The Lords of Discipline (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Lords of Discipline
Poster of the movie The Lords of Discipline.jpg
Directed by Franc Roddam
Produced by Herb Jaffe
Gabriel Katzka
Written by Lloyd Fonvielle
Thomas Pope
from the novel by
Pat Conroy
Music by Howard Blake
Cinematography Brian Tufano
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • February 18, 1983 (1983-02-18)
Running time
103 min.
Country United States
Language English
Box office $11,787,127

The Lords of Discipline is a 1983 American film based on the novel by Pat Conroy and directed by Franc Roddam. The film stars David Keith, Robert Prosky, Judge Reinhold, Bill Paxton, William Hope, Michael Biehn, and Olympic boxer Mark Breland. The college scenes were filmed primarily at Wellington College in England, as none of the American military academies would allow filming on their grounds because of the book's less-than-positive portrayal of life at a military academy.[citation needed]

The film was not filmed entirely in England. The restaurant scene with Bobby Bentley, Commerce's home, and the train track scene were filmed in Charleston, South Carolina over a period of two weeks.[citation needed]

The Story[edit]

The year is 1964, and Carolina Military Institute is about to do something it has never done in its entire history: allow a black man to become a member of the Corps of Cadets. Will McLean, a Cadet Senior Private, has been assigned to watch over him to ensure that he makes it through the year. This assignment forces him to stand against the power of "The Ten", an alleged secret brotherhood within the Corps of Cadets sworn to uphold CMI's highest any and all means necessary.


At the Carolina Military Institute (CMI), a first-year cadet (called a "knob") is harassed by three senior cadets, led by Cadet Lieutenant Colonel John Alexander. Cadet Senior Private Will McLean returns to CMI from nearby Charleston & is teased by his mentor & friend, Lieutenant Colonel "Bear" Berrineau.

At the home of his close friend & classmate Tradd St. Croix, McLean is warmly greeted by Tradd's parents, Commerce & Abigail; Tradd gives McLean a key to the St. Croix house, as he is always welcome there. McLean & Bear watch as the incoming class of knobs endure humiliation (called "The Taming") from their upper-class peers; among them are an overweight cadet named Poteete & CMI's first black cadet, Pearce. Bear assigns McLean to watch over Pearce & see that no harm comes to him, much to McLean's consternation.

During a meal in the chow hall, McLean can only helplessly watch as his fellow upperclassmen further humiliate Pearce by flicking food at him & throwing a glass of water in his face. During a church service, Lieutenant General Bentley Durrell, CMI's Commanding Officer, reminds the cadets of the CMI Honor Code: a cadet "will not lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate those who do", and that America needs men of honor & integrity, such as CMI cadets.

During "Hell Night", in which the upperclassmen attempt to mentally break the knobs, to force out the weak. McLean catches Alexander & his cronies hazing Pearce by having him do pull-ups while Alexander holds a saber underneath Pearce's genitals, but Bear intervenes & sternly warns Alexander not to harm his "lambs"; Bear then reminds McLean to do his job of protecting Pearce. Pignetti harshly berates Poteete, but McLean forces Pignetti out of the room & attempts to comfort Poteete, telling him not to quit. Later that night, a group of masked men force Pearce into a locker & abduct Poteete, forcing him to stand on a high ledge all night long. The following morning, Poteete is spotted by cadets assembled for drill on the Quad; McLean manages to save Poteete, who tells McLean about the "Ten".

McLean is summoned by Durrell, who questions McLean why he didn't participate in Hell Night; McLean tells Durrell that he disapproves of hazing. Durrell says Pearce has shown great courage & reminds McLean that as a senior cadet, he is expected to participate in the hazing of the knobs & dismisses him. Pearce enters his room, and sees a burning effigy of himself hanging by a noose from the ceiling, with "10" marked on it. McLean asks Bear about the Ten, who explains they are just a long-time legend & finds out the "Hole" is supposedly where the Ten take their victims for torture, but Bear does not know where it is. McLean is summoned to the Quad, where Poteete has once again been forced by the Ten to stand overnight on the same ledge as before. As McLean attempts to talk down Poteete, Poteete runs & attempts to jump to the next building, but misses and falls to his death. McLean informs Pearce that if he is being harassed too excessively, he is to leave notes for McLean hidden in a certain library book, which McLean tells Bear about.

At a ceremonial dinner where the senior cadets receive their class rings, Durrell informs all present that his son was killed during a military training exercise. Later that night, the senior cadets hold a candlelight vigil in front of Durrell's house, and honor Durrell's son by singing "Dixie", causing General & Mrs. Durrell to finally mourn the loss of their son.

Pearce is attacked while he is showering & the Ten use a knife to carve "10" into his back, which Pearce later shows to McLean. Pearce also explains that he has left several notes for McLean in the book he was told about, but as McLean never received them, McLean determines that someone has been stealing Pearce's notes. McLean suspects Bear, the only other person who knows about the notes. At a senior class dance, McLean confronts Bear in private; Bear tells McLean about what the Ten are. McLean accuses Bear of stealing Pearce's notes, which Bear denies & angrily dismisses McLean. Later that night, McLean convinces his roommates to help him bring down the Ten.

At a local diner, McLean & his friends question Bobby Bentley, a former CMI cadet who was forced to quit by the Ten; Bentley identifies a former member of the Ten: Dan McIntyre, now a Charleston attorney. McLean & his friends disguise themselves, kidnap McIntyre & use the threat of an oncoming train to force McIntyre to admit that he was a member of the Ten & that the "Hole" is a local plantation owned by Durrell. McLean finds out the Ten have taken Pearce to the Hole & are torturing him to force him to quit from CMI. As the Ten threaten to set Pearce on fire, McLean taunts the Ten, forcing them to chase McLean. Pignetti & Santoro save McLean & unmask one of the members of the Ten, revealing him as Alexander. Some of the other members of the Ten are identified by their cars parked outside the Hole.

The following day, Pearce denies being tortured by the Ten before Alexander & McLean; the latter insults Pearce for his insolence. McLean then threatens to publicly expose Alexander & the Ten. Alexander tells McLean the Ten injured Bentley & further retaliates by framing Pignetti for theft. Pignetti is found guilty by the Honor Court, which is controlled by the Ten, and expelled from CMI. Alexander issues McLean, Santoro & Tradd a large number of demerits, but McLean offers Alexander a deal: McLean will resign from CMI, in exchange for Alexander showing leniency towards Santoro & Tradd; Alexander accepts.

McLean & Santoro are shocked when they see McIntyre & Commerce St. Croix publicly meeting with Bear, further convincing McLean that Bear is allied with the Ten. Bear covertly watches McLean & Santoro sneaking out of CMI; they are heading to the St. Croix house to investigate Commerce's link with the Ten. By reading Commerce's journals, they find out that not only was Commerce a former member of the Ten, they discover some 30 former CMI cadets (including Bentley) who were forced to quit by the Ten, and that Durrell secretly supports the Ten. Most shocking is the fact that Tradd is a current member of the Ten, but Bear is not affiliated with the Ten, as he was never mentioned in Commerce's journals. McLean & Santoro sneak out of the St. Croix house before they can be discovered.

McLean returns to the St. Croix house the following day and confronts Tradd, who admits he is a member of the Ten & he tried to convince the other members to spare his friends, to no avail. It is also found out Tradd was responsible for stealing Pearce's notes. McLean angrily berates Tradd for his betrayal & throws his St. Croix house key at Tradd, ending their friendship. McLean then storms into Durrell's office and confronts him with evidence that he supports the Ten. Bear walks into Durrell's office and threatens Durrell by arranging to have 12 former CMI cadets testify in court against Durrell; Bear accuses Durrell of lying to him about the Ten, then allows McLean to deal with Durrell. McLean then makes three demands: all of the senior class must be allowed to graduate, including Pignetti, who must be reinstated; the Ten must be publicly exposed and disbanded before the entire Corps of Cadets, and lastly, Durrell must retire at the end of the year. Durrell furiously refuses to resign, but McLean blackmails him by threatening to send letters to newspapers that would publicly expose Durrell and his endorsement of the Ten. Left with no choice, Durrell accepts McLean's demands.

McLean and Pearce make amends, and Pearce tells McLean that he will never give up, to McLean's satisfaction. On Graduation Day, all of the senior class graduate, as Durrell promised. However, McLean is disgusted by all of the corruption he has exposed, and resigns from CMI, takes off his class ring & leaves it behind in his room. As McLean begins to walk away forever from CMI, Bear bids him farewell, but gives McLean back his class ring, saying he earned it.



An episode of NCIS, "Cadence" (season 12, episode 14), has some similarity to the film. It centers around the "Remington Military Academy", which has a secret society similar to the Ten- Honor Corps- and includes a character nicknamed "Piggy", versus the film's character Dante "Pig" Pignetti.

External links[edit]