Film / The War Lord

1965 movie directed by Franklin J. Schaffner. It stars Charlton Heston, Richard Boone, Rosemary Forsyth, Guy Stockwell, Maurice Evans, Niall MacGinnis and Henry Wilcoxon.

Chrysagon de la Cruex (Charlton Heston) is a knight in the service of the Duke of Normandy. He is sent with his brother Draco (Guy Stockwell) and Bors (Richard Boone), an old warrior who remained loyal to him no matter what they've been through, to a coastal village where the previous lord was killed in his tower by Frisian raiders. He battles them, captures the Frisian Prince's son and begins to rebuild the Duke's authority over the pagan villagers. He falls in love with Bronwyn, one of the local women, and decides to keep her for himself. He then finds himself betrayed by her fiancÚ and the angry villagers, who call the Frisian raiders to help besiege the tower.

Up until this film, most Hollywood representations of feudal life were glamorized. The War Lord attempts to portray the late 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 his men at arms, the church and the peasantry at the very bottom.

This movie provides examples of:

  • Depraved Dwarf: Downplayed with Flea, but he enslaves the Frisian Prince's son and later sends Marc to call the Frisians for help, betraying the Normans. Draco shoots an arrow in his back as a punishment for this betrayal.
  • Droit du Seigneur: Chrysagon demands Bronwyn on her wedding night. The trouble starts when he doesn't give her back.
  • Druidism: The villagers' pagan religion.
  • Epic Flail: Chrysagon wields one in his first encounter with the Frisians.
  • Feudal Overlord: Chrysagon is a rather historically realistic version of the trope.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Chrysagon wears only a loincloth when he confronts the first Frisian assault on the tower. He had no time to put his mail armor on.
  • Horny Vikings: The Frisians are more or less portrayed like Vikings (although there are no hollywoodian horned helmets).
  • Hostage Situation: On the heroes' side this time.
  • Loophole Abuse: Chrysagon demands Bronwyn on her wedding night based on the fact that said wedding is a pagan one so there's no sacrilege, according to the priest.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Marc's attempt to kill Chrysagon at the end. It doesn't end well for him, as Bors impales him on a pointed tree trunk.
  • The Middle Ages: The story takes place around the Norman invasion of England, between the low and high Middle Ages.
  • Old Retainer: Bors served Chrysagon's father before him.
  • Parental Favoritism: Chrysagon has always been his father's favourite (being the first born helps).
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Chrysagon tries his best to be one.
  • Rescue: The whole purpose of the Frisian siege is to rescue the leader's young son.
  • Shirtless Scene: Chrysagon during the first Frisian assault on the tower. And there's the cauterization scene.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Draco has always been jealous of Chrysagon.
  • The Siege: The Frisians make several attempts to storm the tower. First they sabotage the drawbridge's chains. Then they partially destroy the door with a Battering Ram made with a tree trunk. The Normans knock it over in the moat at the last moment using a rope and an anchor that was searched by Bors. The Frisians then succeed to burn the tower's door but they are repelled when the fire is extended with oil. In their last attempt, they build a siege tower. They could have overwhelmed Chrysagon's forces, had Draco not brought reinforcements with a catapult.
  • This Is Reality: At the end, Bors rebukes Chrysagon's wistful desire to "make amends" with this.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: The villagers join the Frisians to storm the castle. Invoked by Draco:
    Draco: You're the lord of this place. "Hold it well!" he told you. And where are the dogs you hold it for? Waiting outside your door with pitchforks.
  • The Tower: The only kind of fortress that was built in the village, with no walls nor any type of defense around except the moat.
  • Trash the Set: Chrysagon destroys a tapestry in anger after he learns that Bronwyn is soon to be married.