Director: Franklin Schaffner
Cast: Charlton Heston, Richard Boone, Rosemary Forsyth, Maurice Evans, Guy Stockwell, Niall MacGinnis, Henry Wilcoxon, James Farentino, Michael Conrad.
MPAA Rating: None stated on cover.
AKA: Il Principe Guerriero/ O Senhor da Guerra
It's the 11th century. A Christian Knight (Heston) is sent to govern a rural fief full of frolicking stone and forest-spirit worshipping pagans. No sooner does the band of Normans arrive than they are faced with their first problem, Frisian sea-raiders are attacking the local peasant village! Of course the noble knight, Chrysagon, charges in with his men to valiantly fend off the heathen raiders. A brief but fierce battle ensues. Chrysagon spies an enemy across the field and curses, for it is an enemy of old and there's a history of blood between them. Alas he gets away. But, what's this, a blond haired Frisian youth is left behind as the raiders make haste to their Viking longboats and flee across the sea to, uhm, wherever Frisian raiders call home.
Alas, and sadly, from this point on the movie becomes a rather slow to develop love story, mostly because Heston's character can't quite decide on what to do. Yet there's a sort of naive charm to it all. You see he met this peasant girl, saved her from being harassed by his men really, and he seems to have fallen for her. Only he seems to not quite know it, or at least is denying the obvious. A few encounters later and our good Christian Knight is really in deep.
Eventually Chrysagon shows up to the celebratory revel at Bronwyn's (Rosemary Forsyth) pagan marriage ceremony to claim his "first night" right to have her. Events spiral from this point onward. There's a few threads of sub-plot, like that Frisian youth, but mostly the movie is about Chrysagon pining away for peasant girl Bronwyn and love's labors lost. Along the way we learn a few facts, delivered as asides by tertiary characters, such as how the villagers rustic beliefs originated with the Druids but THE WAR LORD is primarily a darkly brooding semi-epic historical romance.
Overall a decent, above average, period costumer that looks pretty good despite some minor flaws. Such as the fact some close-ups were obviously shot in-studio in front of a rear projection screen, the portrayal of feudal peasant life is bleak yet everyone looks well bathed and well coifed, and the keep Chrysagon is shown to occupy doesn't look large enough to house all the men we saw at the beginning of the picture. Then again the movie does have a stark realism that makes you wonder.
Unlike in most Hollywood productions where rural pagans are given cursory treatment here they are depicted as an oppressed underclass who are considered little more than chattle, dirty faced slave labor, their bodies to be used and abused at will by the occupying Norman overlords. This isn't some glossy romanticized fiction of the past ala PATHFINDER or BRAVEHEART. Sadly younger audiences weened on vacuous comic book fare like XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS and HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS may get confused by the existence of an actual plot but, if you could sit through ALEXANDER or 300 you'll be pleasantly surprised by THE WAR LORD.
The movie reviewed is from the long OOP Goodtimes release, which to date has been the only R1 DVD release of this title. Goodtimes was a company notorious for releasing (primarily) public domain titles in mediocre to piddling quality releases, often edited for content, and THE WAR LORD seems to suffer from some of the same problems. While WS (2.35:1) it is non-anamorphic, there is pronounced grain, contrast levels are too dark, and the color is somewhat subdued. However the audio is clear, if not crisp, and there does not appear to be any evidence of the usual sort of artefacting that plagues so many bargain bin releases these days. Compared to the sort of PD product on the shelves today this is a quality release.
AVAILABILITY & ALTERNATE VERSIONS
This movie has become neglected and all but forgotten. The Goodtimes DVD appears to be the only North American DVD release. It runs 120 minutes and 48 seconds though the DVD cover lists a run time of 121 minutes, which is close to what print and online references list as the run time; being between 121 to 123 minutes. A R0 DVD from Brazil sometimes lists on Amazon, but the cover art is identical to that of the Goodtimes release, save for the title; which reads: O Senhor da Guerra. This release lists a run time of 122 minutes and an aspect ratio of 1.66:1. The old MCA/Universal VHS release lists a run time of 121 minutes. I could not find any information on the Beta or LD releases.
Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan
This is an archived review. Original posted here.