These are colourfully naive and clash their chin-jutting pomposity and chest-pumping over-confidence with the belching chants, tambourines, shakers, percussion and poised woodwinds of the Zulu themes. The meat and bones of this enormously aggressive score, however, are composed for suspense and all-out action. But, with this in mind, there is one track that seems to combine both that stiff-upper-lipped and gleaming military endeavour with a galvanising sense of momentum and action, and that is the extraordinarily epic and stimulating River Crossing, in which the main theme is introduced with adventurous aspirations. This is as stirring and pompous as you could wish for. The snare-drums beat fastidiously, brass flourishes step-up the pace, low woods suggest the exertion of getting animals, wagons and equipment across the precarious, heavy-flowing ford. But, in a stunning little about-face, Bernstein ends the track with a reminder of why we are here, and what we are about to encounter, as hints of the Zulu motif creep in with almost magical grace. This lacing of tribal mysterioso continues in Scouting, as redcoats penetrate enemy territory and far too brazenly begin to probe the enemy side of the Natal border.

But Bernstein then hurls into a frenzied set-piece of volatility in The Hunt. Zulus are spotted and chased down by mounted lancers. The track commences with a faster interpretation of River Crossing, more demonstrative, marked by a steady chiming of metal percussion and the guttural voices of the male choir. Once the skirmish takes place, Bernstein’s jagged flurries of brass and strings detail riders plucked from their horses and Zulus dropped by bullets. As the rout continues, one Zulu is pursued by a lancer and skewered to a tree. Bernstein conveys both the desperation of the fleeing Zulu and the fierce determination of the lancer as he bears down upon his prey.



He provides some skin-crawling suspense in Stand To when resting British troops picketed on the periphery of the huge encampment become unnerved by the sound of approaching forces in the night. Nervous woodwinds gently spread the alert over distant drumming, wafting on the air like the flickering of the soldiers’ flaming torches. The ghostly, echoing drums here actually remind me of Barry's reverberating deep bass drums from Zulu's opening. A fitting touch.

There is the blisteringly exciting track, Escape, which depicts several Zulus brilliantly absconding from British captivity with stealthy and vicious commando-like tactics. Here, Bernstein ratchets-up the tension with bashed piano, searing strings, shakers and pounding percussion, and ingeniously twists our allegiances back-and-forth between the prisoners making their violent getaway (they have been beaten and abused and we know that they aren’t the bad guys in their own country) and the British who, letting their guard down, are sealing their own fate when these captives get word of their camp’s position the vast Zulu army.

When the army of Zulus are spotted by a British patrol, Bernstein’s music erupts with spine-tingling tension. It is a dark moment of awe and terror. Anvil, trombones, lurching percussion and brass wailing signify the colossal threat that was nestling just around the corner from the camp. Harp glissandi, anvil, strings and the snare drums get the word to the troops that they are about to come under attack. We then have a reminder of the pomp and optimism of the British colonial force in Glory, which is just a reworking of the great River Crossing main theme. It is not in the film in this variation, but serves the album as stop-gap before all hell breaks loose.

Formation is an awe-inspiring track of demented suspense. The male chant sounds as though James Earl Jones leads it as the British watch the amassed ranks of over 20,000 Zulus appear on the horizon and proceed to blot it out. Rattles, shakers and tambourine dance above the tribal drums. Fiercely low brass shakes the ground as the immense army moves forward, and then jagged jabs of wood and percussion bleat out the signal for the charge to commence. It is breathtaking in its sense of looming, gigantic threat. There is excitement and controlled wariness found in Into Battle, which provides another small moment in which to take stock and prepare for the danger ahead. Piano, strings and harp deliver the urgent bad news to blithely unconcerned ears, but long, slower lines for woods and violins slow things down with a refusal to believe that the Zulus pose any serious threat.

Once the big battle begins, Bernstein enthusiastically energises his orchestra with a palpable bloodlust. The strings are on steroids. The piano recoils as though Thor, himself, is hammering at it. There is seriously thunderous use of big bass drums that deliver a beat so forcefully you would swear they could summon King Kong. Brass is thrusting and furious, replicating the shrill nastiness of flesh-rending slaughter with rib-rattling, squirm-inducing brutality. It is gorgeously thrilling to hear how he twists moments of prior dread and Empire-soaked adrenaline into sheer pandemonium and sinew-tightening, last gasp courage.



In a battalion of awesome tracks, the standout just has to be More Zulus. The flimsy British lines are quaking as the enemy gets nearer and their ammo is running out and, all around the field, different units are being overwhelmed or turned-about in full-blown retreat back towards the camp. Bernstein mimics not only the nasty stabbing of the Zulu spears, their assegais, but the sheer threat of them. Even just listening to the score, you are bracing yourself for some horrible pointy penetration to come. In one absolutely incredible moment of ultra dynamic writing, orchestration and movie editing all coming together, the canon roars, Burt Lancaster’s one-armed Col. Durnford and his mount, react to the shell whizzing over their heads, and Zulus are hefted left and right by its impact, and all amidst the greater confusion and madness of a large-scale conflict. It is impressive stuff. Christopher Palmer’s blitzkrieg orchestration shines throughout. You can be under no doubt that the players in the orchestra must have felt like they'd fought the battle, itself, by the end of it.

The music hits the bullet-smacking, spear-plunging mark so damn well that the images from the film play indelibly in your mind as you hear it. You can cry “mickey-mousing” all you like – I know some people are wont to do – but this is musical accompaniment and image illustration absolutely and scintillatingly on-point. The cacophony, the rush and the exhilaration are immediate, raw and vividly musicalised. Bernstein’s ability to convey the breadth and scope of the unfolding military disaster, pinpointing various established characters amid the chaos and following the pockets of action with a descriptively florid eye is superlative. He matches the ebb and flow of conflict, the short-lived hopes and minor triumphs, and the enveloping sense of doom with insight and symphonic muscle. His music carries you around the battlefield with ruthless finesse.

Indeed, he commands the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra like a regiment of redcoats, only his tactics are far superior to those whose final hour he is scoring. He enlists harp and vocal chanting, the soul-clutching glamour of an anvil and bone-scattering litany from xylophone, throwing these vicarious ranks into the fray with stoic strategy.
Isandhlwana Parts 1 and 2 contain so much in-yer-face might and steerage that you are turned this way and that in the musical melee that has engulfed you. You catch onto a tumbling drum roll, a passionate call from horns, or the jarring rattle of piano as if they are streams of fleeing soldiers seeking refuge, but swirling strings swiftly have you ducking and diving again, squalls of brass and pugilistic bass reminding you that there is nowhere to hide. Part 2 also highlights the encircling Zulu motif, tribal aggression closing the net.



Individual vignettes – the conveyance of the much needed and much belated ammunition, the defiant headbutt that Bob Hoskins’ awesome Colour-Sergeant delivers to a Zulu before being run-through, a last bullet spat on for luck, the terrific overturning of a speeding gun-carriage – are richly heralded with passion, texture and an ever-escalating anxiety. Trumpet signatures incur wood, piano and cymbal retaliation. Strings serenade increasingly smaller clusters of red buckling under a tsunami of black.

In Durnford, the strings soar with a forlorn and dignified salute as the Colours are passed to officers tasked with carrying them to safety, and in a heartbreaking rendition of the main theme, Burt Lancaster’s Colonel sends out a last messenger with a final word of farewell to a loved one. The tide has turned and the end is near.

An anguished melody for strings during the first part of Saving The Colours confirms the heroic pathos of Durnford’s last stand, whilst the rest of this electrifying track chronicles the valiant, but futile attempt to keep the regimental flag from falling into enemy hands. Although slightly embroidered for the film, this sequence is as accurate a depiction of the final act of heroism as we can expect. The two officers were each awarded the Victoria Cross for their efforts to cross the Buffalo River and escape, but Zulus were already on the other side waiting for them and other fugitives scrambling away. Repetition of earlier themes and motifs serves to encourage and bolster last-ditch bids for salvation, and Bernstein cunningly twists and builds upon an earlier track entitled The Chase, in which a Boer is rescued from Zulus by a passing British patrol, as well as The Hunt, to depict the rapidly changing fortunes of those riding out with the Colours. The strings jab, and the piano gets battered again. God knows how many keys had to be replaced during the recording sessions! Zulu motifs suddenly appear, catching up with an unyielding Olympian beat. Finally, competing together with cymbals, hollering woods and drums, the elements crash out as a single, death-grip bullet saves the Colours and sends it down river and away from the carnage.



Bernstein’s final track, Aftermath, is a dirge for the fallen. This is slow and painful, with little hints of the Imperial theme wavering in the dark as the foolish British commander-in-chief, Lord Chelmsford (Peter O’ Toole), walks among the bodies of the men he erroneously left to die when he led the main column off in the wrong direction, leaving the camp at the mercy of the Zulus. Sombre woods wring his hands and curse his studipidy. A haunting glimmer for harp appears as news reaches him that the sky above the mission station at Rorke’s Drift “is red with fire” and the track then softens with melancholy as an unseen dog whimpers in pain as Chelmsford draws near. It is a fabulously fitting and poignant finale.

Elmer Bernstein’s Zulu Dawn is the best musical depiction of ferocious last stand battle ever composed. Craig Safan did extremely well with Son of the Morning Star (though he freely admitted that Zulu Dawn was a clear inspiration) his jabbingly violent, set-piece episodic and elegiac score for Custer’s luck finally running out at the Little Bighorn. But this remains the stalwart, go-to example of bygone might meeting tribal defiance and it is inconceivable to me that it is so often overlooked. His skillful integration of ethnic and Imperial motifs resounds with a classically bewitching clash of cultures, the suspense he creates is tangible, and his action is savagely exciting and tragically impassioned.

If I ever face bloodthirsty and seemingly insurmountable odds, this score will be coursing through my veins.

And I’ll survive!

Your thoughts on this score are more than welcome ...

Chris


Wonderful write up to a quite outstanding film and film score...I saw the movie in cinema and in all the years of cinema going this visit was the only time the entire audience stood up and applauded at the end of a film and if you are wondering if I was the only person in the cinema you are wrong ...it was full.........such a pity that no label has released it on BD with good picture and sound........the release at present is awful...

 
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