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King Rat

4.4 out of 5 stars 75 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Oscar(r)- nominee George Segal (1967, Best Supporting Actor, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf) became astar with his performance in this epic WWII drama based on the best-selling novel by Shogun author James Clavell. The movie chronicles the scams of a streetwise GI held in a Japanese prison camp. Under the harrowing camp conditions, he rises to a position of power over his military and social superiors, manipulating those around him and controlling the prison's black market. KING RAT is a powerful exploration of one man's struggle to survive and flourish against all odds. It was nominated for two 1965 Academy Awards(r) (Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography).


High on the list of best POW movies, King Rat bears some comparison to that compound over by the River Kwai... but this is an entirely more cynical exercise. In a Japanese prison camp, a brash American corporal (George Segal) runs a variety of money-making operations, much to the amazement of a young British officer (James Fox). Director Bryan Forbes, who adapted James Clavell's novel, follows different POWs through various strands of plot, each episode seemingly designed to highlight the dog-eat-dog nature of men held in close confinement. (In one pointedly black-comic sequence, it becomes man-eat-dog.) This was one of Segal's breakthrough roles, and his modern style fits the movie's anti-heroic, '60s approach. It was Oscar®-nominated for art direction and cinematography, which may sound odd for such a bleakly confined location, but the lucid starkness of the camp justifies the nods. The John Barry score, while apt, is similarly stark. --Robert Horton

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Leonard Rossiter, Denholm Elliott, James Fox, Patrick O'Neal, Todd Armstrong
  • Directors: Bryan Forbes
  • Producers: James Woolf
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Black & White, Closed-captioned, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Japanese
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: May 6, 2003
  • Run Time: 134 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00008OM23
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,723 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "King Rat" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape
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.
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Format: VHS Tape
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.
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Format: VHS Tape
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.
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