Tuesday, August 6, 2013
King Rat (1965)
Starring: George Segal, Tom Courtenay, James Fox, Patrick O'Neal, Denholm Elliott, James Donald, Todd Armstrong, John Mills, Gerald Sim, Leonard Rossiter, John Standing, Richard Dawson, Joe Turkel
Sadly I can't find a trailer for this anywhere. The only videos online are heavy with spoilers and are best to be avoided.
More info: IMDb
Tagline: He entered WWII a soldier... and left a King.
Plot: When Singapore surrendered to the Japanese in 1942 the Allied POWs, mostly British but including a few Americans, were incarcerated in Changi prison. This was a POW detention center like no other. There were no walls or barbed-wire fences for the simple reason that there was no place for the prisoners to escape. Included among the prisoners is the American Cpl. King, a wheeler dealer who has managed to established a pretty good life for himself in the camp. While most of the prisoners are near starvation and have uniforms that are in tatters, King eats well and and has crisp clean clothes to wear every day. His nemesis is Lt. Robin Grey, the camp Provost who attempts to keep good order and discipline. He knows that King is breaking camp rules by bartering with the Japanese but can't quite get the evidence he needs to stop him. King soon forms a friendship with Lt. Peter Marlowe an upper class British officer who is fascinated with King's élan and no rules approach to life. As the story develops, it reveals the hypocrisy of the British class system and for King, the fact that his position in Changi's "society" is tenuous as best.
My rating: 8/10
Will I watch it again? Yes.
Prepare yourself for a different type of WWII P.O.W. flick. While there are some brief moments of sunshine, it's mostly bleak and cold. The stark black & white photography really adds to the life-sucking existence these men suffered. The performances are outstanding. I've never seen Segal better. His character's arc is most interesting. For fans of Richard Dawson, don't bother trying to spot him in the cast like I did (I last saw this twenty years ago and I couldn't remember where he was). He shows up at the end and it's very obvious. The rest of the cast is like a WWII movie who's who of British actors. What a cast! Good and sparse John Barry score, too. Highly recommended.