5.3/10
157
10 user 7 critic

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 »

Director:

Writers:

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

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Maj. Patrick Dannenberg
...
Det. Sgt. Adams
...
Pvt. Edward J. Leonski
...
Det. Sgt. Martin (as Maurice Fields)
Max Fairchild ...
Maj. William Fricks
Belinda Davey ...
Margot Saunders
Randall Berger ...
Pvt. Anthony Gallo
...
Maj. Gen. Sutherland
Jon Sidney ...
Gen. Douglas MacArthur
Nell Johnson ...
Maisie
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
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Crime | Drama | War

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

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

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

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

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This movie was the second Australian film in six years to examine a military legal case, army court-martial and military execution. Bruce Beresford's Breaker Morant (1980) examined the military trial, court-martial and execution of Harry Morant and a fellow soldier during the Boer War. See more »

Connections

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

Soundtracks

Annie's Jive
music by Allan Zavod
published by Filmtrax PLC
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User Reviews

 
Background on Coburn's character, Ira C. Rothgerber, Jr.
28 August 2004 | by See all my reviews

Although James Coburn's character is called Major Donnenberg in the movie, the person who actually defended Leonski was Ira C. Rothgerber, Jr. He died in 1993 and was one of the greatest Colorado lawyers of the 20th Century.

With the outbreak of World War II, Ira joined the Army and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Stationed in the South Pacific and Australia, he served in combat areas and won a Bronze Star. In Australia, he served with another young lawyer from New Jersey, Colonel Bill Powers, whom he convinced to return with him to Denver and join the firm at the end of the war. The firm then became known as Rothgerber, Appel & Powers.

During his service in Australia, Ira was appointed as co-counsel to represent a young, uneducated private accused of the rape and murder of several Sydney women. General MacArthur's command was determined to show the Australians that U.S. soldiers in their country would be held to a strict code of conduct, and the prosecution sought the death penalty. The soldier, William Leonski, was by all accounts mentally deranged and likely insane. Nevertheless, he was found competent to stand trial, and his mental impairment defense-then unprecedented in military courts-was swiftly rejected.

His client summarily tried, convicted, and sentenced to hang, Ira sought an appeal through the military high command. Denied review, Ira dictated by long-distance telephone a petition for stay and certiorari to Denver for transmission to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, before the Court could consider the petition, Leonski was hanged


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