Whilst today he may not get the credit or acknowledgement that some of his peers receive, Alan Bates was unquestionable one of the most versatile and well thought of British actors of his generation. Some of his more acclaimed roles are in Gregory’s Girl, Women in Love, The Fixer, Far from the Madding Crowd and A Kind of Loving. His range and repertoire were extraordinary. Without doubt, the strangest film he made was King of Hearts.
For reasons known only to his commanding officer, when a village in the French countryside is mined by the retreating German army, Private Plumpick (Bates) is despatched to make it safe for the British army to move in. After they’ve fled, he discovers a town full of the former occupants of the local lunatic asylum. They’ve all assumed roles, from the barber to the Bishop to the Duke, and crown him the King of Hearts.
King of Hearts is a charming and magical anti-war film which illustrates the inanity of war by contrasting the peaceful actions of those considered ‘crazy’ with those of the ‘sane’ who are determined to kill each other. Director Philippe de Broca creates a beguiling pantomime. One which mixes slapstick comedy with a deeper, more serious, point. King of Hearts will make you laugh and smile. It’s a delightful tale of rank stupidity and realising what is important in life.
The 4k restoration of King of Hearts is in cinemas from 8 June. It will be released on Dual format DVD and Blu-ray by Eureka Entertainment as part of their Masters of Cinema collection on 16 July.