Three years before they would collaborate for the sci-fi classic Planet of the Apes, director Franklin Schaffner (Patton) and Charlton Heston would unite for the engaging slice of historical adventure, The War Lord.
Charlton Heston plays the honorable knight Chrysagon who, along with his brother Draco (Guy Stockwell) and a group of loyal soldiers, takes over a castle tower at the far reaches of Normandy, in the marshlands, in order to strengthen his Duke’s authority and foothold on the area. But Chrysagon struggles to maintain power in the face of resistance from the local Pagan villagers and attacks from barbarian tribes across the waters. Things only get worse as he finds himself coveting a local Pagan woman, Bronwyn (Rosemary Forsyth), and his brother Draco’s jealousies over his accomplishments begin to reveal themselves.
One of the more underrated films of Heston’s career, he puts on a sympathetic performance as the war-weary knight Chrysagon caught between love and duty, while Schaffner makes the most of an admittedly flawed screenplay (taken from the Leslie Stevens play The Lovers). Where The War Lord fails to create a convincing love story, it does, with the help of Schafnner’s guiding hand, offer a convincing amount of pathos in regards to Chrysagon’s dilemma. The crowning achievement, however, is the spectacle of the film’s grand third act, the battle sequences involving a siege on the castle tower that slowly build in tension before reaching the denouement, a not unforeseen twist ending.
While The War Lord may not reach the scope of other Charlton Heston classics like Ben-Hur or El Cid, it is a fine romp in its own right and worth a second look and a re-examination.
An original anamorphic production and shot in Technicolor, The War Lord arrives in a rather magnificent looking AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encodement from Eureka. While it isn’t perfect, most of the warts that can be spotted are due to some of the dupe visual effects processing where there is obvious heightened grain, blurring, and softening of the image, and some strange looking background special effects. But, given the 1965 vintage, we get rather sparkling color saturation, clean imagery free from mist source damage and judder, and lots of close-ups with sharp detail and texture.
The original monaural soundtrack is provided in LPCM 2.0 mono (48kHz/24-bit). It is clean and relatively dynamic and free from clipping, given the age and limitations of the technology of the period.
There isn’t much here. The isolated score and effects track is always a nice option, but an oddity to be sure. The booklet offers a good essay.
- Trailer (1.37:1; 1080p/24; 00:03:02)
- Isolated Music and Effects Track (LPCM 2.0 48kHz/24-bit)
- Booklet with a new essay, and rare archival imagery
The Final Assessment
Eureka Entertainment, in one of their rare non-Masters of Cinema releases give us an underappreciated Charlton Heston gem on their Eureka Classic imprint with The War Lord, a historical adventure that modern viewers will certainly love thanks to this new release.
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