King of Hearts (1966) ***

June 2nd, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

 Dir.: Philippe de Broca; Cast: Alan Bates, Genevieve Bujold, Pierre Brasseur, Micheline Presle, Jean-Claude Brialy, Adolfo Celi; France/Italy 1966, 102′

Director Philippe de Broca (1933-2004) was assistant director to Claude Chabrol and François Truffaut, before setting out to direct thirty features; which, like King of Hearts were mainly light-hearted entertainment, but this is notable for its legendary English star Alan Bates. The director’s most popular outing, The Man from Rio (1964), was a sparkling adventure escapade starring Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Set in the French town of Marville in the last days of WWI, Scottish Private Plumpick (Bates) is sent by by his buffoonish commander Colonel MacBiberbrook (Celi) to defuse a bomb in the city, evacuated by the Germans who have intercepted Plumpick’s carrier pigeons, and are waiting for him in the deserted town. Running for his life, Plumpick takes refuge in the local asylum, where the patients greet him with adoration after learning, from the Germans soldiers, that he was the King of Hearts. Soon the patients from the asylum change into fancy dress, imitating the French court and a real brothel. The courtiers, among them General Geranium (Brasseur) and The Duke De Trefle (Brialy), want to crown Plumpick in the derelict church. But he falls for the virgin whore Coquelicot (Bujold), having been introduced to her by Madame Eva (Presle). After defusing the bomb, Plumpick watches the patients celebrate his great ‘firework’. But the explosion brings the two fighting armies back, and the patients run back to the asylum, where they are joined by Plumpick, who, having survived the.

With bears, lions and cycling monkeys running wild in the town after being liberated from their cages by the patients, this is a riotous romp, even though it was a disaster at the box office in France. It also bombed in the USA, but during the Vietnam war it went down a storm on the campuses. It now feels dated but the great ensemble acting and the production values are first class. DoP Pierre Lhomme (Camille Claudel) and composer George Delerue (The Last Metro, Day for Night) also go to make this anarchic cult classic solid entertainment. AS

KING OF HEARTS in cinemas NATIONWIDE (UK & Ireland) on 8 June 2018
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