King Rat (1965)

George Segal, Tom Courtenay, James Fox, Patrick O'Neal,
A fast-taking wheeler-dealer corporal in a Malaysian POW camp during WWII uses bribery and larceny to take de facto control of the camp from his senior officers.
  • 7.5 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • James Clavell, Writer:
  • Bryan Forbes, Director:
  • James Woolf, Producer:
/ 10

It has always bothered me that King Rat is so underrated. On one listof top the thousand films in history, it gets no mention. I think it'sbecause George Segal's character, Corporal King wasn't a totallylikable person. He is not the standard Hollywood hero. But he is a heroof mine. Were I in that prison camp, I guarantee you, I would have beenCorporal King's best friend. One thing I learned in life was how tosurvive, and everyone around Corporal King survived. The movie misses avery important point that was in James Clavell's novel on which it isbased. In case the war turned bad for the Japanese and they startedtaking revenge on the prisoners, King had planned an escape route. Notjust for himself, for everyone close to him. Put that in the film andyou've got a major American hero. The movie is totally cliché free. Onenever knows where it is going or how it is going to end. Winning thewar, you see, will not guarantee the safety of the prisoners. How itends is perfectly logical in retrospect, but difficult to predict. Itis a near perfect motion picture.

8/10 / 10

I saw this grainy black and white film sometime in 1967 one steamyevening in a tin hooch Army movie theatre at TSN airfield on theoutskirts of Saigon. The movie was punctuated by the sounds of mortarson the perimeter and the occasional flash from an aerial flare. I neverforgot it. It rang true there. So true that no-one could say a wordafter. We just got drunk -- as usual. I haven't talked to many otherswho saw this movie. It hit right in the middle of the rising tide ofdespair over Vietnam. And since it wasn't actually an anti-war movie, Ithink it went nowhere. I believe it's origin is a short novel, possiblyautobiographical by J.B. Clavell, author of Tai Pan and other sagas setin the 19th C orient. No matter what George Segal has done since, Ihave known that he has the heart of a rat. His King was a natural rulerin a perverse state of nature -- and his fate the fate of all maverickrulers in the end. If you can find it and see it, it will take on thecharacter of a lost dream.

/ 10

I saw "King Rat" on television shortly before going to Vietnam. A few months later I was reading the James Clavell novel while serving onDaNang Air Base with air force communications intelligence. It struckme that this book and this movie, which was "researched" by JamesClavell when he was a POW in a camp near Singapore during World War II,have the real feel of what it is to be surrounded by enemy forces onealmost never sees while being kept isolated on a hot, humid, dustyencampment It's an environment that brings out the best and the worstin mankind. The novel, the movie, and my own war zone experience alsopoint out that adapting to a war zone and mastering the skills thatenable one to survive and even prosper there do not necessarily meanthat the individual will subsequently be adaptable to "civilization"when he returns to it. The novel, the movie, and my own experiencesalso raise the questions that are raised in "The Man in the GrayFlannel Suit" (and even in "Rambo" for that matter): Which is more ofa challenge and which is the "real" life: adapting to the war zone asa youth or the expectations by "civilization" that you readjust to lifeback in "the world" as if nothing had happened?

9/10 / 10

This film, the best of 1965, was tough and disturbing and seriouslyunder-rated. Great performances and a haunting soundtrack. George Segal,one of the best actors of the 60's and 70's creates an insidious yetcharming character who runs things in the camp. James Fox (excellent actorwho quit for many years on some kind of spiritual journey) is superb as isTom Courtney and even Patrick O'Neal (who has never been impressive in anyother film I can think of) delivers a punch as Max thestooge.

Bryan Forbes created a somber world of dog eat dog that should have been upfor a host of awards. Throw in John Mills, James Donald and other familiarfaces and you have a near-classic. A 9 out of 10. Best performance George Segal. Well worth your time.

/ 10

I saw this movie again recently and had forgotten how great it was. Itshowshow people behave towards each other when the thin veil of civil societyistorn away.In a brilliant performance, George Segal plays thewheeler-dealer'King Rat, a cynical hustler whose only real interest is himself. Hiscounterparts in the Japanese POW camp are the British officers who seem tomaintain the rules and courtesies of civilized life. As the movie,unfolds,though, we see the senior officers using their position to steal food fromthe lower ranks. Even the British provost marshal, or camp policeman(another great performance by Tom Courtenay), is shown to be a weakcharacter, vengeful and sanctimonious, who must believe in retribution tobolster his fragile ego.

'King Rat's' one true friend in the camp is played by James Fox. But theSegal character can't really be a friend to anyone. One of the prices ofcynicism is emotional shallowness. In the end Segal tells his bestfriend -'You worked for me, I paid you a few bucks, that's all there was betweenus.' The film makes it clear that the action applies to the wider world.Unlike the other prisoners, the Segal character is neither shocked norexcited by liberation. To him, the everyday world is as pitiless as thePOWcamp.