The War Lord

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The War Lord
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
Produced by Walter Seltzer
Screenplay by John Collier
Millard Kaufman
Based on The Lovers (play)
by Leslie Stevens
Starring Charlton Heston
Richard Boone
Rosemary Forsyth
Maurice Evans
Guy Stockwell
Music by Jerome Moross
Hans J. Salter
Cinematography Russell Metty
Edited by Folmar Blangsted
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • November 17, 1965 (1965-11-17) (US)
Running time
123 min
Country United States
Language English
Budget $ 3,500,000
See Warlord (comics) for the comic book.

The War Lord is a 1965 American film about Medieval warfare in 11th century Normandy, starring Charlton Heston and directed by Franklin J. Schaffner. It is an adaptation of the play, The Lovers, by Leslie Stevens. The film also features 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. Schaffner would later reteam with Heston and Evans in 1968 for Planet of the Apes.

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.


Chrysagon de la Cruex (Heston) is 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 (Stockwell).

Chrysagon encounters Bronwyn (Forsyth), 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, Odins, later asks Chrysagon's permission for Bronwyn to marry Marc, to whom Bronwyn has been betrothed since childhood. Chrysagon approves, but soon regrets the decision. He wants Bronwyn for himself.

He later learns of "Droit du 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 and Marc demands justice. 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 raiders who plague the Norman coast.


The film's score was composed by Jerome Moross. The main musical theme was released as a guitar instrumental by The Shadows. A soundtrack album was released by Decca Records in 1965[1].

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