King Rat (film)

King Rat

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Bryan Forbes
Produced by James Woolf
Screenplay by Bryan Forbes
Based on King Rat
1963 novel
by James Clavell
Starring George Segal
Tom Courtenay
James Fox
Music by John Barry
Cinematography Burnett Guffey
Edited by Walter Thompson
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • October 27, 1965 (1965-10-27)
Running time
134 min
Country United States
Language English

King Rat is a 1965 World War II film directed by Bryan Forbes, and starring George Segal as Corporal King and James Fox as Marlowe, two World War II prisoners of war in a squalid camp near Singapore. Among the supporting cast were 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.


Corporal King (George Segal) 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 (James Fox) 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 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, Lieutenant Grey (Tom Courtenay). 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 meager food rations has been stealing. Grey rejects a bribe and zealously takes the matter to Colonel George Smedley-Taylor (John Mills). 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 captain; when a troubled Grey does not respond, Smedley-Taylor takes his silence as consent.

The camp commandant summons 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 British paratrooper (Richard Dawson) walks up to the prison gates and disarms the guards. The prisoners are stunned and refuse to speak to the paratrooper, except King, which makes the paratrooper suspicious. King manages to squelch a premature attempt by resentful underling Sergeant Max (Patrick O'Neal) 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.


Actor Role
George Segal Corporal King
James Fox Flight Lieutenant Peter Marlowe
Tom Courtenay Lieutenant Robin Grey
Patrick O'Neal Max
Denholm Elliott Lieutenant Colonel G. D. Larkin
James Donald Doctor Kennedy
Todd Armstrong Tex
John Mills Colonel George Smedley-Taylor
Gerald Sim Lieutenant Colonel Jones
Leonard Rossiter Major McCoy
Wright King Major Brough
John Standing Captain Daven
Alan Webb Colonel Brant
John Ronane Captain Hawkins
Sammy Reese Kurt
Richard Dawson Captain Weaver
Geoffrey Bayldon Squadron Leader Vexley
Joe Turkel Dino


King Rat was nominated for Academy Awards for Cinematography (Burnett Guffey) and Art Direction (Robert Emmet Smith and Frank Tuttle).[1]

See also


External links

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