George Segal is the mastermind of all black market operations in a Japanese prison camp. He is called "King Rat" because of his breeding of rodents to serve as food for his emaciated fellow prisoners. British officer... more » James Fox helps Segal expand his operation to include trading with the Japanese officers. Though on surface level a thoroughly selfish sort, Segal saves the ailing Fox's life by wangling precious antibiotics from the guards. Stars Academy Award nominee, George Segal (TV's Just Shoot Me). Academy Award nominated film for Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography.« less
Jean W. from JORDANVILLE, NY Reviewed on 11/29/2009...
One of the few movies I have seen that is very like the book. Excellent movie
King Rat is an extraordinary film that is mostly unknown
David Thomson | Houston, TX USA | 05/25/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are many mysteries of the universe that I have yet to unravel. One of the most puzzling is the lack of recognition usually given to King Rat. I consider this film among the top twenty of all time. Alas, few people are even aware of its existence. The Director Bryan Forbes should have least received an Academy Award nomination. George Segal is brilliant as the amoral prisoner of war camp manipulator who is indifferent to the suffering of his fellow comrades. He is charmingly personable, highly intelligent, and utterly selfish. A mere corporal in rank, the King Rat often tells officers what to do. We view the day to day lives of these allied military combatants interned by the Japanese during World War II. Avoiding starvation is a daily challenge. Retaining one's moral decency and sanity is near impossible. The captured soldiers perceive little reason to exhibit physical courage, and are seemingly content to wait out the end of the war. They are many miles behind enemy lines, and escape seems pointless.King Rat is difficult to watch. This is not a message film. Novelist James Clavel's purpose is not to particularly provide any deep existential insights pertaining to life and death. There are instances of compassion and altruistic warmth, but these men at least subconsciously realize that the death of a buddy increases the chances of their own survival. They will then have more food to eat and clothes to put on their backs.A number of the fine actors who fill out the cast include Patrick O'Neal, James Fox, John Mills, and Tom Courtenay. I consider King Rat to be a better film than the far more famous "Bridge on the River Kwai." Will you also agree with my assessment? Perhaps not, but I do think that it's a safe bet you will find King Rat to be worthy of your time and interest."
Extraordinary Film Essential Viewing
Mad Dog | Canada | 01/18/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"King Rat appeared around the same time as "The Train". While both attempt an unsentimentalized view of war and it's heroes, "The Train" (an excellent film) is ultimately an action piece about victory. "King Rat" on the other hand, is about survival.Over the last twenty-five years I've read the book twice and seen the movie at least five times. I don't care what the differences are anymore - both book and film are exceptional works. Different, but definitely equal. Experiencing either will be a harrowing, heart-breaking, but ultimately rewarding experience.Set in Changi prison camp (and based on Clavel's real-life experiences there) King Rat is the story of a young British officer (James Fox) who finds himself working for the camp hustler (George Segal). Together they are harassed by camp Provost Martial Tom Courtney determined to catch Segal (Corporal King) breaking regulations.The adaptation and direction by Bryan Forbes (who had to make allowances for the conservative sensibilities of a sixties audience) is simply amazing: King Rat is about the heat, disease, suffering, and madness. These aren't the stiff-upper-lip-discipline-or-die men of "Bridge On The River Kwai". The soldiers in King Rat are wretched, pathetic, and despairing. There is no sentimentality here, neither in front of, or behind the camera. Forbes' lens is unflinching -- it's the audience who has to look away. The cast alone makes this film worthwhile: George Segal (for the uninitiated, Segal was once a rising star), Tom Courtenay, James Fox, Patrick O'Neal, Denholm Elliot, James Donald, Tod Armstrong, John Mills, Gerald Sim, and Leonard Rossiter to name a few. They are all at their best. There are no disappointments here. In fact, I think it is the cast that makes me prefer the film to the book. Tom Courtney is much better at realizing his character than Clavel can write him. While Clavel (who lived this harrowing experience) may have known these people, it's the cast who have personalized and personified them. And so, while Forbes may have cut significant material from the book, I think the soul of the work is stronger. This is most apparent in the last line of dialog: in the book it is delivered by Tom Courtney's character, but in the film it is given to James Fox. But what is most amazing is that, after thirty-five years and the likes of "Patton", "Full Metal Jacket", "Platoon", "The Odd Angry Shot", and "Saving Private Ryan", "King Rat" still holds it's own. IF you are a connoisseur of films (war or otherwise) this is a must see."
He Gave You Hate, Gray!
Archmaker | California | 05/12/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Survival. This film of POW's in Singapore's Changi prison is about survival. Mostly British POW's, there is one hustler among them, an American Corporal named King. He is the King Rat...the black marketeer, the guy "on the ball", trading with the Malay & Japanese guards, and always working schemes. He is pursued by the POW Provost Marshals , envied and resented by other POW's, even as they employ his services as a go-between for themselves.A naive young British Officer, Marlowe, meets the King and is drawn into his world, first as a translator (he speaks Malay), and slowly becomes Corporal King's only true friend. He comes to admire King's undaunted will to survive and his ingenuity and courage. In the episode of the watch sale, King gives Marlowe a lesson in how things really work that is an eye-opener to him and us.Beautifully played by a very young James Fox as Marlowe, and an equally young George Segal as Corporal King, the movie is harrowing and yet often very funny. King's schemes and maneuvers, while illegal as camp rules, keep everyone engaged and some of the episodes are rife with gallows humor (as in the special "stew" feast and the "delicacy" reserved for sale to officers only). The rest of the cast is fine with John Mills, Patrick O'Neal, James Donalds and Tom Courtney standouts. The direction by Bryan Forbes is excellent, capturing the terrible conditions of the camp and the insipient insanity and despair of the prisoners.James Clavell was in Changi prison, and he knew a man like Corporal King. The book may have been somewhat different, but the movie captures the essence of Clavell's experience and his admiration for the man's guts and spirit and unwillingness to surrender and be defeated by Changi. A terrific, unsentimental film. 4-1/2 stars."
Here. Have Some Rat.
B. Merritt | WWW.FILMREVIEWSTEW.COM, Pacific Grove, California | 11/13/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What happens when a group of WW II soldiers are confined to the harsh island climate of Changi in Singapore? What can they do to survive this nearly death-like existence? Limited food. No medical supplies. Unbearable heat. Welcome to hell...for some. For others, though, this might be something of an opportunity.
Corporal King (George Segal's best role) has found his niche in this extremely un-paradise like location. He scams guards and Army officers alike, making his life more comfortable than those around him. But he also has compassion for some, and builds trust amongst them (even if they seriously outrank him).
But what will happen when the war ends and the divisiveness of officer and grunt reemerge? How will those who've suffered greater loss than King Rat view this lowly Corporal?
In one of James Clavell's best novels, KING RAT comes scurrying off the screen, rubbing its moral messages uncomfortably against the viewer. Should we like or dislike The King for what he does? Are the officers any better (they've been stealing food, after all)? Do multiple wrongs make a right? What IS right in a horrendous situation like this?
Unlike other war films of the era (1965), KING RAT explores the methods of men in squalid situations during war time. No explosions. No bullets whizzing by. Just soldiers dealing with the possibility of death and what each does in order to survive."
All Too Human Nature
Raegan Butcher | Rain City, USA | 11/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I spent 7 yrs in various Washington state prisons, including 4 yrs as a slave laborer in a forced work camp and while i can report that none of them, thankfully, were anywhere near as awful as the POW camps in the Pacific during WW2, i saw many men behave very much like the protagonist in KING RAT. This film, while perhaps not fully able to convey the degradation, filth and squalor of POW camp life(indeed, who could? who could make you smell it? who would want to?) it does tell one hell of a gripping story.
The acting is first rate, all around, with George Segal giving a complex and layered performance underneath his veneer of easy-going charm and effortless ease and finding stellar support from Tom Courtenay as the heartless and obsessive Provost Marshal and James Fox as the stiff-upper-lippy Brit boy who finally sees the humanity in the King, just as his world crumbles. This is worthy film that plumbs the depths of human behavior and shows what thousands and thousands of men had to endure at the hands of the Japanese, who seem to have managed , as a country and in direct contrast to Germany, to avoid the blame and responsibility that is rightfully theirs for the atrocities committed by the Imperial Army during WWII. As such it is not just a ripping good story, told with authority and style, but an important piece of history. While this is not a true story, the prison camp and the Utram road jails both existed--and far worse camps were maintained by the Japanese. Because situations like the one depicted in the book and film do occur--as i can attest to personally--this film should be as well-known and discussed as SCHINDLER'S LIST. Truly, this is a film that every household should own."