Death of a Soldier (1986)

R  |   |  Crime, Drama, War  |  16 May 1986 (USA)
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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 »



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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 McTiernan ...
Col. Williams
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:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


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

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The meaning and relevance of this movie's title, "Death of a Soldier", is that it relates to the execution and death of this movie's subject, Pvt. Edward Leonski, who was clearly guilty of murdering three women in Australia during World War II. However, the legal processes and mechanisms that were used were allegedly unfair and the death penalty may not have been imposed. As such, the "death of a soldier" represents a failure of the US military justice justice, specifically the lack of due process. See more »


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

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User Reviews

An excellent adaptation of the true story of what became known as the "brownout murders" which took place in Melbourne Australia during the Second World War.
7 April 2004 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

I recently managed to obtain a videotape of this film from a local sound store although I had seen it many years earlier on TV and have a copy of the soundtrack on vinyl record. Reb Brown gives a splendid and convincing performance as American GI Private Eddie Leonski who strangles three local women in Melbourne over a three week period in May 1942 after a drinking binge. His motives are complex and disturbed, and when finally apprehended, confesses that he just "only wanted their voices". The focus of the film centers on the tensions between American and Australian service personnel and Leonski is portrayed as a necessary sacrificial scapegoat needed by the U.S.Army to restore their credibility with the local population. The film does have it's fictional moments such as the violent shootout between American and Australian servicemen at an unknown railway station which may be a substitution of the true confrontation between these forces in the Battle of Brisbane in November 1942 in which there were actual casualties. There is also the bizarre role of Jon Sidney as General Douglas Macarthur who utters nothing throughout the film excepting a one line sentence near the end. His mouthpiece is Michael Pate playing 2IC Major General Richard Sutherland. Great performances by James Coburn who plays U.S. Major Patrick Dannenburg assigned to defend Leonski, whom he considers insane, at an American Court Martial which has an already pre-conceived judgment on the case and Maurie Fields (as Detective Sergeant Ray Martin)and Bill Hunter (as Detective Fred Adams) who play the tough hard nosed Melbourne cops confronting obstinate American military authority over their rights to exercise civil jurisdiction in the case. Extra great performance by Max Fairchild, better known to many Australians as "Beau" of the television tyre commercials, who plays the swaggering, intimidating and outspoken American Provost Marshal Major Bill Fricks. Belinda Davey who plays civilian PR officer Margot Saunders, well attired in the fashion of the era contributes a good sensual feminine performance to an otherwise male dominated film. The superb musical score by Allan Zavod well threaded into the film captures perfectly the mood and style of the wartime 1940's. This is an absolute gem of a movie well worth watching even if for only it's relatively true historical significance.

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