King Rat (film)
King Rat is a 1965 American war film written and directed by Bryan Forbes and starring George Segal and James Fox. They play Corporal King and Marlowe, respectively, two World War II prisoners of war in a squalid camp near Singapore. Among the supporting cast are John Mills and Tom Courtenay. The film was adapted from James Clavell's novel King Rat (1962), which in turn is partly based on Clavell's experiences as a POW at Changi Prison during the Second World War.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Bryan Forbes|
|Produced by||James Woolf|
|Screenplay by||Bryan Forbes|
|Based on||King Rat|
by James Clavell
|Music by||John Barry|
|Edited by||Walter Thompson|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
Corporal King is an anomaly in the Japanese prison camp. One of only a handful of Americans amongst the British and Australian inmates, he thrives through his conniving and black market enterprises; whereas others, nearly all of higher rank, struggle to survive sickness and starvation while trying to keep their civilised nature. King recruits upper class British RAF officer Flight Lieutenant Peter Marlowe to act as a translator. As they become acquainted, Marlowe comes to like the man and appreciate his cunning. King respects Marlowe, but his attitude is otherwise ambiguous; when Marlowe is injured, King obtains expensive medicines to save Marlowe's gangrenous arm from amputation, but, despite the fact he stays by the sick man's bedside, it is unclear whether he does so out of friendship or because Marlowe is the only one who knows where the proceeds from King's latest and most profitable venture are hidden.
King has a different relationship with the lower class, seemingly-incorruptible British Provost, First Lieutenant Grey. Grey has only contempt for the American and does his best to bring him down. Then Grey has to deal with an unrelated dilemma when he accidentally discovers that the high-ranking officer in charge of the meagre food rations has been stealing. Grey rejects a bribe and zealously takes the matter to Colonel George Smedley-Taylor. To his dismay, Smedley-Taylor tells him the corrupt officer and his assistant have been relieved of their duties, and orders him to forget all about it. Grey accuses Smedley-Taylor of being in on the scheme, but the tampered weight he presented to the colonel as evidence has been replaced, so he no longer has proof of the crime. Smedley-Taylor offers to promote him to acting captain: when a troubled Grey does not respond, Smedley-Taylor takes his silence as consent.
The camp commandant summonses the senior British officers, and notifies them that the Japanese have surrendered and that the war is over. After overcoming their shock and disbelief, the prisoners celebrate – all except King. He realises he is no longer the unquestioned (if unofficial) ruler of the camp. A lone British paratrooper appears from seemingly nowhere, walks up to the prison gates and unceremoniously disarms the guards. The prisoners are stunned and are too shocked by the sudden events to speak to the paratrooper, except King. That King appears fit and is well-dressed among the other prisoners clad in rags makes the paratrooper suspicious and accusatory as to how that could be. King manages to squelch a premature attempt by resentful underling First sergeant Max to reassert his rank and authority, but that only delays the inevitable. When Marlowe speaks to him before King's departure from the camp, King ignores his overture of renewed friendship.
|George Segal||Corporal King, an American soldier|
|Tom Courtenay||Grey, a British First Lieutenant and later Acting Captain|
|James Fox||Marlowe, a British Flight Lieutenant|
|Patrick O'Neal||Max, an American First Sergeant|
|Denholm Elliott||Larkin, a British Lieutenant Colonel|
|James Donald||Dr. Kennedy|
|Todd Armstrong||Tex, an American enlisted man|
|John Mills||Smedley-Taylor, a British Colonel|
|Gerald Sim||Jones, a British Lieutenant Colonel|
|Leonard Rossiter||McCoy, a British Major|
|John Standing||Daven, a British Captain|
|Alan Webb||Brant, a British Colonel|
|John Ronane||Hawkins, a British Captain|
|Sammy Reese||Kurt, an American enlisted man|
|Michael Lees||Stevens, hospital staff|
|Wright King||Brough, American|
|Hamilton Dyce||The Padre, British|
Richard Dawson appears near the end of the film as Weaver, a paratrooper who is sent ahead to claim the prison from the Japanese, as the war has ended.
Clavell later said "my feeling is the film failed because Forbes took away the story thread and made it a composite of character studies."