» » King Rat (1965)

King Rat (1965) Online

King Rat (1965) Online
Original Title :
King Rat
Genre :
Movie / Drama / War
Year :
Directror :
Bryan Forbes
Cast :
George Segal,Tom Courtenay,James Fox
Writer :
James Clavell,Bryan Forbes
Type :
Time :
2h 14min
Rating :
King Rat (1965) Online

When Singapore surrendered to the Japanese in 1942, the Allied P.O.W.s, mostly British, but including a few Americans, were incarcerated in Changi prison. This was a P.O.W. camp like no other. There were no walls or barbed-wire fences, for the simple reason that there was no place for the prisoners to which to escape. Included among the prisoners is the American Corporal King (George Segal), a wheeler-dealer who has managed to established a pretty good life for himself in the camp. While most of the prisoners are near starvation and have uniforms that are in tatters, King eats well and and has crisp clean clothes to wear every day. His nemesis is Lieutenant Robin Grey (Sir Tom Courtenay), the camp Provost who attempts to keep good order and discipline. He knows that King is breaking camp rules by bartering with the Japanese, but can't quite get the evidence he needs to stop him. King soon forms a friendship with Lieutenant Peter Marlowe (James Fox), an upper class British officer who ...
Cast overview, first billed only:
George Segal George Segal - Cpl. King
Tom Courtenay Tom Courtenay - Grey
James Fox James Fox - Marlowe
Patrick O'Neal Patrick O'Neal - Max
Denholm Elliott Denholm Elliott - Larkin
James Donald James Donald - Dr. Kennedy
Todd Armstrong Todd Armstrong - Tex
John Mills John Mills - Smedley-Taylor
Gerald Sim Gerald Sim - Jones
Leonard Rossiter Leonard Rossiter - McCoy
John Standing John Standing - Daven
Alan Webb Alan Webb - Brant
John Ronane John Ronane - Hawkins
Sam Reese Sam Reese - Kurt (as Sammy Reese)
Michael Lees Michael Lees - Stevens

Some of the actors had been P.O.W.s in World War II. Denholm Elliott, while serving in the Royal Air Force, had been shot down and taken prisoner by the Germans.

Paul Newman and Steve McQueen were offered the chance to star in this movie. They turned it down.

In interviews, Writer and Director Bryan Forbes said he had to fight the Screen Actors Guild over the most of the fifteen British Equity members he wanted to cast. The Screen Actors Guild wanted British SAG members, most of whom were fairly elderly, and not suitable for this movie.

Due to the cast and director and setting, this is often assumed to be a British movie, but it was entirely filmed in California.

There are no women in this movie.

Sir Dirk Bogarde was offered the extended cameo of Smedley-Taylor.

Nat "King" Cole approached Writer and Director Bryan Forbes looking for a part in this movie, but Forbes had to tell him there wasn't anything suitable available. Forbes was a huge fan of Cole.

Frank Sinatra was considered for the starring role.

Marlon Brando turned down the lead role.

Tony Curtis was originally intended for the lead role.

The character of Corporal King bears several strong resemblances to that of Sergeant Sefton in Stalag 17 (1953).

This was first announced as a Stanley Kramer production.

In the scene where Corporal King (George Segal) and his inner circle of fellow prisoners are cooking the dog, the actors (other than Segal) were not told what they were supposed to be eating in the scene. Their reactions are authentic and ad-libbed.

User reviews



I had never heard of this movie. It came on late one night on cable and I watched it. I was very impressed. The performances in the movie are Oscar caliber. George Segal gave probably the best performance of his career. He plays an American stuck in a Japanese POW camp who manages to always make some dough on the side. He is manipulative and arrogant but his performance is credible and appealing. Also, the way the camp itself is projected as a miserable, fly-infested, hot and godawful hellhole is hard to forget.

James Fox also gives an outstanding performance as Segal's British counterpart who come under Segal's spell and begins to do alot of his dirty work for him. This is a movie you will not soon forget. Now, keep in mind that since this movie was made in 1965, it is tame in terms of its depiction of violence but that does not take away from its overall message. Great movie!


I saw this movie again recently and had forgotten how great it was. It shows how people behave towards each other when the thin veil of civil society is torn away.In a brilliant performance, George Segal plays the wheeler-dealer 'King Rat, a cynical hustler whose only real interest is himself. His counterparts in the Japanese POW camp are the British officers who seem to maintain the rules and courtesies of civilized life. As the movie, unfolds, though, we see the senior officers using their position to steal food from the lower ranks. Even the British provost marshal, or camp policeman (another great performance by Tom Courtenay), is shown to be a weak character, vengeful and sanctimonious, who must believe in retribution to bolster his fragile ego.

'King Rat's' one true friend in the camp is played by James Fox. But the Segal character can't really be a friend to anyone. One of the prices of cynicism is emotional shallowness. In the end Segal tells his best friend - 'You worked for me, I paid you a few bucks, that's all there was between us.' The film makes it clear that the action applies to the wider world. Unlike the other prisoners, the Segal character is neither shocked nor excited by liberation. To him, the everyday world is as pitiless as the POW camp.


King Rat is the oddball among James Clavellfs novels, but in my opinion is the best story. The stage is a Japanese Prisoner of War camp where allied officers are forced to literally eat dirt. The horrors of these camps are well documented and in Forbes adaptation of the book little is left to our imagination. That is not to say this is a vividly violent film. It most certainly is not, nor does it need to be as the sheer look of these poor wretched creatures is vivid enough.

While the backdrop is a prison camp, this is not a war movie. It is a tale of humanity and suffering. It centres around one character played brilliantly by Segal, who when outside the barbed wire fences is an ordinary corporal, while inside he is king. He shows ingenuity in obtaining supplies and living well while those around him starve. Soon the high-ranking officers are calling his shots and hence the title King Rat. The movie shows how far man will go, how much pride he can eat and how much dignity he can lose to survive.

The final scene when the prisoners are liberated could have been stronger but you have to realize the date the film was made. Even so, the look of disappointment on Corporal Kingfs face contrasting with the delight of the freed prisoners is quite incredible. An excellent film, highly recommended.


I saw "King Rat" on television shortly before going to Vietnam. A few months later I was reading the James Clavell novel while serving on DaNang Air Base with air force communications intelligence. It struck me that this book and this movie, which was "researched" by James Clavell when he was a POW in a camp near Singapore during World War II, have the real feel of what it is to be surrounded by enemy forces one almost never sees while being kept isolated on a hot, humid, dusty encampment It's an environment that brings out the best and the worst in mankind. The novel, the movie, and my own war zone experience also point out that adapting to a war zone and mastering the skills that enable one to survive and even prosper there do not necessarily mean that the individual will subsequently be adaptable to "civilization" when he returns to it. The novel, the movie, and my own experiences also raise the questions that are raised in "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" (and even in "Rambo" for that matter): Which is more of a challenge and which is the "real" life: adapting to the war zone as a youth or the expectations by "civilization" that you readjust to life back in "the world" as if nothing had happened?


Well, Corporal King did not actually eat rats - he sold that particular delicacy to the officers.

Based on the excellent book by James Clavell, this is a great story of life in a Japanese-run prison camp in Singapore.

George Segal plays corporal King, who is the big wheeler-dealer of the camp, buying and selling various items such as watches, ripping off anyone he can, but also handsomely paying off his cronies.

He develops a friendship of sorts with one particular British prisoner, and later helps keep his arm from being amputated.

Upon being liberated (led by none other than "Family Feud" host Richard Dawson), King realizes that he will be going back to being the low rung on the ladder (as a corporal), and shares none of the other prisoner's joy of freedom.

There are quite a few great performances, particularly from George Segal (the man who once french-kissed his dog on the Johnny Carson show).

Of course, as is usually the case, the book is much better, but this is still a darn good movie.


It has always bothered me that King Rat is so underrated. On one list of top the thousand films in history, it gets no mention. I think it's because George Segal's character, Corporal King wasn't a totally likable person. He is not the standard Hollywood hero. But he is a hero of mine. Were I in that prison camp, I guarantee you, I would have been Corporal King's best friend. One thing I learned in life was how to survive, and everyone around Corporal King survived. The movie misses a very important point that was in James Clavell's novel on which it is based. In case the war turned bad for the Japanese and they started taking revenge on the prisoners, King had planned an escape route. Not just for himself, for everyone close to him. Put that in the film and you've got a major American hero. The movie is totally cliché free. One never knows where it is going or how it is going to end. Winning the war, you see, will not guarantee the safety of the prisoners. How it ends is perfectly logical in retrospect, but difficult to predict. It is a near perfect motion picture.


Many unforgettable films are to be found in the annals of World War II. Avid movie goers know which ones they are. Among my favorites are 'The Great Escape, The Blue Max, Cross of Iron, and of course, Sink The Bismark," But occasionally, a film is made which deviates from the superficial and ventures into the realm of the incredible. That is the essence of "King Rat." Here viewers are exposed to the harsh realities of what it takes to survive in a hell hole, like a Japanese Prisoner of War Camp. Our hero, one, Cpl. King (George Segal) dwells amid hundreds of starving British and a few American P.O.W.s. However, unlike the rest, who are seen as listless, emaciated and dying , King is for the most part, healthy and appears none the worse for wear. One individual who daily wants to know why King, walks about nearly impervious to the obvious conditions is Lt. Robin Grey (Tom Courtenay, convincing in this role). It is his job as Camp Provost Marshal, to maintain order in a camp where smuggling, trading with the enemy and outright theft is common place. Knowing King is secretly dealing with the enemy, Robin daily waits for him to make a mistake. This will be difficult as King relies on the fact, everyone, regardless of rank seeks to stay alive by whatever means. Aiding King is Peter Marlowe (James Fox) who despite his higher rank readily joins King's other 'employees' such as Tex, (Todd Armstrong), Top Sgt. Max (Patrick O'Neal, Lt. G.D. Larkin, (Denholm Elliott), and Col. George Smedley-Taylor (John Mills). But it is the camp Doctor (James Donald) who asks the pertinent question of King. "What is your secret Cpl? Medically, it should be worth a fortune." Throughout this stark and tragic Black and White film, one is equally curious, until we discover King's dark secret. Once we know it, the anger is dissipated by the fact, the war will eventually be over. Then Cpl. King will be called upon to reveal it. A superior movie with top notch acting by every actor. ****


This film, the best of 1965, was tough and disturbing and seriously under-rated. Great performances and a haunting soundtrack. George Segal, one of the best actors of the 60's and 70's creates an insidious yet charming character who runs things in the camp. James Fox (excellent actor who quit for many years on some kind of spiritual journey) is superb as is Tom Courtney and even Patrick O'Neal (who has never been impressive in any other film I can think of) delivers a punch as Max the stooge.

Bryan Forbes created a somber world of dog eat dog that should have been up for a host of awards. Throw in John Mills, James Donald and other familiar faces and you have a near-classic. A 9 out of 10. Best performance George Segal. Well worth your time.


I saw this grainy black and white film sometime in 1967 one steamy evening in a tin hooch Army movie theatre at TSN airfield on the outskirts of Saigon. The movie was punctuated by the sounds of mortars on the perimeter and the occasional flash from an aerial flare. I never forgot it. It rang true there. So true that no-one could say a word after. We just got drunk -- as usual. I haven't talked to many others who saw this movie. It hit right in the middle of the rising tide of despair over Vietnam. And since it wasn't actually an anti-war movie, I think it went nowhere. I believe it's origin is a short novel, possibly autobiographical by J.B. Clavell, author of Tai Pan and other sagas set in the 19th C orient. No matter what George Segal has done since, I have known that he has the heart of a rat. His King was a natural ruler in a perverse state of nature -- and his fate the fate of all maverick rulers in the end. If you can find it and see it, it will take on the character of a lost dream.


We all wonder what happens when we die, this movie is about what happens when we live at any cost, put in the context of a Japanese prison of war camp in WWII. A serious film with enough action to keep it alive while delivering a message. You won't be bored.

George Segal plays his greatest role, tough, smart, without shame. How he became a banjo player I don't know. (jmho)


This WWII prison camp drama set in the steaming Burmese jungle is a metaphor for the horrors of World War II and features what is easily George Segal's best dramatic performance, an even better one by James Fox, and lean, taut direction from Bryan Forbes. It also offers many insights on the British class system and takes a very grimly pessimistic view of the human condition. There is some humor but it is darkly sardonic and somewhat sadistic in nature. Segal's con artist extrodinaire Sergeant King is the dark side of Segeant Bilko and he employs bitter cynicism as opposed to the wisecracking humor of Phil Silvers. It is based on a novel by James Clavell, and is a better film, if not more entertaining, than the author's "The Great Escape," which was released a couple of years prior to "Rat." With the exception of Segal, the British cast members greatly outshine their American counterparts. Tom Courtenay, the always wonderful Denholm Elliott, John Mills, Gerald Sim, Leonard Rossiter, and Alan Webb all contribute memorable characterizations, but by far the best is James Donald as the compassionate, humane camp doctor, practically reprising his role of eight years earlier in "Bridge on the Rver Kwai' also set in a Burmese prison camp.


There are many WWII prison camp films, but King Rat stands out for its gritty treatment of how prisoners survive in there bleak and painful worlds, where the meaning of hope has long been forgotten. George Segal as Cpl King knows all the angles, and has funds to buy what he wants. He lives the easy life while others suffer around him.Soon he meets up with James Fox, an RAF Officer and buys him as well.A man with little redemption potential you might say; but then the unexpected happens. King Rat effectively explores the roles of the prisoners in relation to their survival.It shows that staying alive is not necessarily to do with determination, or courage, but often due to darker actions, where hate is a cohesive force to survival. Segal is excellent as the well-heeled Cpl, if a trifle too bright-eyed. Fox starts off in third but hits top gear later as the troubled Flight Lt.However,his curious ballet-like gait does seem out of sorts for a Jap prison camp. Courtney makes a fine Provost Marshall, but somehow lacks the steel for the job, and finally fails to convince. King Rat tops the prison camp movies, including The Great Escape, for it's honest and gritty, realistic exploration of hate and redemption. Brian Forbes can be proud of this film, not the least for the outstanding photography,( Oscar-nominated), and excellent acting. See it.


King Rat from Columbia Pictures, 1965, 134 minutes, and directed by Bryan Forbes is the kind of film that delivers its message well. The nominations it received for Art Direction, and Cinematography are deserved in the way they show war-time prison camp conditions.

As the title card at the beginning of the film reads it is a story of survival, not escape, and the film shows us how communities form around common needs as exemplified in the relationship between Corporal King and the other prisoners in a World War II Japanese camp.

James Clavell used many of his own experiences as a British soldier in a POW camp to write his novel on which the film is based. King Rat is a study of personal prisons that we all construct around ourselves with a Japanese prisoner camp as an overriding metaphor.

It feels like a typically British film in part for the way the script presents the character of King, the American who lives the American Capitalist dream by taking advantage of his fellow prisoners. George Segal in the title role turns in one of his best performances as the shallow, boastful American who profits from those around him.

I wish there was more of the actor playing the subtext in the role. The director underlines many moments of the actor mugging the camera, as compared to many of the English actors whose scenes seem to focus on text and character. This is an interesting biased view of the American philosophy of financial success.

It would be great to have seen a greater arc of story with King's arrival at the camp and his ultimate rise in power. We don't know if he was always this successful, if he was a regular fighting soldier, if he was captured in battle, or if his ability at scamming was present when he came into the Army. These kinds of scenes would give the film more depth and impact.

Segal performed excellently in a small film entitled Born to Lose in which he played a drug addict, a perf right up there with Al Pacino's in Panic in Needle Park. In King Rat Segal plays the smug demeanor and cocksure attitude of Corporal King in a role that makes the best of the actor's off-handed delivery and character.

Some of the credit has to be given to James Fox and Tom Courtney in scenes that develop the plot and show character but do not clunk as they move forward. The American Segal contrasts well with the other actors and their techniques in the film, and this combines well with the theme and overall visual of the movie.

We always see King well-dressed, groomed, and clean and this is in clear contrast to the other men in the camp who are a rag-tag collection of half-dressed, unshaved group - a real collection of les miserables. King also transmits clarity of purpose by boastfully admitting that he gets what others need and sells it for a percentage.

The opening of the film makes a point of the difference between King and the other prisoners when the camp police man Grey summons him to turn out his pockets, and submit to questions about where he has gotten his money and valuables. The scene caps with an officer letting King go but cautioning him to consider his appearance, as if just looking successful in such a situation could be considered a crime.

The film at one level can be read as anti-American. King relates to virtually all English soldiers, in fact the film focuses on the concept of class and how money transcends the smudgy lines that separate officers from enlisted men and by extension the community leaders from those that rely on them for philosophy to live by.

In subtle scenes we learn how the hierarchy of the camp operates. Marlowe refuses money from King as payment for translating with a Japanese soldier in a deal to sell an expensive Omega watch. When King asks him to deliver 'wages' to Col. Smedley-Taylor (John Mills), Marlowe begins to see the truth of all men living in desperate situations. The scene is well structured because we as viewer understand with Marlowe the basic sense of commerce involved in such a relationship- we follow the money.

The film also allows us to dynamically interact with the plot by presenting us with problems to solve along with the characters in the tale. When Lieutenant Grey (Tom Courtenay) investigates the skewed weights used in rice rationing, we discover the crime at the same time that Grey does, and this lets us into the film to see the machinations of the Officers from the characters point of view.

Later when Grey presents his suggestion to Court Marshall those involved in the rice theft and Col. Taylor orders him to drop the case, we see the corruption at work in this community. This breech in the code of conduct in Grey's eyes begins from the top down and King and his honor of money is the heart of the issue.

At the basest level the film is about the male code of conduct and how this is interpreted by representative characters in the story. The individual code does allow the characters to escape to a mental state where they can coexist with others in this oppressive world they have been delivered to, and the film clearly makes a point of showing us the American values and how they support a character through difficult times.

Knowing what we do about the Military Industrial Complex that the Eisenhower period revealed to us, the film can be seen as a political commentary on how the American attitude toward war and its results damage international relationships, and by extension how this philosophy has expanded into the postmodern age to affect commerce among the nations of the world.


This film is superb. I saw it many years ago on late night TV and recently bought it on DVD from the US as it has been deleted in the UK. Most of the people I talk to about films have never seen it for some reason. Compared to many WW2 films made in the 60s this film still stands up today and doesn't seem that dated. The acting and characterisations are excellent and the film contains plenty of social commentary. Segal is brilliant as the American "entrepreneur" and Courtenay makes me cringe as the over zealous British Provost.

I always watch this film hand in hand with another favourite of mine - The Ipcress File. Both highly atmospheric films shot in the same austere manner with doom-laden music scores and highlighting the erosion of Britain's class structure.


Classic POW drama,set in a Allied camp in the dying days of Japanese ww2, George Segal, Stars as the cool as a breeze corporal,who has a firm grip on the camp's black market,Patrick O'Neal is his right hand man, James fox, plays an innocent British officer who falls under Segals influence,Tom Courtenay,is the camp's Marshall provost who is determined to put an end to Segal's wheeling dealing,

This Classic film, has a wealth of British talent involved, sir john mills, Denholm Elliott, john standing, as well as Leonard Rossiter and James Donald, who previously starred in another James Clavell adaptation 'the great escape' Bryan Forbes directs this classic,it's certainly earn's its place in the top 100 War films,Probably one of the finest of its kind, john Barry,Contributes A stark music score,
I'm a Russian Occupant

I'm a Russian Occupant

Despite the viciousness of the Nazi regime, British and American prisoners of war captured by the Germans in World War II were generally honourably treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention and given adequate food and accommodation. Those captured by the Japanese were not so lucky. They were often treated brutally, kept short of food and used as slave labour for their captors. This may explain the difference in tone between prisoner of war films set in Europe and those set in the Far East. The former, such as "The Wooden Horse", "The Colditz Story" and "The Great Escape" are generally optimistic in tone, part of the tradition of heroic, patriotic war films. The prisoners are often shown as idealistic patriots, eager to escape from captivity so that they can carry on the just struggle against Nazism.

In "King Rat", however, as in that other Asian POW drama "Bridge on the River Kwai", the tone is very different. There is no realistic possibility of escape, as there are no neutral countries nearby. Life for the prisoners is a dog-eat-dog struggle for survival, one that often involves compromises with one's principles and with the enemy. "Bridge on the River Kwai" is unusual for a Western film in that it gives a relatively sympathetic portrayal of an Axis soldier, the Japanese commandant Colonel Saito. In "King Rat" no Japanese characters play a major role; the emphasis is very much on relations between the Allied prisoners themselves. The shortages of food and other necessities mean that a black market has grown up in which the prisoners barter their possessions with the camp guards and local Malay villagers in exchange for extra supplies of food, clothing and luxuries.

The "King Rat" of the title is an American prisoner, Corporal King. Despite his lowly rank, his surname is an appropriate one; his skill in exploiting the black market has made him the "king" of the camp. The "rat" part of the title may refer to a scheme he hatches for breeding rats as a food source, but it may also refer to his lack of moral scruples. The other major characters are two British prisoners, Flight Lieutenant Peter Marlowe and Lieutenant Robin Grey. Marlowe, a young RAF officer, is befriended by King, who is impressed by the younger man's command of the Malay language, and becomes King's official interpreter in his business dealings. Grey is only a junior officer, but wields considerable power because of his position as Provost-Marshal, in charge of enforcing military discipline in the camp. He develops an obsession with King, whom he is determined to see punished for his black marketeering.

The film can be seen as an exploration of the theme of capitalism versus socialism, with the former coming out on top. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that this was an American film made during the Cold War era). King is a selfish individual, without a single altruistic bone in his body, yet his pursuit of self-interest has the effect of making life more bearable for his fellow-prisoners. Grey, a man of left-wing socialist views, is outwardly idealistic and a believer in fairness and equality, but he is also petty and vindictive with a bureaucratic obsession with enforcing rules (even rules imposed by the enemy) for their own sake. Without the extra supplies provided by the black market, the inmates would be forced to exist ("live" is not really the appropriate word) at near-starvation levels.

The film is not, however, just a political parable. It is also a human drama about the stresses facing men in captivity, and there are some memorable performances. The role of King was turned down by Steve McQueen, who had starred in "The Great Escape", and by Paul Newman, who was later to star in another great drama about men in captivity, "Cool Hand Luke". In the event it went to George Segal, who turns in a fine performance as the amoral yet resourceful King, as do James Fox as the naïve, impressionable Marlowe and Tom Courtenay as Gray. There are also good contributions from various distinguished British actors such as John Mills, Denholm Elliott and Leonard Rossiter.

The film was directed by Bryan Forbes, who was also responsible for that great British classic, "Whistle Down the Wind". I would not rate "King Rat" quite as highly, but despite the very different subject-matter of the two films both are distinguished by a similarly stark black-and-white photography. "King Rat" was deservedly nominated for an Academy Award for "Best Cinematography, Black-and-White". This is, of course, an award which is no longer given; the decline in the number of black-and-white films being made has meant that since 1967 there has only been a single "Best Cinematography" award. Nevertheless, films like "Whistle Down the Wind" and "King Rat" remind us of how powerful monochrome could be as a dramatic medium. 8/10
Steel balls

Steel balls

An intensely directed and compelling look inside a POW camp, the film raises many interesting ideas and there are plenty of gripping dramatic moments as well as a number of thrilling and exciting bits too. George Segal is brilliant as a charismatic corporal who is respected by his superior officers, and James Fox as a lieutenant who befriends him is superb, giving off a highly realistic performance. There are unfortunately too many characters to get to know all the important ones very well, but one can still see that they are not all that they seem to be. The characters that are examined are explored well. Forbes' use of close-ups, freeze frames and angled shots induces a magnificent visual feel, and the music choices are excellent. The final few minutes are rather sluggish and the episodic structure of the film at times prevents flow, but generally there is little to complain about here. It is another black and white masterpiece from the hands of Bryan Forbes.


The word sleeper must have been invented for this movie. I can't add much to what the other commentators have said, but this is a movie in the same qualitative category as Judgment at Nuremberg. I'm going to go out on a limb here and take a good guess as to why the movie was not popular. There is a clear if unconsummated homoerotic relationship between the George Segal character and the James Fox character. The latter is really homosexual, but the former is not, though he is a loyal and loving friend. (The medical orderly is also clearly gay.) It is a main thread of the movie, and could not have played very well in 1965, when people either would not have got the point or got it and reviled it.


King Rat, based on writer James Clavell's own three-year experience in one of the most infamous POW camps, takes place in the brutal WWII Japanese POW camp called Changi in Malaysia -- surrounded by miles of endless ocean and impenetrable jungle.

From the beginning, the viewer can feel the hellish heat, the agonizing hunger, and the sheer desperation of both officers and enlisted men. Prisoners die of starvation, disease, and torture. In one scene at the massively full infirmary, when yet another prisoner dies, someone asks the overworked and unsupplied doctor, "He lost the will to live, right?" The doctor replies, "No, he just gave up the irrational will not to die."

26-year-old James Fox gives an outstanding performance as the protagonist, Marlowe, an idealistic young upper-class Flight Lieutenant in the RAF, who happens to speak Malay.

The titular character, the American corporal King (George Segal), is an expert hustler and scammer who, in stark contrast to his starving, diseased, and bedraggled fellow prisoners, remains well fed, well clothed, and well supplied. For King, in the milieu of the POW camp, he is what he could never be in outside military or civilian life: a success.

Once King notices Marlowe's linguistic skills, he moves in fast to recruit him into his team of subordinates who help him carry out his scams. In return for his translations which make scamming the Malaysian guards possible, Marlowe gets 10% of the profit, and occasionally an egg or, miraculously once, meat, which is completely unheard of.

But Marlowe is a high-ranking officer, and King is a lowly corporal. Is their friendship mere expediency, or is it a faithful, unbreakable bond forged in the extremities of war? Only the life-changing events which follow will determine that.

Although the film shows the hardships and brutality of the POW camp, it's far from one-note or bleak. There are scenes of high humor and gaiety, complex interpersonal relationships and dealings, and a variety of complex characters. Tom Courtenay is Lt. Grey, the maddeningly belligerent and self-righteous camp provost who polices all of his fellow prisoners' behavior; and the supporting cast boasts actors such as John Mills and Denholm Elliott.

All in all, King Rat is a delicious and riveting film, arguably the best POW film ever.


My wife - who wasn't even born when King Rat was released - fell in love with George Segal as we watched this film last night. This film really does stand the test of time. Apart from Mr Segal there is wonderful naturalistic work from James Fox and Tom Courtney, fully rounded cameos from Denham Elliot, James Donald and John Mills but for me the treat was the performance of Patrick O'Neal as Max. This American actor was never again put to such use on screen. John Barry's music is spare and works to. It's moving, frightening and dryly amusing. Fans of the novel will not be disappointed in Bryan Forbes adaptation or his sharp, unfussy and unsentimental direction.


I have no doubt that if William Holden's Sergeant Sefton from Stalag 17 ever met up with George Segal's Corporal King from King Rat, King would survive easily. He's got a much tougher chance for survival where he is in the Malayan jungle in a Japanese prisoner camp.

Segal is quite the operator in fact had he been captured alone as William Holden did in that other famous POW part he played in The Bridge of the River Kwai, Segal would probably have swapped identities with an officer and he'd have made it work for him better than Holden did in his role. As it is he's doing a pretty good job of surviving, he's a street smart American kid from the slums for who this is just another jail and that's something he knows about.

That doesn't sit well with King and country British officer Tom Courtenay who spends every minute trying to nail Segal on something, anything from collaboration to theft. Segal proves too cagey for him.

In fact one way or another everyone does whatever he has to do to survive, something that Courtenay never learns. Even camp prisoner commander John Mills recognizes reality.

The Japanese are rarely seen here, unlike in The Bridge on the River Kwai. Presumably these guys are so deep in the jungle they need very little guards. Living on subsistence diet, the mostly British prisoner population police themselves and not once is there an attempt at an escape.

James Clavell who wrote the epic Shogun and Taipan about the Orient was a prisoner of war and wrote King Rat in collaboration with director Bryan Forbes who got great performances out of his mostly British cast. Two I didn't mention are James Fox who becomes Segal's interpreter and mistakes his usefulness for friendship and Patrick O'Neal who plays Segal's go-fer sycophant.

King Rat got two Oscar nominations for Black and white cinematography and art&set design and lost both to Ship of Fools. It ranks up there with the two William Holden classics as among the best prisoner of war films done. Definitely catch this one when broadcast.


Pretty much everything has been said in the other reviews. The only thing I can add is that the book SHOULD be read before watching the movie. I just watched the film on "AntennaTV". It ran for 3 hours(w/lots of commercials) and while it was a good adaptation of the book it didn't come close to the character/plot development needed to really appreciate the film. What struck me was the realization that if I hadn't read the book I would have been relatively clueless to a lot of what, and why, things were happening in the film. I don't fault the screenplay or the director. There was just so much going on that it would've been impossible to cover it in 130(?) minutes.

It's been 25 years since I first read the book and, since then, I've probably read it more times than any other book I own.

In short, read the book and then watch the film. You'll get sooooo much more out of it.


Enjoyed this film and the feel of it although it does weave the typical British touch of ugly American into it.

"Bloody Yank capitalist, I dare say!"

Fox, Mills and the rest do a great job playing themselves really, but Segal does a great job playing a character that could/would be despised. The American collaborating with the enemy and using the poor British soldiers to his own end.(laughs)

However, this is a good film and the characters, most of them, are well developed, so we're with them too.

Overall, I enjoyed it.



This 1965 production from Bryan Forbes is quite frankly, one of the best P.O.W. camp films ever made. It stars, George Segal, James Fox, Tom Courtenay, Patrick O'Neal and John Mills.

The film is set in Singapore's infamous Changi Prison camp during the waning months of World War Two. The Prison housed thousands of captured Commonwealth troops as well as a smattering of Americans. The prisoners are all slowly dying as they try to survive in the squalid conditions present inside the camp. That is all but Corporal King, (George Segal) who runs a thriving black market operation trading with the Japanese guards. This keeps Segal feed, and in the small luxuries most in the camp never see, eggs, cigarettes etc.

The camp Provost Marshall, Tom Courtenay spends his days trying to catch Segal at his "against the rules" business. Courtenay is stymied at every turn by most everyone in the camp. This is because damn near everyone is on Segal's payroll. What few possessions the prisoners have, watches, rings and the like are all brought to Segal to move. Smart operator, Segal, takes a piece of the action off both ends during these "trades".

Hustler Segal befriends British officer, James Fox because he needs a translator who can speak Malay. This would make his exchanges with the guards easier. Fox soon becomes a top man in Segal's outfit, which is mainly made up of American prisoners.

Fox hurts his arm helping Segal make a big money exchange one night. The two barely get away with the deal because Provost Courtenay appears on the scene. Fox's injured arm soon becomes gangrenous and Fox looks like he might die. Segal makes a big trade to get the needed antibiotics to save Fox's arm. He does this because Fox is the only one who knows where the loot from the earlier deal is hidden. Fox recovers and believes Segal saved him because he is really his friend. This is not the case.

Worked into the story, is an interesting bit where Provost Courtenay, uncovers a scam by several of the officers in charge of food supplies, who have been stealing. Courtney reports the men to his commanding officer, John Mills. Mills tells Courtenay to drop the matter. Courtenay is shocked to discover that Mills is also in on the theft of food.

Segal's group soon comes up with an idea to raise rats under the hut. They will then sell the meat to the camp officers. They will tell the buyers it is really meat from the Malay Mouse Deer.

This business is just up and running, when the Japanese Camp commandant informs the Chief British officers that the war is over. The Allied forces soon arrive with plenty of food, medicine and clothing. Segal soon finds he is no longer needed, and falls from his position as the un-official "King" of the camp.

The film is based on the bestselling novel, KING RAT, by James Clavell. Clavell had himself been a prisoner in Changi POW camp. One of Clavell's most famous novels, SHOGUN, was made into a big time television mini-series in 1980. Clavell wrote the story or screenplays for, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE Satan BUG, TO SIR WITH LOVE, 633 SQUADRON, THE FLY and the LAST VALLEY. Clavell also directed and produced with TO SIR WITH LOVE as his best film in that area.

The film's director, Bryan Forbes, was also a triple threat as a writer, producer and director. Forbes directed this film as well as doing the screenplay from Clavell's novel. Some of Forbes other film work, would include, WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND, THE WRONG BOX and THE STEPFORD WIVES.

Handling the director of photography duties is five time Oscar nominated, and two time winner, cinematographer Burnett Guffey. His two Oscar wins were for, BONNIE AND CLYDE and FROM HERE TO ETERNITY. Guffey was well known to film noir fans for his work on, THE SNIPER, MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS, NIGHT EDITOR, FRAMED, KNOCK ON ANY DOOR, CONVICTED, SCANDAL SHEET, PRIVATE HELL 36, NIGHTFALL, THE TIGHT SPOT, HUMAN DESIRE and THE HARDER THEY FALL.


IMHO most of James Clavells novels are pretty humdrum affairs but 'King Rat' really hits the top notch. To me it is one of the 20th centuries GREAT pieces of literature in Clavells masterful exploration of how various members of a society manage to live on the edge of survival.

However, to attempt to portray this in a feature film is like watching a formation air display on a pocket TV screen, or enjoying a steak by liquidising & sucking it up through a straw. It has no hope of doing the subject matter justice.

I can see so much valuable material left out and so many shortcuts that it can only fail. However, I realise that a feature film is a medium that reaches vastly more people than any other and this was a very good attempt. Very well cast, well acted and well directed.

Perhaps a mini-series? 'King Rat' is well overdue for a remake of some sort.