Tag Archives: pow

King Rat—A Movie Not Based On A Lie Like The Bridge Over the River Kwai.

Recently, my claim that Black Hawk Down is the best war movie ever was challenged by a regular visitor to the site who asked if anyone would remember BHD after a number of years had passed, while pointing to The Bridge Over the River Kwai and The Great Escape as examples of “better” war movies, ones that have stood the test of time.  Obviously, we can not know how long people will remember BHD, but we can look at a movie that is head and shoulders above both The Great Escape and The Bridge Over the River Kwai and yet is not as well remembered:  It is King Rat.

King Rat (1965) stars a young George Segal who plays “Corporal King” AKA the King Rat.  King Rat is based on a 1962 novel by J.B. Clavell.  Set during World War II, Clavell’s novel describes the struggle for the survival of British, Australian, and American prisoners of war in a Japanese camp in Singapore—a description well-informed by Clavell’s own three-year experience as a POW in the notorious Changi Prison camp.  Peter Marlowe, a significant character, is based upon Clavell’s younger self.  Even some of the actors in King Rat were POWs in the World War II.  Denholm Elliott, (who played Lt. G.D. Larkin) while serving in the RAF, was shot down and taken prisoner by the Nazis.

These P.O.W.’s were given nothing by the Japanese other than filthy huts to live in and the bare minimum of food needed to prevent starvation.  Officers who had been accustomed to native servants providing them with freshly- laundered uniforms daily were reduced to wearing rags and homemade shoes.  For most, the chief concern is obtaining enough food to stay alive from day to day and avoiding disease or injury, since nearly no medical care is available.  But, not so for King, who is well fed and struts around in a uniform that looks like it came straight from the dry cleaners.

Corporal King, not a very likable character, becomes “King” of the black market/underground economy, trading with the enemy for food, cigarettes, currency, etc.  As the “richest” man in the camp, Segal becomes the most powerful prisoner, controlling even the highest ranking officers through his economic muscle and having virtually everyone on his payroll, except one, seemingly incorruptible British Provost, Lieutenant Grey (Tom Courtenay).  Grey has only contempt for the American and does his best to bring him down, but with no success.

Eventually, the camp commandant informs the prisoners that the Japanese have surrendered and that the war is over.  After overcoming their shock and disbelief, the prisoners celebrate – all except King, who realizes that he is no longer the unquestioned (if unofficial) ruler of the camp.

Unfortunately, King Rat does not appear on any popular “top” lists of movies must-sees.  In fact, the reason I watched it was because I was forced to.  In my high school economics class, Dr. Kardsky made us watch the movie as an example of how scarcity affects economic markets that are virtually unregulated.  Now, having seen the movie several more times over the years, I have only grown to appreciate it further.  So. if you are interested in a not-so-glamorous account of soldiers in the war of the century, do take a very worthwhile look at King Rat.

By the way, the Rat in the movie’s title “King Rat” is revealed at the end of the film when King feeds his fellow prisoners rat meat, for which they are grateful.


Posted by on June 20, 2010 in Movie Reviews


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Bravo 20–A Sleeping Rose.

Bravo 20 is a little known English film, based on a true story, about an elite group of special air services commandos, who are dropped behind enemy lines, and eventually captured by the Iraqi soldiers where they faced disgusting, profane torture and humiliation.
The very beginning of the movie consists of the team, which was composed of eigh seven men (only 5 of which returned), planning their mission which is to cut communication cables connecting the Iraqi SCUD missile system.  However, they are discovered by a young boy who gives away their position they could have easily and silently shot  and never would have been exposed and captured by the Iraqi army.  After a relatively few number of skirmishes with their Iraqi pursuers but are eventually caught and this is when the movie really begins.
There are held in the Iraqi secret police prison where they are starved, beaten and endlessly interrogated by enemy soldiers and police.  As time goes on, their jailers get to know them and little better and begin asking them for help in getting out of their country and going to (preferably) America.  While the Iraqi guards are trying to convince them to help get them out of their own country, the men of Bravo 20 are still forced to do foul things.  For example, after they dump out there their “bathroom” buckets, they are made to lick their hands clean regardless of the amount of human waste dirtying them.
I must admit, these guys were pretty tough to have survived, much less with any sanity left after spending years in that hellhole.  In the last scene, Andy McNabb (the unit’s leader) is seen walking back to his flat in Britain where says that he is a soldier and proud of his profession.  He also understood that the enemy had a job to do as well, but most of them seemed to enjoy it a little too much.  The last line in the movie Andy confesses hat “if I met any of them in street tomorrow and thought he could get away with it I would slaughter them.”  In my opinion a natural reaction after having gone through their ordeal.
If you can find this BBC production watch it.

Posted by on February 26, 2010 in Movie Reviews


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