King of Hearts (1966)
"Le roi de coeur" (original title)

Unrated  |   |  Drama, Comedy, War  |  19 June 1967 (USA)
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During the latter part of World War I, Private Charles Plumpick is chosen to go into the French town of Marville and disconnect a bomb that the German army has planted. However, Charles is ... See full summary »



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Complete credited cast:
Le Général Géranium
Le Duc de Trèfle
Le Colonel Alexander MacBibenbrook
Françoise Christophe ...
La Duchesse
Monseigneur Marguerite
Madame Eva alias Madame Eglantine
Michel Serrault ...
Monsieur Marcel
Le soldat Charles Plumpick alias le roi de coeur
Palau ...
Jacques Balutin ...
Mac Fish
Un officier anglais (as Paolo Capponi)
Madeleine Clervanne ...
Marc Dudicourt ...
Le Lieutenant Hamburger


During the latter part of World War I, Private Charles Plumpick is chosen to go into the French town of Marville and disconnect a bomb that the German army has planted. However, Charles is chased by some Germans and finds himself holed up at the local insane asylum, where the inmates are convinced that he is the "King of Hearts." Feeling obligated to help the inmates, Charles attempts to lead them out of town, but they are afraid to leave and frolic about the streets in gay costumes. Will Charles be able to deactivate the bomb in time and save his newfound friends? Written by Rick Gregory <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


De Broca's Crowning Touch!


Drama | Comedy | War


Unrated | See all certifications »





| |

Release Date:

19 June 1967 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

King of Hearts  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Film debut of Julien Guiomar. See more »


When Plumpick is trapped in the wires and hits his head, he is tangled. When he wakes up, he is free of the wires, the posture of his body has changed, and his location in the street has changed. See more »

Crazy Credits

The credits rise and then fall to coincide with the sound of a large clock. See more »


Spoofed in Dead End (1985) See more »

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User Reviews

Cult film which needs to be seen more
24 September 2001 | by (London) – See all my reviews

De Broca's delightful and surreal anti-war fantasy quickly attained a cult status when it was first released, but in recent years it has dropped more and more out of sight. A shame, because it is a charming film, the whimsical, romantic nature of which is entirely French. Even though the underlying message, that of preferring one kind of insanity to another is a simple, absurdist one, the viewer is still carried along by the Gaullic charm of it all.

As the much-put-upon martial ornithologist, It's not just because Bates is the only English member of the cast that one is aware of some awkwardness in his casting. For English cinema goers in particular, familiar with his career, his usual jocular masculinity is hard to reconcile with an child-like character, swept along by events. Those who remember Bates and Oliver Reed wrestling nude in 'Women in Love' (1962) from the same period, or his cocky Vic in 'A Kind of Loving' (1962), may bulk at Bates portraying such a confused innocent. Having said that, Bates' actual performance is balanced and restrained, all of a piece with the rest of the cast.

'King of Hearts' is primarily an ensemble piece. Many of the film's most delightful moments spring from the fancy-filled and flirtatious lunatics who quickly fill the streets, shops and occupations left by the fleeing villagers, their interaction with each other, and Plumpick. This world of fantasy is curtailed by the village walls, which physically as well as mentally encircle their environment. Outside is reality (no matter how ludicrously it is presented), conflict, death. Inside the walls is harmony of sorts, life celebrated. This distinction between outside and inside is made clear in the film. As soon as Plumpick attempts to ride a horse back into the real world for help, the music and the mass accompaniment of him by the inmates has to end until he is obliged to return.

As the 'King of Hearts' Plumpick is at the center of his motley 'people', as well as of Coquelicot's (Geneviève Bujold) affections. Once he awards himself his name, in a panic and on the run, his 'subjects' call out for him. He is promptly 'crowned' (both by banging his head, inducing his initial confusion, and though acquiring his 'kingship'). He is awarded a bride, and accepted as an unique traveller into the society of the amiably mad. Their acceptance of him anticipates the final scene of the film, when a chastened Plumpick re-admits himself into their company, having rejected the larger insanity of warfare.

It's fitting in a way that the least successful parts of the film lay outside of the village, where comic stereotypes replace whimsy and the comedy is drawn with much broader strokes. In particular Colonel MacBibenbrook (Adolfo Celi, better known as Emil Largo in 'Thunderball') is uncomfortably close to parody, and his part would have been much better cast with an actor like Trevor Howard who could excel with a line in ironic bombast. The Germans fare no better and, although amusing and lightweight in their capers, one misses the delicacy with which the lunatics are portrayed. One suspects that De Broca associates more with the geniality of the insane, as we all do given the options, and this sympathy is reflected on screen

Tellingly, the lunatics are not completely oblivious to the hostile world which surrounds them, although they are content to ignore the immediate threat of destruction and Plumpick's warnings. At the end of the film, once the opposing forces have symbolically destroyed themselves, Marcel says:'I'm tired of this game, let's go back to our rooms'. With deliberate sadness, they divest themselves of their play robes and return to their asylum, a divestment scene at the same time quiet, serious and eminently sane. It is clear that they are mad - but not crazy.

23 of 23 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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