King of Hearts (1966) Poster

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Cult film which needs to be seen more
FilmFlaneur24 September 2001
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.
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10/10
Subversive Anti-War Fairy Tale
martin-94110 November 2005
Perhaps I am biased because the female lead, Genevieve Bujold (Coquelicot / Poppy) reminds me of a young French girl whom I fell in love with, and then lost, 40 years ago - the very same year that I first saw the film (1966 or early 1967).

But personal memories apart, it is stunning to watch how French director Philippe de Broca managed to fuse hilarious fun and melancholy reflection in a mold that is an incredible mixture. There is fairy tale, commedia dell'arte, circus, slapstick, comedy, romance - and World War I carnage. Among the supporting roles, the cast features some of the foremost French actors of those times; and it is obvious that they enjoyed every bit of it, especially as they put in a number of biting quips along with marvelous cameos.

This is what happens: For one day Private Charles Plumpick (Alan Bates) becomes, rather against his will, the mock king of a group of lunatics. This motley crowd have escaped from their asylum and have temporarily taken possession of a deserted town in Northern France between the 1918 front lines. Eventually Plumpick owes it to his lunatic friends that he survives when his Scottish battalion and their German counterpart meet in battle. There seems to be no way out of the madness of war. But don't miss the penultimate scene! (Rumour has it that it was censored in the American version at the time...)

My favorite scene is when young, innocent Coquelicot takes the shortest way from the brothel (well - it's a French film, isn't it?) to the town hall to meet her loved one, the King of Hearts - using two telegraph wires as a tightrope.

Why the film was a flop in its own country, and why neither a DVD or at least a video tape is available in France, I simply do not understand. Is it because only the French speak French but the Scots speak English and the Germans speak German? (Note de Broca himself, very early in the film, in a 5 second cameo as Private Adolf Hitler!) No need to worry - there are subtitles to help you along. Actually the DVD recently on sale in the USA *is* the original French version! Subtitled, and uncensored, to be sure.

I cannot deny that the film does have its shortcomings. The story is somewhat inconsistent, there seem to be goofs galore, continuity is lousy. But then it seems that de Broca had to make do with a lousy budget, too. And what he has created is essentially a dream which opposes to the nightmare of war a vision of humanity. In such dreams inconsistency, goofs and lousy continuity do not really matter. So it is still 10 out of 10.
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10/10
They don't make them like this anymore
RDenial17 November 2004
As I was reading through the comments here for "King of Hearts" I noticed two different schools of thought on the film. Many, like myself, have fond memories of seeing this film in the 60s and 70s and were delighted by it. The other comments come from younger viewers who see this film as being "dated" and not that funny, yet worthwhile viewing. At first I was a little miffed at this generations comments about a gem of my generation, until it dawned on me that they were somewhat correct. The film is a bit dated because they just do not make films like this anymore. It was never meant to be knee slapping funny. The humor was a non-intrusive "gentle" humor that seems to be a foreign concept in this day and age. Another reason many younger viewers do not "get" this film is because one of the themes here is non-conformity. This was a crucial concern of those growing up in the 60s. We wanted our individuality to show and not be just a number. Society has did a 180 since then. Today people are more concerned with fitting in than standing out. So yes, this film possibly is a bit dated. It is a bit of movie magic from a far simpler time and I have a feeling that there are a lot of people under 30 who would not see this as dated at all. King of Hearts is one of a small handful of films that celebrates the simple magic of being alive. Come and experience it.
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8/10
A Foreign Film Classic
Gazzer-216 January 2004
It's World War I, and a Scottish Private named Plumpick (Alan Bates) is ordered to infiltrate a French village and stop a bomb that the Germans have planted from going off. Upon arriving, Plumpick discovers the entire village deserted, except for the patients of the local insane asylum, who have been left behind. The patients soon escape the asylum, play dress-up with the various clothes they find lying around the village, and take it over. Not only this, but they crown Plumpick their king! With the German army still in the vicinity nearby, Plumpick must find the bomb, diffuse it, and save his "subjects" from certain death....

An all-time foreign film classic, "Le Roi De Coeur," aka "King Of Hearts," is a marvelous movie, full of sweetness, charm, and both clever comedy & fine drama that also comments very well on the stupidity of war. Alan Bates, who sadly passed away recently, is simply wonderful as Private Plumpick, as is the lovely Genevieve Bujold as the young patient named Poppy that Plumpick falls for, and Adolfo Celi is quite funny as Plumpick's stuffy superior officer. The rest of the film's big ensemble cast, whether playing the asylum patients or various soldiers, are all excellent, too.

The only thing that stops "King Of Hearts" from being perfect is that it *could* very well be argued that the insane asylum patients in this movie aren't...well, *insane* enough. They may speak strangely to one another or to Private Plumpick, but, for the most part, they act & behave quite coherently. But other than that, "King Of Hearts" is a very charming foreign film, and one of the very best films of the late, great Alan Bates. Definitely seek this one out.
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10/10
Great, Charming, Profound
middleburg15 May 2004
The King of Hearts should be seen by a new generation of viewers now in the

summer of 2004. This is a great fable--which during the 1980s might have

seemed dated, but now is more relevant than ever. It is a great meditation on war. As a movie, the circus-like atmosphere and characters combine to form a grand entertainment. We get seduced by the world of childlike imagination and sense of wonder we see in the inmates. We embrace them. Great

philosophical moments abound--all surrounded by beautiful colors, wonderfully funny moments and a gorgeous music score. The final scene is such a classic-- and takes the audience by such surprise--one goes out of the film absolutely

exhilarated. A funny, charming and ultimately profound film.
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10/10
A lifetime favourite
MarkMillman28 September 2002
I saw King of Hearts on its original release when I was 15. For 35 years it has remained one of my favourite movies; perhaps the number one. Nothing in particular about the film so qualifies it. I like quite a number of "better" films, but KOH touched me in a way that stuck. It is an authentic movie; the reality is as simple as the english speaking english, the french french, and the germans german. The crazy people are sane, the sane people crazy. It is funny and tragic and perhaps a little too quirky but ... if you haven't tried it on you should.
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10/10
One of the great ones!
lgjones-211 July 1999
One of the great ones; makes you ask the question, " Who are the real lunatics?" Excellent cast and direction; done with rare humor, yet carries a profound message
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10/10
One of the absolute best films of all time for so many reasons.
rickconrad15 June 2003
A timeless and exquisite treatment of profound and compelling issues, this 1966 International collaboration, was one of the few films ever to give tasteful testimony to being truly sane, or maybe I should say being truly (in)sane in a cruel and berserk world. If you liked Life Is Beautiful, E.T., Star Wars, The Great Dictator, Gandhi, Henry V, Blazing Saddles, or Rain Man... you will probably love this movie. It remains for me among the top three or four, of all movies I have ever seen.
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Oh, So Wonderful
carbonconfetti13 March 2000
My mother had seen King of Hearts years ago, when she was in college. When I was about seven or eight (a few years ago, she rented the movie. Most of the movie is in French and it had subtitles, so even though I could just barely understand what was being said, I had a wonderful understanding of what was going on. It's the type of movie where what's on screen is enough to let a person get a gist of the scene. When I first saw the movie, I remembered how lovely the music was, how I grew to love the "crazy" people from the asylum, and how beautiful the movie was. When my mom bought the movie, we watched it constantly. I still watch it at least once a month. It's one of my favorite movies. I really do love the music. For me, it simulates fun insanity. I love every single aspect of King of Hearts. If you ever have a chance to see it, then go! Go see King of Hearts!
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10/10
A Scottish soldier tries to save a small French town in World War I.
erik-biz9 November 2007
One of greatest movies of all time, it is charming and sweet, funny and romantic. It is a unique film that at once captures the best of humanity and the folly of war. Set in a small town in World War I France, it has a crazy premise that works because the film is true to that premise to the very end. Everything about it is superb: the acting, the direction, the writing, the score, the cinematography. Alan Bates and Genevieve Bujold are perfectly cast in the lead, but the entire cast is great. The music is beautiful. The ending is brilliant.

If you rent it, be sure you get the subtitled version. It is in three languages (French, English, German), and the dubbed version loses a lot.
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9/10
If the world is an asylum, with lunatics running it, can those in asylums be sane?
theowinthrop21 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this at my college over thirty years ago, and remember it fondly. Made in the late 1960s, it became a hit with American audiences in the grips of our madness called "Vietnam".

British soldier Charles Pumpnick (Alan Bates) is ordered in a typical screw-up to go into a French village to defuse a large bomb left by the Germans. It is World War I, and the British are led by Col. MacBibbenbrook (Adolfo Celi) who is actually sending Pumpnick for a second reason: he wants to know if the Germans have actually left the town, so that his soldiers can "reoccupy" it. Given the tedious and murderous stalemate on the Western Front between the Allies and Central Powers in their trenches, any temporary regaining of land is a great victory.

The Germans are led by an officer as fully suspicious of the British as MacBibbenbrook is of them. So he decides to test the waters by pulling out most of the troops, leaving a trio to watch for the British turning up. Pumpnick, rather reluctantly, does pop up, and soon discovers that the French citizenry has long since fled the town in the wake of the massive warfare around it. The only people he find seem very eccentric types. They should be - they are the inmates of the local insane asylum, who were abandoned by the doctors and staff. They have now decided to take over their imagined roles in the new reality of the deserted village. Soon Pumpnick realizes this, but he soon finds himself protective of these lunatics. He also finds their gentle insanity has some real substance to it that moves him - much more than the intense insanity of the outside world does.

Other writers and artists have tackled the idea of the madmen running the asylum. A good example is Edgar Allen Poe, in his short story, "The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Feather". But Philippe De Broca's film compares insanity in two forms, and finds the form we normally "punish" by incarceration in asylums to be far kinder than the larger one. None of the madmen and women of the asylum threaten or hurt Pumpnick (a point which shows this is a fantasy, as in real life they would have some dangerous types). The ones who we reward with rank and power are far more willing to send the Pumpnicks of the world into dangerous (if not deadly) situations.

The conclusion of the film is too well known for me to discuss. I will only say that when the more dangerous outside lunatics get rid of each other's threat, Pumpnick opts to stay on with his new friends. They will welcome him.

Aside from this I like to comment on more point. De Broca had a bit part where he shows that things on the outside can only get worse, when he shows up as Adolf Hitler briefly, delivering the German officer a message. Perhaps I should say the intensely bad situation will get even more intensely bad in twenty years time.
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9/10
Sleeping French Culty
marekj668 May 2005
When will this film be available to buy? This moving and surreal film deserves to be seen. One of the late Alan Bates' finest roles. The lunatics do not just take over the asylum, here they take over the town! Some find the themes of this film trite, yes it may be termed simplistic, but this is its great charm. It moves and engages, and its final scene with Bates choosing to return to the asylum and his friends over his military life is heartbreaking. The film is able to question notions of alienation and what is 'mental illness'? Who is REALLY crazy? The generals or the inmates? Who decides who is free and who is locked up? A very interesting cult 60's film which along with 'Morgan!' takes a serious look at humanity, war and society.
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10/10
One of my all time favorites
weetam5031 March 2005
Unfairly labeled a "hippy" film, this movie's message, although trite in it's general theme, is a masterpiece. I was moved by the unique characters and I was sad by their ultimate surrender. The story of this movie is secondary to the characters. It is the characters we remember. They are not merely characters, but "hearts"- people who respond not my logic but by feelings. The emotional impact of this film is still with me after all these years. It is very 1960s, when anti-war stands were commonplace in America, but is there ever a good war? Is there ever not room for pure innocence? I prefer the french version of this film with subtitles, the English version destroys the sensitvity of the voices that communicate the film's message.
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10/10
"Viet Nam Veteran adores this little known Masterpiece"
victorsargeant24 June 2005
Had I seen this film, before enlisting in the Armed Forces, I might have chosen Canada.

Alan Bates was brilliant, one of his best performances, next to "Women In Love" and "Far From the Madding Crowd".

At 63, it still gives me a laugh, and a tear. Ahhhh empathy and compassion, where are you now?

Like "Harold and Maude", kids today, don't want emotional themes, they want "action" and "special effects", booming TDX sound effects, to blow the blood from their ears. Too bad for them. They are emotionally deprived of Love.

Like "Enchanted April", "To Kill a Mockingbird", and other films, that sensitize us to our feelings, our hearts, and not just to the Mind Sizzling effects of films today.

"The Breakfast Club" seems to be the closest, kids, can come to experiencing their feelings in relationship to our inhuman, cold, stainless steel times?

I love "The Breakfast Club", "Pretty in Pink", "Sixteen Candles"from John Hughes.

"Ordinary People" is a model for families today, as was "Rebel Without A Cause", was for me, back in the 1950's.

"King of Hearts" should be shown to you, before you enlist in the Armed Forces. If it were shown to our troops in Iraq, there may be mass fleeing from the battlefields. "Jacob's Ladder" is another must see film regarding the "peudo-reality of war".

The White House should have this film in their collection, and the President and his staff should be required to watch it.

I believe art, especially, film, is the most effective opening of Humanity's heart and mind, IE, world peace.

"The Human Comedy" by William Saroyan, "The Best Years of Our Lives","Born on the Fourth of July" and "All Quiet on the Western Front" are more poignant, and useful, than such films as "Platoon" or "Full Metal Jacket.

Those who have written about "King of Hearts" and who took the time to comment and see the film, know what I mean. Respectfully, An Old Soldier
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10/10
Very sad forty years later
gerhardp8 November 2008
I did not see this movie when it came out in 1967, I had just gotten out of the Army, I didn't need any additional anti-war encouragement at the time. Having watched it tonight (11-08-08) it evokes a very different reaction. The idea of having inmates of an insane asylum populate a town was probably very very funny in the sixties. But having W and Chenney in the Whitehouse and Gov. Palin running for Vice President made me long for those 'nuts' in the movie. They seem extremely sane compared to the politicians mentioned above, never mind Joe Lieberman. So yeah, taking off your clothes and getting a bird in cage seems like a good option, except I know better. The insanity of our leaders, starting with Nixon, has driven the ordinary person to the brink. So somehow. I didn't laugh that much during the movie, I got progressively sad and then at the end, yes, I had to wipe my eyes. The thought of how far we have deteriorated is enough to bring a tear.
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10/10
War-comedy-farce Movie
cci_dc27 April 2006
During WW1, an insane asylum is left between the German and French battle lines. The abandoned inmates get out and take over the town. This is where the main part of the movie deals with.

At the end, the German and French armies realise the area is free and return simultaneously.

A big battle occurs in front of the insane patient's eyes. They realise these people outside the walls must be crazier than those civilized people inside the walls.

They return to their asylum, making sure the gates are locked to keep out those crazies outside the walls!

Sad sad world outside. Safe inside the walls.
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10/10
One of the best films ever...
rstonehill13 March 2006
A movie to make you think differently about the subjects of war and mental illness. Excellent early performances by Alan Bates and Genviene Bujoid (sorry for my spelling). A rich (in both visuals & dialogue)and unique film that after seeing thousands in my lifetime, holds a permanent place in my all time top 5. All of the supporting characters are wonderful and add to the charm of this film. Make the effort to find and see this one, I cannot imagine that, no matter what your views, you will be disappointed. It is filmed in several languages, including English, French and German, so be aware that there are subtitles during the film, but the entire film is not subtitled.
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10/10
Alan Bates' best movie ever
Lee Eisenberg28 September 2005
Hopefully, by now we've all figured out that war is not only hell, it's insanity. "The King of Hearts" does a great job showing that. In WWI, the residents of a French village have fled, leaving the village empty. Now, both the English and German armies are looking to take over. So, the British general sends Pvt. Charles Plumpick (Alan Bates) into town to investigate, and Plumpick finds that the people from the insane asylum have taken over. They don't even know that the war has been going on! But the final scene shows definitively that the "insane" people are not as insane as the people commanding the war.

Everyone in the movie just does a great job. Alan Bates is in top-notch form, as always, and we do have to ask ourselves: Is the real insanity inside or outside the asylum?
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10/10
One of the most beautiful and meaningful movies ever
sam-63423 March 2005
What is reality - an objective measurable item outside of subjective perception or is it something you choose to from a variety of possibilities? Two groups of people are shown, "normal" citizens in military outfit ("soldiers") and the inmates of a mental asylum set free to roam the streets. But who is mad? If 20 men kill each other over abstract values like "national pride" and 20 other watch it as a theatrical performance (and find it quite amusing) - which group is insane? This movie has incredible depth. Of course the watcher must have the ability to realize that. But even when watched in a somewhat dimmed state of mind, it is still a very entertaining movie and the actors perform brilliantly.
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10/10
A funny, sweet, artistic film with a serious point
bjork-bjork22 February 2000
King of Hearts has been my favorite film since it came out in 1966. It deals with the insanity of war in a whimsical, light, very delightful way, with lots of humor, wonderful acting, and yet a serious and valid point.
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5/10
I looked forward to seeing this film but was disappointed.
Chirofun15 February 2006
I think this film had great potential, but I couldn't help but be disappointed for several reasons. First of all, let me just state that I'm not a teenager (I'm a 48 year old with a doctorate, so it was easy for me to get "the point" of the film) and I'm not at all foreign to foreign films. I know this film has had critical acclaim and has withstood the test of time in video stores, so I just figured it had to be something special. While I love the premise of the film, and I love the story line of the film, I found that the way in which the film was presented was so incongruent that it undermined the very strong message it intended to bring forth. Here are my concerns: 1) While I understood that the film was presented in "whimsical" fashion, I could not get past the fact that such a serious subject was being presented in such a silly, often slapstick sort of way. I found that so annoying and incongruent that it completely undermined the "power" of the film for me. 2) While the music presented a good avenue for all the "carnival-like" scenes with the asylum patients, it was difficult to get past the fact that the music was being PLAYED by these mentally ill patients, not only in very skilled and professional fashion, but they all just HAPPENED to know how to harmonize both the vocals AND the instruments as if they had been practicing these pieces all their lives (and their were SEVERAL different songs.) It just seems to me that it would have been MUCH easier to suspend my disbelief if they sang and danced along to a few phonograph records that could have been played at the asylum repeatedly (and which they could know by heart) or even if they just SANG the tunes and didn't PLAY the instruments. 3) While it was wonderful that the patients dressed up in the abandoned clothing of the evacuated townspeople, it was difficult to overlook the fact that all the clothing fit so perfectly and that severely mentally ill people could dress themselves to the nines. I just wish that the director put even a FEW patients in clothes that were too big or too small or in colors and patterns that didn't match. Again, it made suspension of disbelief too difficult to allow for credibility in a film attempting to make such a powerful message. 4) While I understand the film is supposed to be whimsical or humorous at times, I really didn't find the dumb slapstick of the bumbling high command, as well as the dumb slapstick of the "sane" soldiers to be funny during those times, and was only able to find it "somewhat amusing" at those times. I really wish I could have enjoyed this film more, as I feel it had such great potential...but ultimately, I felt it was way too silly and (forgive me) "stupid" in the sense that the vehicle used to make such powerful points was both incongruent and inappropriate, thus rendering impotent a film with potentially devastating political importance. For those videophiles who want strong anti-war messages with more sophisticated and lethal humor, I would recommend "Dr. Strangelove", and for those who want strong anti-war messages without being "whimsical", I would recommend "Platoon", "Breaker Morant", "Galipoli", or the tremendous but sadly unknown 1932 "Kamaradschaft".
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3/10
a one joke cult film
MartinHafer22 January 2006
If you really really like the single joke in the film (i.e., a soldier stumbles into an insane asylum and is proclaimed their king), then you'll no doubt think this film is brilliant. My problem is that I kept waiting for MORE. But, the only thing I got was a rather bland film apart from his dealings with the inmates. In fact, the film really looked much like the Richard Lester film How I Won the War (1967)--another spoof of war that just didn't seem very funny to me either. I think the same material could have been handled much better with perhaps a more Monty Python approach (as was first brought up by muscoe from California) or perhaps by giving it the Peter Sellers touch--anything to make it more than a single joke film.

I just thought it was tiresome and wonder if maybe those who made the movie were perhaps using drugs that made them THINK it was so !@&%!# funny--after all, it was made in the 1960s.
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4/10
Foolish
vostf11 September 2006
Why did this movie flop the same way 'Bringing up Baby' did some thirty years earlier? Howard Hawks acknowledged that you can't have all the characters in a movie behaving foolishly. Foolish is funny when you are able to see at the same time what are normal people, i.e. you can't have a movie only with the Marx Bros. playing pranks on themselves. Name it comic discrepancy if you will.

In The King of Hearts everything, everybody is supposed to be a comic character. The setup is already a carnival war before the lunatics are released in between. No question it is more difficult for a clown to be funny and steal the show if he goes on stage after another clown with the same kind of humor. So what? Director de Broca and his writer fumbled one interesting idea: a war satire with lunatics taking over Mankind's asylum. Remember that custard pie fight Kubrick eventually left on the editing floor for Dr Strangelove? Here we are desperately waiting for the images to be more than pretty: Alan Bates is handsome, Genevieve Bujold is beautiful and the whole cast is seemingly enjoying every bit of it. It might well have been a very funny shoot which is usually a sign the audience will get bored and here you do get bored as actors play for laughs and lines read for cleverness. From the very start the whole thing was way out of tune.
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problematic
guillermo-424 November 2001
This film is a 60's absurdist anti-war fantasy, which is fine enough. This kind of flick is usually a little too dated for my tastes, and this one was no exception.

What I did have a big problem with was the portrayal of the asylum escapees. When they entered the town, you didn't see people with mental illnesses. You saw people with delightful, charming quirks that all got along marvelously in a sort of shared fantasy world. It was like the circus hit town.

I know the movie is too old to be subjected to modern politically correct standards, but I found the portrayal of mentally ill people so simplistic, so condescending, and so misguided, that it really distracted me from enjoying anything else about the movie.
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6/10
Satirical whimsy plays like romantic Kubrick (with a touch of Fellini)
moonspinner5514 May 2006
Villagers in a small town North of France in 1918 believe their homes will be blown up by the Germans and quickly evacuate; Scottish soldier Alan Bates is "volunteered" to infiltrate, and inadvertently lets loose the patients in a lunatic asylum who got left behind. French-Italian co-production is a handsome little fairy tale with wartime satire and child-like whimsy, and director Philippe de Broca wastes no time setting the scene and getting right down to business. His approach is romantically silly and simple, but he's never simple-minded or pretentious. The filmmaker also uses Bates to his best advantage, keeping him running crazily like a patient himself, and he's careful not to overdose on Genevieve Bujold's youthful beauty (she's around just when she's needed). Funny and sweet, the movie was something of a slow-rising cult hit, and was back in theaters after some ten years had passed. **1/2 from ****
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