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The War Lord

film poster by Howard Terpning
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
Produced by Walter Seltzer
Written by John Collier
Millard Kaufman
Leslie Stevens
Starring Charlton Heston
Richard Boone
Rosemary Forsyth
Maurice Evans
Guy Stockwell
Niall MacGinnis
Henry Wilcoxon
James Farentino
Music by Jerome Moross
Hans J. Salter
Cinematography Russell Metty
Editing by Folmar Blangsted
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) November 17, 1965
Running time 123 min
Country United States
Language English
Budget $ 3,500,000
See The Warlord for the comic.

The War Lord is a 1965 film starring Charlton Heston, Richard Boone, Rosemary Forsyth, Guy Stockwell, Maurice Evans, Niall MacGinnis, Henry Wilcoxon and James Farentino, with Jon Alderson, Allen Jaffe, Sammy Ross, and Woodrow Parfrey. The film was directed by the future Oscar winning Director Franklin J. Schaffner, and the screenplay was by the acclaimed John Collier. The film is an adaptation of the play, The Lovers, written by Leslie Stevens.

Up until this film, most Hollywood representations of feudal life were glamorized. The War Lord attempts to portray the 11th century in a more accurate fashion as dirty, violent and ruled by brute force. The social stratification imposed by feudalism governed every human relationship, with power devolving from the duke, to the knight, to the men at arms, the church and the peasantry at the very bottom.


Charlton Heston plays Chrysagon de la Cruex, a Norman knight charged with defending a Druid village. At the heart of the story is a doomed romance which defies the social norms and sparks a growing confrontation with Chrysagon's brother, Draco, played by Guy Stockwell.

Chrysagon encounters Bronwyn, his future love, as she is harassed by his own men. Gradually he finds himself falling for the girl he's rescued. Bronwyn's father, the village chief, later asks Chrysagon's permission for Bronwyn to marry. Chrysagon approves, but soon regrets the decision. He wants Bronwyn for himself.

He later learns of "Droit de seigneur", a right which permits the Lord of the Domain to sleep with any virgin woman on her wedding night. But custom demands Bronwyn be given up by dawn. The following day, Bronwyn is not returned. What the village doesn't realize is that she's chosen to stay of her own free will.

All of this takes place against the background of war against Frisian (Viking) raiders who plague the Norman coast.

The complexity of this film can be seen in the ambiguity of Chrysagon's character. At times, he seems to cross into gray areas, suggesting a possible dark side. But he always ends up doing the right thing; the upbeat note in this otherwise uneasy tale.

The intensity of acting may well have been Heston's best, and Guy Stockwell matched him every step of the way. The remaining cast performed at a very high level. The musical score set both uplifting as well as very eerie moods.

Heston notes in his autobiography that a film student by the name of Steven Spielberg hung around the sets during the making of the film.

See also

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