SLIGHT Warning: Minor- non explicit spoilers in this write-up
The 7th Dawn (1964) was a bit of a surprise watch for me. Political intrigue is never something that draws me in, but what makes this one different is there is a slight war angle, as it’s set in Post WWII Malaya. There’s also the element of the characters all being really fascinating and very three dimensional, all with their own motives. But really being real here, the main draw for me was Mr. William Holden, for if he wasn’t in it, I’m not sure I would have been interested.
Bill plays the role of Major Ferris-and yes, that’s his only name! After the war, still being stationed in Malaya, Ferris inherits a rubber plantation, while his lover Dhana (Capucine) becomes the head teacher of a school. Meanwhile old war chum, guerrilla fighter Ng (Tetsuro Tamba) heads to Moscow to get an “education”, and returns with an agenda: reform the country under an “independent” communist regime.
Although Ferris remains neutral with Ng as a former alley, complications arise when Dhana is arrested and charged with treason for carrying explosives for insurgents. Ferris gets caught up in a love triangle with Dhana and Candace (Sussannah York), daughter of a British resident. It gets even twistier when Candace gets caught up with Ng and offers herself as a hostage. Ferris then has to make difficult decisions as he is given seven days to turn in Ng, in exchange for Dhana’s life.
Overall, I feel the characters as so closely intertwined it makes for compelling viewing, it just moves at a somewhat slow pace. There will be these really slow sequences of dialogue, bizarre establishing shots, and then fast paced action scenes. It’s a bit unbalanced, but what keeps you glued to the story is the characters.
Ferris is Bill Holden being Bill Holden: the all American man standing for truth, honor and integrity. He wants to do right by his values, but also is a loyal friend not wanting to hurt anyone, and that includes Ng. So many times I would think, here comes an all out fallout, when in reality you have to wait until the end to see the tension culminate between the two, leading to a payoff climax.
It’s also really delicious to see Bill play a love triangle with him being in the middle of it. I truly believed the triangle could have gone either way, and that was entirely refreshing. I think it’s safe to say Bill has some of the best romance scenes within this movie- and he’s had a bunch of them throughout his career!
Capucine really wowed me in this movie. So many times she plays the, “pretty”, girl but here she plays a serious role. I thought she played her part wonderfully, and I personally wanted her and Ferris together, as she was more mature than the young Candace. Speaking of Candace, I don’t want to rule out Susannah York’s part, as although she was the naive character, she really stepped up towards the latter half of the film, especially when Dhana is stuck in prison. York’s Candace really has the most growth and it’s cool to see.
Perhaps the coolest part of this movie is the production company of, “Holdean”, was Bill’s own. Combine that with the remarkable on location scenery, I will say this movie certainly warrants a watch. I personally have it in my collection and can admit, I’d be willing to revisit it maybe once a year. What could have been done better, however, was the run time, as you do feel all of the 123 minutes. It’s a long movie both by runtime standards and fatigue standards, but has a real payoff in the end; patience is key with this Lewis Gilbert directed flick.
In the end, The 7th Dawn may be a long journey to take but its one you wanna take especially if you can have patience and genuinely care about the characters. Bill gets to play a really cool role and even travel on location- combining in this period of his life, two of his great passions: acting and traveling. Add on you’ve got romance, war/ battle scenes, drama, and even a dash of suspense, PLUS a sensational score by Riz Ortolani, you’ve got something for everyone; certainly a watchable, enjoyable movie.
This post was written for the 5th William Holden Golden Boy Blogathon April 15-17 2022, hosted by Ginnie of the Wonderful World of Cinema, Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood and me, Emily, of The Flapper Dame!