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Bryan Forbes' King Rat (1965)


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Bryan Forbes' KING RAT (1965) will be shown Friday night (actually Saturday morning) at 4am Eastern, 1am Pacific. Naturally, I'm pleased about that. KING RAT is one of those little-known films that's generally liked when people actually get to see it. Those of you who liked Forbes' THE WHISPERERS (1967), shown not long ago on TCM, or THE L-SHAPED ROOM (1962), shown during the Leslie Caron tribute, are especially encouraged to watch or tape this film.

 

KING RAT is set in a Japanese prison camp in Malaya during WWII. This isn't a prison break film like THE GREAT ESCAPE, because there's nowhere to escape to, with the jungle on one side and the sea on the other. Instead, we experience life in the camp. In some ways, it's like the second half of GONE WITH THE WIND. Who you were and what your position was prior to the war doesn't matter. The question is who has the skills to survive in this particular environment. Corporal King (George Segal) is the streetwise wheeler dealer who has the skills. An upper class Englishman (James Fox) becomes repelled and fascinated by King, and an unlikely friendship between the two develops.

 

As is usual in Forbes' early films, the acting and writing are first-rate. George Segal and James Fox have the best roles of their careers. I look forward to hearing your comments about it.

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Thanks for the "heads up". I don't always pay attention to what films are scheduled to play in the middle of the night, and might not have noticed. I've always wanted to see this film -I guess I'll be recording it. Gee, I get the feeling you really like it -I wonder how I knew.

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This film also has a small appearance by Richard Dawson (Family Feud) at the end of the movie. He sounds a bit odd because he has not yet lost his accent. Interestingly this role is what got him a job on Hogan's Heroes.

 

 

Anyways I recently watched the film on Netflix (it is available instantly for those who can't catch it on TCM) and thought it was pretty good. I especially enjoyed the relationship between Segal and Fox's characters. However I did think it dragged at parts and was a bit too long.

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Fortunately, KING RAT was not canceled. Kinokima, I hope you got to tape it. Has anyone else seen their tape yet? I had only seen this film a number of years ago on commercial television and thought that it held up extremely well.

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I mentioned "King Rat" in the "Kwai" thread. I watched it yesterday afternoon , for the first time in about 25 years. It is a very under rated POW film. The cast is excellent with Segal, Fox and Courtney standing out.It didn't do well when it came out and this may be because of Segal's character. He played the same type as William Holden did in "Stalag 17" and James Garner in "The Great Escape". a scrounger,, but the difference was Segal was a not very nice guy, he was out for himself until he met Fox,even then he needed Fox for translating to broker his deals,but he did form a friendship with him, Holden was a scrounger but he had a decent side, yes it took a little longer to find, and Garner was a scrounger but for the camp never really for himself. Georgie was for Georgie and that was most likely the real way it was and they were dealing with Japanese not German soldiers and guards as "Stalag" and "Escape",it was a well known fact the Japanese were a lot more brutal with their POW's.But aside from that it is a well made and probably a more honest film in dealing with the issues.....

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Glad to know it was not canceled. I did not record or stay up and watch because I have the DVD. A really great P.O.W. work on par with Renoir's *The Grand Illusion* (1937).

 

The film is very faithful to James Clavell's novel (he also wrote the screenplay), which examines not just prisoner mentality, but virtue, class, politics, and even religion. An incredible movie more people should see.

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> {quote:title=fredbaetz wrote:}{quote}

> I mentioned "King Rat" in the "Kwai" thread. I watched it yesterday afternoon , for the first time in about 25 years. It is a very under rated POW film. The cast is excellent with Segal, Fox and Courtney standing out.It didn't do well when it came out and this may be because of Segal's character. He played the same type as William Holden did in "Stalag 17" and James Garner in "The Great Escape". a scrounger,, but the difference was Segal was a not very nice guy, he was out for himself until he met Fox,even then he needed Fox for translating to broker his deals,but he did form a friendship with him, Holden was a scrounger but he had a decent side, yes it took a little longer to find, and Garner was a scrounger but for the camp never really for himself. Georgie was for Georgie and that was most likely the real way it was and they were dealing with Japanese not German soldiers and guards as "Stalag" and "Escape",it was a well known fact the Japanese were a lot more brutal with their POW's.But aside from that it is a well made and probably a more honest film in dealing with the issues.....

 

 

I don't know I would say Segal's character in King Rat had a decent side too. I think he genuinely did care for Fox in the same way Setton (Holden) probably cared for the narrator in Stalag 17 (sorry I forget his name). But as for his decent side yes he was not a traitor but I don't necessarily think Segal would have been either if the situation arrived. Of course the films were different in the sense that the characters in King Rat were all about survival. Escape was not an option like it was in Stalag 17 and I think that changes the tone of the story. Really the conditions of course were a lot worse in King Rat.

 

But even in the end in Stalag 17 when Setton helped that guy escape he was getting out too & he said he expected an award. But in the end I guess the point is his motives didn't really matter as long as he helped the right side.

 

Edited by: Kinokima on May 31, 2010 10:27 PM

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The narrator of the film is Gil Stratton Jr. who was "Cookie" and went on to become a weather man in L.A. when I was living there in the 70's. You KIND of knew Holden was an OK guy early in the film when he fries the egg with "Animal" drooling over it and says "You ruined my appetite" and turns and gives the egg to "Joey" the shell shocked POW. Even Holden was worried that the audiences might think Sefton was just a louse and had no problem trading with the Nazis. He ask Wilder to add a line to show he hated the Nazis also. Wilder refused.

BTW. If anyone watches the animated series "The Penguins of Madagascar " there are two characters that are mentioned through out the series, Manfredi and Johnson, and they seem to have died quite a few different ways. 1st Penguin:" Was it easy for Manfredi and Johnson when that secret tunnel turned out to be the business end of a Beluga whale. They couldn't speak for a month".....2nd Penguin: " And even then it was jabberish"

 

Edited by: fredbaetz on Jun 1, 2010 2:20 PM

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  • 2 weeks later...

It is funny that I know Gill Stratton as my weather man way before I ever got into classic movies. In fact I didn't even know he ever was an actor. Then one day I'm watching S-17 and I go; Hey that looks like our weather man!

 

PS: I'm glad Wilder stuck to his guns. Holden's character needed to be a little dirty for the plot twist to work as well as it did.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hello again,King Rat. I corresponded with you sometime earlier this year about the same film. I think personally KING RAT, is one of the finest, least appreciated war films ever made. As you and others have said, the performances were first-rate and equally festooned with subtle nuances of character. I've never seen a film with so many, highly charged, excentric,and volatile performances.How Bryan Forbes elicited such work from such a huge ensemble cast is miraculous. Even brief cameos from the likes of John Mills and James Donald and a whole slew of others is superb. One can almost feel the heat, damp, fug, smell,the rot and quiet desperation of every one, including the Malay guards, and the Japanese soldiers as well. I received a cancellation advisory as well, but have a copy or two already.Some years ago, I found a vinyl sound track record of the music. Great stuff. Best, BruceG.

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