The year is 1964 and Carolina Military Institute has admitted, for the first time, a young black man into its freshman class. Will McClean (Keith) is asked to protect him from The Ten - a secret society of cadets dedicated to eliminating from the school those it deems "unfit."
Many who have vivid memories of this 1982 dramatic thriller about racism, hazing, and heroism at a hallowed Southern military academy will delight in its DVD release. The Lords of Discipline
was based on Pat Conroy's semi-autobiographical novel about his days attending the famous Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. The film is set at the fictionalized Carolina Military Institute (and shot on locations in England) in 1964 where freshmen are customarily put through hazing rituals that may have been routine at the time, but seem positively brutal today. During Will McClean's (David Keith) senior year, a black cadet is being admitted for the first time. Will's military faculty mentor (an already grizzled Robert Prosky) charges him with making sure things don't get too out of hand with this new situation and the inevitable initiation rituals. The black cadet certainly has his horrifying tribulations, but there's also a geeky white plebe who may be in bigger trouble. During Will's awakening to the deeper, darker goings on, he discovers a secret society under the hand of the commandant (the great G.D. Spradlin) that carries out more than just hazing rituals when it deems necessary. The suspense, sense of time and place, and array of superb performances are all ample reasons to recommend The Lords of Discipline
as a classic keeper or a casual view. David Keith gives a strong performance as the conflicted upper-class cadet. His strong jaw and gentle drawl was coming off a strong supporting role in An Officer and a Gentleman
and he went on to several more interesting starring roles before petering out as a leading man. In fact, the cast is pretty great all around, including solid, young-buck turns by Michael Biehn (The Terminator
) and a familiar face credited as "Wild Bill" Paxton who went on to be not so wild in One False Move
, and many others. --Ted Fry