When you think about it composer Jerome Moross was something of an odd man out in the scheme of things and amongst the numerous film music composers that worked at around the same period as he did. I often think of him as the forgotten name of Hollywood film music simply because he composed some of the most robust and familiar film scores that have endured the test of time, but it seems is always omitted from discussions about movie music maestros or at least brought up within the conversation as something of an after thought. This is I think unfair as Moross was a talented composer, arranger and conductor. He was overshadowed by many of the composers of the golden age who had already established themselves as giants of movie scores, composers such as Alfred Newman for example, Steiner and Korngold etc. Moross also seemed to be overlooked because of up and coming talents at the time such as John Barry, Jerry Goldsmith et al. We all of course remember Moross,s rousing soundtrack for the sprawling western epic THE BIG COUNTRY and his beautiful scores for THE PROUD REBEL, THE CARDINAL and RACHEL RACHEL to name but a few, but THE WAR LORD is a score and indeed a movie that just seems to slip under the radar. I first purchased the soundtrack on the long playing record on the Brunswick label many years ago and later added the compact disc on Varese and later the Tsunami edition to my collection. THE WAR LORD for me is primarily a score that contains a number of action cues, but it is also a romantically laced work that contains emotive and highly haunting compositions, the composer providing the Franklin J Schaffner picture with some of the most enriching and well written pieces of film music in many a year. I realise that the compact disc on Varese ha been around a while now, but how many purchased it I wonder? Released in November 1965 THE WAR LORD was based on a play entitled THE LOVERS and tells the story of Chrysagon a conquering Norman War Lord(Charlton Heston) who is sent to defend a coastal village that has been raided many times, whilst there he falls in love with one of the village girls Bronwyn (Rosemary Forsyth), but she is promised in marriage to Marc one of the men of the village, the Norman knight is bitterly disappointed but by chance becomes aware of a tradition that would allow him to take her on the eve of her wedding. He does just that and when she does not return to the village the following morning the villagers become restless and accuse him of kidnapping her. Jerome Moross composed a wonderfully lyrical score for the movie and produced themes that accompanied not only set action scenarios but he underlined the deep love that the Norman Lord feels for the girl and captures perfectly in his music the frustration that is felt and experienced by all within the story.
Moross was originally given more than two months to write the score but this period was shortened to five weeks and Moross struggled with the score which resulted in veteran composer Hans J Salter being brought in to write approximately fifteen minutes of music, most notably THE WAR LORD IN BATTLE which is one of the scores most rousing cues. The score is simply drenched in rich thematic material whether it be the work of Moross or Salter the score is simply beautiful, mesmerizing in certain areas, stirring in others, but essentially this is quality film music, poetically emotive, lavishly romantic and fearsomely vibrant. It is a score that enhances and augments without being intrusive, but at the same time one is aware of its presence because of its shining beauty and brilliance, with its highly emotional musical passages and also its subdued but effective tone poems and its joyful and haunting musical persona. Tracks such as THE DRUID WEDDING, LOVE THEME, THE ASCENT TO THE TOWER AND FRUSTRATED LOVE and the delightful NOCTURNAL PROCESSION are all cues that will have you reaching for the repeat button. If you have per chance missed this one, I implore you to find it and love it as I do.