In Joseph Losey's stirring anti-war film, a tough, no-nonsense British Army lawyer (Dick Bogarde) is assigned to defend a lowly private (Tom Courtenay) at his court martial. The private has been accused of desertion dur... more »ing battle. The lawyer, Captain Hargreaves is convinced this young man should fry. However, as the trial progresses and the strain of three horrible years endured at the Allied front is revealed, the more he is compelled to spare the youth from a firing squad. Winner of the British Academy Award for Best Picture of 1964. Courtenay won the Best Actor Award at the Venice Film Festival. Bonus Features: Scene Access| Cast Bios| Original Theatrical Trailer. Specs: DVD5; Dolby Digital Mono; 86 minutes; B&W; 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio; MPAA - NR; Year - 1964; SRP - $14.99.« less
"The horrors of real war experienced by soldiers are vividly explored in this excellent movie. There are few, if any, neutral scenes as the film shows typical conditions that fightingmen go through. And, Courtenay's performance as a normal person in uniform is credible and compelling."
Losey & Bogarde's worthy follow-up to The Servant
Tryavna | North Carolina | 06/17/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The year prior to making King & Country, director Joseph Losey and actor Dirk Bogarde had made their break-through film The Servant and scored a major critical success, becoming one of the leading actor-director teams of the English-language art-house circuit of the 1960s. King & Country was their follow-up, and it was a worthy one. The film concerns a private (Tom Courtenay) who deserts and is court-martialed during WWI. Bogarde plays the officer who defends him -- reluctantly at first, more sympathetically as he gets to know the private and the stressful battle conditions that led to his desertion.
As an anti-war film, King & Country holds few surprises, but that's not the point. Losey had worked with the great dramatist Bertolt Brecht, who believed that the content of a story mattered less than the way you told it. That logic is on display here. Losey is primarily concerned with criticizing the bureaucratic nature of military thinking and with exploring the dynamic contrasts between the upper-class officers and working-class enlisted men, each of whom understand duty and fate in very different ways. The movie is deliberately paced, but the running time is quite short, and the performances of the ensemble cast are uniformly excellent. Losey also avoids inadvertantly glorifying war, as so many otherwise sincere anti-war films do when they give us the vicarious thrill of battle by aestheticizing military conflict (like Kubrick's Paths of Glory) or when they give us solace in the male cameraderie of soldiers (like Milestone's All Quiet on the Western Front). In that regard, King & Country is one of the more successful anti-war films because we never want to be with these characters even though we do sympathize with them.
VCI's DVD is pleasing but flawed. The print is very clean and in the correct 1.66:1 aspect ratio. Unfortunately, VCI used a short-cut by simply porting over the British transfer (which was released on DVD by British Home Entertainment, I believe). The drawback is that British TVs use the PAL system, whereas American TVs use NTSC. As a result, VCI's DVD runs a little too fast and exhibits "ghosting" (a slight blurriness during panning shots). The print is good enough and the movie is static enough that it isn't distracting on regular tube TVs. It's just a shame that VCI didn't pay for a better transfer.
I also sympathize with Robert's review below: There is indeed no subtitle option on this DVD. That's unfortunate because the combination of various British accents with the poor recording equipment of the British film industry of the 1950s and 1960s means that making out what's being said can be difficult. (I lived in Britain for a time, where I got used to some of the accents, but even I had to concentrate very hard.) Finally, VCI has not anamorphically enhanced this film, which means it won't fill up a widescreen TV. That doesn't bother me with films in 1.66:1. Apparently, many labels have difficulty making that aspect ratio anamorphic.
In sum, this is a thoughtful movie that deserves wider appreciation. It serves as one of the more accessible of Losey's "difficult" films, and the DVD is worth purchasing, especially since you can regularly find it for under $10 now."
"KIng and Country" won British "best picture" and Courtenay
Julie M. Vognar | Berkeley, California United States | 11/21/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
""best actor" at the Venice Film Festival that year--both well-deserved honors. Courtenay's cockney and young, fair face with his sometimes affect-less eyes (which I attribute not to stupidity, but to shell-shock: how many stupid men respond "I don't know" to every question of motive put to them?) and Bogarde's crisp, precise English, his dark, expressive eyes, often belying the lack of expression in his face--are perfect foils for each other.
If this is a sound stage--it's the wettest one I ever saw! It rains almost constantly, everyone gets muddy, there are no glass windows, the corrugated metal roof is torn, and everyone is constantly tramping through the mud.
There IS an extra fillup for us pacifists: the trial, which showed signs of turning on a point of military law, resolves itself on a point of military expediency of surpassing idiocy--we will execute this man because the men need a boost to their morale. WHO is stupid around here?
Besides the drama unfolding before us, we get to witness the court marshal of a rat, who has bitten the ear of a sleeping enlisted man (encouraged by his wakeful comrades). He is confined in some sort of metal container with wire over one end, as his prosecuting atourney asks him questions, rapping on the metal container with a metal rod...eventually he begins to squeak. He is duly executed with rocks. Courtenay vomits up the Eucharist. As the firing squad is given the order to shoot, we are stationed directly behind one of its members, and we see his gun moving off target (I think this was common practice, perhaps even ordered by officers, that almost all of the men aimed badly, only one or two aiming well, so that all did not have to feel guilty....
Good God, what a glorious thing is war!
When Bogarde is told why his defense of the private failed, he looks in the mirror and recites a bit of Carroll nonsense:
There's a porpoise close behind me And he's treading on my tail.
To encourage the others
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 11/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Despite contentious subject matter - a World War One court martial for desertion - and the melodramatic weaknesses of the source material (John Wilson's radio play Hamp and J.L. Hodson's novel Return to the Wood), Joseph Losey's King and Country admirably avoids most of the clichés and preconceptions of its day in favor of something much more even-handed and unsensationalized, and consequently its matter-of-fact approach is much more powerful: indeed, the final moments almost unbearably so. Tom Courtney is the very simple soldier facing a court martial for desertion, carried out almost as an afterthought and certainly as an inconvenience to the officers who have to try him and would rather just forget the whole thing, with Dirk Bogarde the officer who draws the short straw of defending him in the brief proceedings. Nobody really wants him to be executed and no-one really expects he will be: most death sentences were revoked. It's just his bad luck that his court martial comes before an offensive when an example is needed "pour encourager les autres." The ending is, of course, inevitable - it has to be or there is no story - but it's no less powerful for that. If anything, it's more so.
For a filmed play it is ironically in many ways more overtly stark and cinematic than any of Losey's other films, especially for a production that never moves from the soundstage. And what a soundstage - Peter Mullins' sordid ramshackle behind-the-lines set is quite astonishing, making a real virtue of its limited resources, at once claustrophobic and economical but also practical for the intricate camera movements Losey adopts, Denys Coop's naturalistic black and white cinematography putting the artificiality of more recent films like The Trench to shame. There's also an intriguing use of archive photos, including a memorable shot of a deteriorated corpse in the mud slowly dissolving into a shot of mud and rain that seamlessly suggests the corpse fading away into the mud. The brief inserts of home - a live-action shot of a child as posed for a photo, a friend sitting in bed drinking tea, a shot of an old woman sweeping her step - are interesting, if not always successful. Even the harmonica score by Larry Adler (like the director a blacklist victim who fled to the UK) turns the film's extremely limited budget - there simply wasn't enough money for an orchestral score - to the film's advantage.
All too often Bogarde's performances in Losey's films can seem formal and a little cold around the heart, but no such complaints here. Bogarde had a genuine interest in the period (many of his own paintings were WW1 subjects) and while his character is at a social remove from the man he is expected to defend and ultimately execute, there's a real sense that he's invested in both the part and the picture. Tom Courtney, who also stood court martial in Private Potter, is at his best here as the confused, none-too-bright and painfully inarticulate working boy who only gradually begins to realise the enormity and inevitability of what he's up against. And they're well matched by an excellent supporting cast in the officer's mess - Leo McKern, Barry Foster, James Villiers and Peter Copley.
The only wrong note is the over-stylised stage-chorus nature of the scenes with the enlisted men, which Losey unwisely left rehearsing to Vivian Matelon (who also plays the Padre), who treats them like a bad left-wing theatre workshop production: a shame, because their shifting sympathies and often cruel attitudes ring true even if the performance style doesn't. Yet despite those lapses, there's a level of realism that the low budget affords: even the trench rats that thrived thanks to four years of good eating but are rarely dealt with on screen are present and all too convincingly correct. A genuinely great film, it's a more than worthy companion piece to Paths of Glory, and it's a shame that it's now all but forgotten. It's true that the DVD transfer could be better (the only real extra is a brief trailer), but it's still a worthwhile purchase for the film itself."
King & Country
Mark Kilmurry | australia | 12/15/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A Dirk Bogarde and Jospeph Losey film partnership (that also included The Servant, Modesty Blaze) gives this hard hitting, anti war film a thrilling edge missing from British Cinema of the time. Beautifully judged performances stand out against Losey's rat infested backdrop on the horrors of war."