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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Action > War > British > The 7th Dawn (1964/United Artists/MGM Limited Edition DVD)

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 ably provides.



-   Scott Pyle

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