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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?


American Pvt. Edward Joseph Leonski was hanged at Pentridge Prison, Coburg, Victoria, Australia. on 9 November 1942. The order of execution was signed-off personally by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. See more »


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

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User Reviews

An accurate and important piece of history
16 February 2004 | by (USA) – See all my reviews

It's obvious from the remarks in the previous commentaries by others, that none of them were ever in the military. Coburn was portraying a Military Police major (Maj. Dannenberg) serving as the Assistant Provost Marshal - he was not playing an Army attorney. At that time (and still optional today) an officer from any branch in the military can serve as legal council to an accused soldier - you don't have to be a lawyer (JAG Corps). This particular story was true, and is the event in military history that is directly responsible for the creation and implementation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) applicable to all the Armed Forces. The film is accurate and does not portray any Hollywood political bias. It's a great film and a good piece of history. A little known fact: Gen. MacArthur came close to being court martialed for preventing Maj. Dannenberg from appealing Pvt. Leonski's death sentence and conviction, but political allies in Washington intervened.

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