The 7th Dawn (1964/United
Artists/MGM Limited Edition DVD)
Picture: B- Sound: B- Extras: D Movie: B+
William Holden shines in this exotic
thriller, playing the world and war-weary American Major Ferris. Set in the steamy lands of post-WWII Malaysia
against the backdrop of the Cold War struggle between Communism and Capitalism,
Ferris, Dhana (Capucine), and Ng (Tetsuro Tamba) share a common bond from their
days fighting against the Japanese occupation.
Politics and a burning desire to see his native Malaysia free of all
imperialist powers take Ng away to train with the Communists, while Ferris
remains to make his fortune in rubber and trade. Meanwhile, Dhana also remains in country and
becomes a beloved teacher and ally of the common people.
Tensions rise to the boiling point as Ng
(pronounced “Ing” in the film) returns and begins a Communist insurrection
against the British, who have promised to leave Malaysia to her people, but not
while the “red menace” lurks in the background ready to seize power. Ferris and Dhana find themselves trapped
between these two implacable forces, one a symbol of the old days Imperialism,
the other a revolutionary firebrand willing to commit any atrocity to gain
power. The old friendship with Ng
complicates matters and draws the three old friends into a tragic conflict with
little chance for a happy outcome.
Susannah York offers a strong performance
as Candace Trumpey, daughter of the British official in charge of the country,
and a younger woman immediately drawn to Ferris. Although he remains true to Dhana,
circumstances conspire to create a love triangle of sorts between Candace,
Ferris, and Dhana, while a similar tension already exists amongst Ferris,
Dhana, and Ng--the three old freedom fighters.
The 7th Dawn offers no easy answers to the Malaysian
conflict, and director Lewis Gilbert (Education
Rita, You Only Live Twice) transforms
Michael Keon’s novel of the same name into an even-handed account where the
heavy-handed British and the communist insurgents share much of the blame for
the suffering born by the country’s people.
In the end the insurrection is broken, and history bears out that the
Malaysian people gained their autonomy from the British.
Although the film itself is strong and
offers solid picture (anamorphiclaly enhanced 1.66 X 1 image shot by the great
Freddie Young, B.S.C. of Lawrence Of
Arabia and You Only Live Twice)
and sound quality, the disc is bereft of extras. This does not detract from the film, but does
leave the viewer wanting to know more about what must have been a challenging
location shoot. William Holden fans will
not be disappointed in the action and drama The 7th Dawn so