In the Sudan, in 1884 to 1885, Egyptian forces led by British General Charles "Chinese" Gordon (Charlton Heston) defend Khartoum against an invading Muslim Army led by a religious fanatic, Mohammed Ahmed el Mahdi (Sir Laurence Olivier).
During the 1900 Boxer Rebellion against foreigners in China, U.S. Marine Major Matt Lewis, aided by British Consul Sir Arthur Robertson, devises a strategy to keep the rebels at bay until an international military relief force arrives.
The story of president Andrew Jackson from his early years, the film begins when he meets Rachel Donaldson Robards. The plot concentrates on the scandal concerning the legality of their marriage and how they overcame the difficulties.
In 1864, due to frequent Apache raids from Mexico into the U.S., a Union officer decides to illegally cross the border and destroy the Apache, using a mixed army of Union troops, Confederate POWs, civilian mercenaries, and scouts.
A knight in the service of a duke goes to a coastal villiage where an earlier attempt to build a defensive castle has failed. He begins to rebuild the duke's authority in the face of the barbarians at the border and is making progress until he falls in love with one of the local women.Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Charlton Heston goes for poetry instead of bombast, romance instead of heroism
If you want a movie about long ago and far away, this one is highly recommendable, unless of course you need light sabers or all-powerful rings to hold your attention.
Costume pictures often reek of Classics Illustrated comic books. This is among the few whose script as filmed is not an insult.
Director Franklin Schaffner obviously loves the material. He later returned to the period with "Lionheart: the Children's Crusade," after "Planet of the Apes," "Patton," and his other famous epics.
The film's atmosphere is incredibly strong - I was absolutely sure that this was shot on location in Europe until I recognized the Universal hillside towards the end. Rarely does a Hollywood movie hide its back lot origins so thoroughly.
Minor drawbacks must be acknowledged. The girl suffers well silently but can't deliver her few lines. Maurice Evans is an awful ham, showing once again why he was Orson Welles' least favorite actor. There's a handful of clumsy process shots, and Paul Frees not only delivers the opening narration but voices both Sammy Ross and Michael Conrad, later familiar from "Hill Street Blues." Someone in the Universal sound department thought that Frees' voice was undetectable; and it isn't. (It gets worse: you can hear Frees as four separate characters in "Spartacus.")
None of these quibbles matter. The "War Lord" is romantic, poetic, mildly gritty (by today's standards), and the production design, cinematography and music are all gorgeous. The tumultuous siege of the tower is solid in the way things were before computers, and features what seems to be every stuntman in Hollywood, including Joe Canutt, Hal Needham, Richard Farnsworth and Buddy Van Horn.
I wish Universal could figure out a way to keep the DVD in print. Remastering might help. If you have a multi-system, multi-region player, at this writing a far superior widescreen Danish transfer is available from both UK and German Amazon.
IMDb lists at least 250,000 worse ways to spend two hours than "The War Lord." Make yourself comfortable and enjoy.
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