The Lords of Discipline

The movie is based on a novel by Pat Conroy who attended The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. Starring are David Keith as Will McClean, Robert Prosky as Colonel Berrineau (Bear) and Michael Bien as Alexander. Other performers include G. D. Spradlin as General Durrell and Judge Reinhold as Macabbee.

The story takes place in the 1960’s when the first black cadet has been admitted to the fictional Carolina Military Institute. Will, who is in his senior year, is ordered by Colonel Berrineau to watch over Pearce, the new black student played by Mark Breland. First year students or “knobs” are forced to endure physical and psychological torture at the hands of the upper classmen, especially on “hell night.” Pearce takes more than his share of abuse on that night while Will tries to protect him as best he can.

Will discovers that there is a legendary group called “The Ten” operating inside the walls of the institute. This group subscribes to terror tactics and their goal is to ensure that the institute remains “pure.” Will embarks on a quest to find out more about the group but no one is sure they even exist.

The story was filmed in England and in Charleston, South Carolina. The scenes in this 1983 movie are well played and sometimes emotionally charged.

The references in this film to “the institute” and “Carolina Military Institute” together with the story location makes it fairly obvious that this school is a thinly veiled substitute for The Citadel. Anyone who views this movie might develop a jaded opinion of military schools.

There could have been and should have been more reference to the Vietnam War in this movie and the discussions the cadets had about it. Such discussions took place throughout Conroy’s book. I did like the movie ending much better than the book ending because things seemed much more resolved. There are some people who hate the movie if they have read the book first.

This is a movie I’d recommend to anyone. It’s rated “R” but the language and violence is relatively mild compared to today’s standards. The film runs for an hour and forty-two minutes but you are so engrossed in it that the time seems shorter.


  • David Keith – Will
  • Robert Prosky – Bear
  • G.D. Spradlin – General Durrell
  • Barbara Babcock – Abigail
  • Michael Biehn – John Alexander
  • Rick Rossovich – Dante Pignetti
  • John Lavachielli – Mark
  • Mitchell Lichtenstein – Tradd
  • Mark Breland – Pearce
  • Malcolm Danare – Poteete
  • Judge Reinhold – Macabbee
  • Greg Webb – Braselton
  • Bill Paxton – Gilbreath
  • Dean R. Miller – Gooch
  • Ed Bishop – Commerce