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Death of a Soldier (1986)

R | | Crime, Drama, War | 16 May 1986 (USA)
Based on a true story, James Coburn portrays a military lawyer assigned to defend a confessed psychotic killer. Set in the context of WWII and the uneasy US-Australian military alliance. ... See full summary »



(screenplay) (as William Nagle), (story) (as William Nagle)
2 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Maurie Fields ...
Det. Sgt. Martin (as Maurice Fields)
Max Fairchild ...
Maj. William Fricks
Belinda Davey ...
Margot Saunders
Pvt. Anthony Gallo
Jon Sidney ...
Nell Johnson ...
Pippa Wilson ...
Singer in Boomerang Bar
Kim Rushworth ...
Band in bar
John McTernan ...
Col. Williams (as John McTiernan)
Earl Francis ...
Police Doctor
Ron Pinnell ...
Mr. Harmon


Based on a true story, James Coburn portrays a military lawyer assigned to defend a confessed psychotic killer. Set in the context of WWII and the uneasy US-Australian military alliance. The accused killer claims to have killed 3 women in order to possess their voices. Despite the defense lawyer's concerns that the killer is not fit to stand trial, the US military presses forward with the case and its desire to have the killer executed in order to strengthen the shaky alliance. Written by Fryingham

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The obscenity of war. The brutality of murder. The travesty of justice.


Crime | Drama | War


R | See all certifications »




Release Date:

16 May 1986 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Dein Lied - Dein Tod  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


(Eastmancolor)| (archive footage)| (archive footage)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This is not director Philippe Mora's first World War II film. He was co-writer and co-director on the respected British Second World War Nazi documentary, Swastika (1974). See more »


Featured in The Spoony Experiment: Death of a Soldier (2011) See more »

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User Reviews

The Legendary Train Battle has almost the weight of Truth.
6 February 2006 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

I agree with all the points made in the positive reviews of this film. I recently saw it for the first time on Briz31, a community TV channel which can only pay peanuts (if that) for its movies. I missed it at the cinema when it got reasonably good publicity but it quickly dropped out of sight. It deserved far better. I can only say that there is in Australia a tendency by organizations of any size to self-censor a lot of things that show the USA and particularly Australia's relationship with the USA in a bad light.

I would add something to Graf Spee's comment that the shootout between Australian troops and American troops was fictional. This incident was very widely believed to have really happened, by Australians in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Books and features have been written investigating it but no concrete evidence exists that it happened. Nevertheless, people believed it had, and I recall quite a few wartime generation people of both sexes telling me in all earnestness that it had, and that it was just typical that "The Government" would cover it up. So whether true or not, the existence of the legend is an indicator of the underlying tension between Americans and Australians at the time. The Battle of Brisbane was factual, but it was a riot during which some shots were fired and people were killed. The Train Battle, legend has it, occurred when a unit of Australians, on their way to the war zone, were insulted by Americans and a full scale fire fight broke out.

One Australian attitude to Americans has been summed up as "Over-paid, Over-sexed, and Over Here", and a book about the problem has been published with that title. I just wonder if a french author has ever written a similar work about Aussie soldiers, the "Diggers" of World War One, who were paid about 7 times as much as British soldiers and much, much more than French soldiers! The wheel turns.

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