A comedy-drama, King Rat examines the possibility that years after graduation - whether it's ten years or thirty - we may be stuck with the same issues we had before crossing that stage at commencement.
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 to. 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 ... Written by
When Max lifts the pot of boiling water from the hot plate he lifts it from the bottom to pour with his bare hand, which he shouldn't be able to do if the pot is hot enough to boil water. See more »
[speaking about King]
It wouldn't have occurred to you would it, Grey, that you're only alive because of what he gave you?
Lt. Robin Grey:
What are you talking about? I never took anything from him. He never gave me anything.
Only hate, Grey. Only hate.
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King Rat is the oddball among James Clavellfs novels, but in my opinion is the best story. The stage is a Japanese Prisoner of War camp where allied officers are forced to literally eat dirt. The horrors of these camps are well documented and in Forbes adaptation of the book little is left to our imagination. That is not to say this is a vividly violent film. It most certainly is not, nor does it need to be as the sheer look of these poor wretched creatures is vivid enough.
While the backdrop is a prison camp, this is not a war movie. It is a tale of humanity and suffering. It centres around one character played brilliantly by Segal, who when outside the barbed wire fences is an ordinary corporal, while inside he is king. He shows ingenuity in obtaining supplies and living well while those around him starve. Soon the high-ranking officers are calling his shots and hence the title King Rat. The movie shows how far man will go, how much pride he can eat and how much dignity he can lose to survive.
The final scene when the prisoners are liberated could have been stronger but you have to realize the date the film was made. Even so, the look of disappointment on Corporal Kingfs face contrasting with the delight of the freed prisoners is quite incredible. An excellent film, highly recommended.
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