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Film / The War Lord

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The War Lord is a 1965 movie directed by Franklin J. Schaffner (who would later direct Planet Of The Apes). It stars Charlton Heston, Richard Boone, Rosemary Forsyth, Guy Stockwell, Maurice Evans, James Farentino, Niall MacGinnis and Henry Wilcoxon.

Chrysagon de la Cruex (Heston) is a knight in the service of the Duke of Normandy. He is sent with his brother Draco (Stockwell) and Bors (Boone), an old warrior who swore to protect him, to a coastal village where the previous lord was killed in his tower by Frisian raiders. He battles them, captures the Frisian chief's son and begins to rebuild the Duke's authority over the pagan villagers. He falls in love with Bronwyn (Forsyth), one of the local women, and decides to keep her for himself, which angries both her fiancé Marc (Farentino) and the other villagers. Chrysagon then finds himself betrayed by the villagers, who call the Frisian raiders to help them besiege the tower to get both Bronwyn and the young Frisian prince back.


Up until this film, most Hollywood representations of feudal life were glamorized, with bright and clean colors, Paragons and Knights in Shining Armors aplenty, with the issue of religion rarely brought upon. The War Lord attempts to portray the late 11th century in a more accurate fashion as dirty, violent, and ruled by brute force or pragmatism, and shows how Christianity dealt with local paganisms. It also shows how 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.

Not to be confused with the comics The Warlord nor the film Lord of War.


This movie provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Chrysagon is skilled at spear-throwing, fights while wearing just a loincloth and blinds an enemy with a torch.

  • An Axe to Grind: The Frisians' favourite weapon.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Chrysagon de la Cruex is by no mean a Norman name of the time. It's still pretty cool.
  • Ax-Crazy: Draco wants to kill his brother out of the jealousy-fuelled years he spent in his shadow.
  • Badass Beard: Bors is bearded, and he's an Old Soldier who kicks ass left and right, most often with clubs or things improvised as such.
  • The Big Guy: Bors. He's the strongest of Chrysagon's men.
  • Carry a Big Stick: Bors is often seen using a club or whatever piece of wood he can bash enemies with.
  • The Cavalry: Draco comes back with reinforcements and a catapult just in time, and they destroy the Frisians' siege tower just as Chrysagon and his men are being overwhelmed.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Chrysagon, given the way he goes after Bronwyn.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Marc (Bronwyn's fiancé) completely loses it when Chrysagon takes his fiancée away on his very wedding day.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Draco has a very sharp tongue.
  • 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.
  • Determinator: The Frisians never run out of ideas and determination to storm the tower.
  • 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 a ball-and-chain flail 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. The son of the Frisian prince is taken hostage by Chrysagon and his men, and they find themselves besieged as a consequence.
  • Loophole Abuse: Chrysagon demands Bronwyn on her wedding night based on the fact that said wedding is a Pagan one so there's no offense to Christianity, according to the priest.
  • The Low Middle Ages: The very end of it, as the movie takes place after 1066.
  • 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 some time after the Norman invasion of England, between the low and high Middle Ages.
  • Not Afraid to Die: During the Battering Ram assault, Bors immediately steps in to search the anchor to have a chance of stopping the ram.
    Chrysagon: Not you, Bors!
    Bors: Why not? I would as soon die a wet death as a dry one.
  • Old Retainer: Bors served Chrysagon's father before him.
  • Old Soldier: Bors has accompanied Chrysagon's father and Chrysagon himself in all of their military campaigns.
  • Older Sidekick: Bors served Chrysagon's father before serving him.
  • Parental Favoritism: Chrysagon has always been his father's favourite (being the first born helped).
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: The Frisians' way of life. They are first seen departing after a pillage.
  • 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 and save their little prince, with the help of the angry villagers who want Bronwyn back.
    • First they sabotage the drawbridge's chains at night.
    • 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 in burning the tower's door but they are repelled when the fire is extended with oil.
    • In their last attempt, they build a siege tower. This time 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 it except the moat.
  • Trash the Set: Chrysagon destroys a tapestry in anger after he learns that Bronwyn is soon to be married.
  • Undying Loyalty: Bors is loyal to Chrysagon and follows him everywhere, having sworn to his father to protect him.
  • Warrior Prince: The Frisian's chief is called their "prince", and he is very much The Strategist.


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