review for The War Lord on AllMovie

The War Lord (1965)
by Mike Cummings review

Sporting a bowl haircut and a chestful of chainmail, Charlton Heston portrays Norman man-at-arms Chrysagon de la Crue in this 1965 medieval flick, exhibiting the kind of imposing charisma and nobility that distinguished him in Ben-Hur and El Cid. The motion picture features plenty of action and romance as Chrysagon crosses swords with nasty Frisians and woos comely village maiden Bronwyn (Rosemary Forsyth). However, the environment in which Heston de la Crue operates--the dank, dark, dirty Middle Ages--is anything but noble and charismatic. And that is one of the strong points of this film. It presents the medieval period, in particular the 11th Century, as it was: crude, gray, miasmic--a breath of Hades. Never mind that the production was filmed entirely in California; it looks and feels like feudal France. The music score captures the mood of the age, and the combat scenes ring with the sound of metal striking metal. Unfortunately, Forsyth is not quite up to her role. Although wholesomely pretty, she lacks the spit and fire required to love one man desperately, Chrysagon, while betrothed to another, Marc, (James Farentino), a village lad. When Chrysagon invokes a law allowing a lord to lie with the bride of another man on her wedding night, Marc and the gadfly Frisians attack. Historians may balk at this turn of events, for no law ever existed allowing a lord to sleep with another man's bride. It's a fiction (promulgated as "le droigt de seigneur," "le droight de cuissage," and "primae noctis") that was repeated in Braveheart. No mind, though. The zinging arrows, clashing swords, and beheading axes--as well as the Dark Ages ambience--more than make up for historical faux pas. Further enhancing the film are the villainy of Guy Stockwell as Chysagon's traitorous brother, the stiff-lipped heroism of Richard Boone as Chrysagon's loyal manservant, and the feistiness of aging Henry Wilcoxon as a Frisian prince.