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King of Hearts [VHS]
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Product Description

This film was a touchstone of the late 1960s, when it was seen as an antiwar allegory for a world in which madness seemed to reign. Of course, that would probably be true whenever this movie was shown, wouldn't it? Directed by Philippe de Broca and set during World War I, King of Hearts stars Alan Bates as a Scottish soldier separated from his unit in France. He wanders into a small French village that has been abandoned by its residents in the face of oncoming combat. Instead, the town is populated by the residents of a nearby insane asylum, whose keepers have fled--a fact that escapes the innocent soldier, who assumes these are the regular folks. A film that celebrates the innocence and wisdom of the insane, even as it questions who the real madmen are. --Marshall Fine

Customer Reviews:

  • King of Hearts
    Delighted to have what has until now been my favorite film. I have worn out the video making all my friends watch it!
    Now I have the DVD and am out looking for new friends.......more info
  • The Lunatic Asylum Comedy
    "October 1918" is the date for this story. German soldiers are planting explosives to destroy the advancing British soldiers when they occupy a French city. The townspeople hurriedly evacuate the town. The British are warned, they will not march into town. Instead Private Plumpick [some pun?] will be sent in to scout the town and defuse the bombs - by himself! [Believable?] Discovered by the Germans, he flees into a building for refuge and safety; it is the local insane asylum. The result of the German withdrawal is the inmates can wander freely into the deserted town and select new clothes from the abandoned homes. [This slow-paced action doesn't seem too funny to me.] Comedy is in part cultural, and attitudes change. Perhaps the humor is in suggesting the clothes make the man or woman? Or what looks like normal people are really insane underneath?

    This film is certainly unusual for its time. Is it an example of "French Farce"? Were any animals hurt in making this film? [One scene shows armored cars; did they exist at that time?] The film runs on, some scenes are comic and remind me of the clowns in a circus. Will a fireworks display have unintended consequences? Will opposing soldiers fire at each other at unbelievably close range? Will the freed lunatics return to their asylum? Where are the alienists? "Oh dear, who is it now?"

    I can't believe this film was successful among viewers. Did they overspend on the costumes and underspend on the story?
    ...more info
  • One of the five best movies ever made
    Funny, profound. Near perfect! In French, English and German -- with subtitles. Full of deep insights about sex, love, war, madness and society -- all in a charming hilarious wrapper. Watch it with someone you love!...more info
  • best movie ever
    Anyone who went to Syracuse University in the late sixties or seventies knows that this was the most popular movie on campus year after year. I have watched it 17 times. It is an anti-war love story/comedy that generates a very warm feeling within its fans. However, people seldom recognize how important the music is in setting the mood changes from somber soldier scenes to carefree asylum-inmate scenes. The version with dubbed-in English is sometimes a bit difficult to understand, but the tidbits of wisdom in the words of the inmates are priceless. I have a copy I made from television years ago. I saw the English sub-titled version once and thought it made for a plain, ordinary movie because the magic of the inmates words was gone. should make it available in the English-dubbed version--if they do, I will buy it immediately....more info
  • An unpretentious but superb critique of dehumanizing society
    This film revives in an eminently reachable way a tragic conflict already posited by ancient Greek philosophy between "nature" (human nature) and "convention" (society.) The "inmates" or "lunatics"are not insane in an objective clinical sense, but only in the sense of rejecting the dehumanized values (including the ravages of war) imposed by a corrupt, alienated, and dishonest society. That the inmates stand for "nature" or human nature is indicated by their names (General Geranium, Bishop Daisy, the Duke of Clubs/Clover, Mmme. Wild Rose, and Coquelicot/Red Poppy. The "lunatics" humanize whatever they come in contact with - tanks, fireworks, German soldiers, and Scottish soldiers - and they bring out the "flower" in Private Plumpick (Alan Bates). The film suggests touchingly the gentleness and decency of a communitarian but individualistic society based on solidarity rather than hierarchy, domination, egoism and alienation. All this with the lightest of touches and genuine creativity and humor - and a magnificent cast starring some of the greatest French actors. A MUST-SEE, BUT NOT DUBBED OR LETTERBOX....more info
  • King of Hearts
    Without a doubt one of the best movies I have ever seen. I saw it years ago in the 1970's and never forgot it. Highly recommend it to all....more info
  • Improved Version
    I used to own this on laserdisc, but this DVD version is far superior. The LD version was full screen and this one is wide screen. There are restored scenes, and the print is considerably sharper. The colors also seem brighter. I won't mention the content, but for those who love this film...Highly recommended!...more info
  • Excellent
    One of the greatest, watchable, anti-war movies ever made. Thought provoking, charming, and very entertaining. ...more info
  • Delightful Classic with Serious Message
    "King of Hearts" is full of whimsy and fantasy. But beneath the endearing facade is a very serious antiwar message. There is no question as to who the madmen are. The entire cast of ecccentric characters and the production hold up well after 40 years. It's easy to see why this movie made Alan Bates an instant star....more info
  • a comedy in reality
    I viewed this movie twenty five years ago and still remember parts of it quite well. As another person said to me," This just underlines what I have always thought. A person doesn't have to be crazy to survive on this earth, but it helps."...more info
    I first saw this movie seven years ago when I was eight, I have loved it ever since. Any one who belives being a bit crazy is good must see this. When I was little i thought it was wonderful because it was as though they were simply playing. to be allowed to run around in costume and act however you want is a gift not given to all. Once you grow old you are not to act in that manner. To be crazy is a freedom. When my friends tell me I'm crazy or diffrent I thank them. everyone must be diffrent in their own way. Once I show this movie to my friends they understand. It is wonderful....more info
  • "We Have Decided To Be Happy, And There Is No Stopping Us"
    "We have decided to be happy, and there is no stopping us." So says Bishop Daisy.

    When Alan Bates tells an impossibly young Genevieve Bujold, (divine sylph in yellow ballerina finery), that they have only three minutes to live, her response is, "That's great! Such a long time."

    King Of Hearts has a whimsical way of tossing cherished assumptions into a cocked hat that succeeds brilliantly. This treasure has only gotten better with time; it delights the eye, the ear, the mind, the funny bone, and the heart.

    One could easily enjoy KOH with the sound off, no small French village has ever looked more picturesque, or been populated by more visually appealing citizens. Fellini admirers will find the surrealistic parades familiar; they dance on the surface of reality like bubbles in the sun. Director Philippe de Broca created these film paintings without irony; their fragile magic is simply superimposed on top of the dumb, grim, WWI setting.

    Factoring in the superb Georges Delerue score gives you a long succession of movie moments that are poignant at least, and sometimes truly haunting in their beauty. Alan Bates carries the film with a seemingly effortless performance; he makes the familiar look ludicrous and the bizarre seem totally reasonable. On many levels this is a very silly movie that never could work without such a reasoned, level performance.

    KOH has really been damaged by over-analysis. It is an enchanting, light-hearted comedy that casts a very particular spell. It is not a daring, bare-knuckled indictment of war, (although it would be hard to miss its anti-war position). It is also not a manifesto proclaiming the wisdom inherent in mental illness. This said, KOH does invite viewers to ask - Who is more crazy, people who shoot each other or people who dress up and play pretend?

    In the real world, mental illness isn't adorable. There aren't costumes and parades. There is only pain. In the real world, war is not always moronic and pointless; there is also nobility and valor. But that's the real world; KOH is a movie, an exquisite movie....more info
  • The King has returned
    This is possibly one of the greatest films ever made! Its impact is just as profound today as it was when I first saw it decades ago. The performances and atmosphere are as timeless as war and comedy. It makes its social comentary through humor and flight of fancy. If you haven't seen this film, do so! ...more info
  • 'King of Hearts' is King in My Heart
    I have been going to the movies for a long, long time...starting in the late 1930's. 'King of Hearts' is very near the top of my list of favorites and I was delighted to be able to obtain my very own copy. The premise asks the question, 'Who is Really Crazy? The gentle souls confined to an insane asylum or the warmongers on the battlefield?' Though the actions of the actors is comedic and amusing, this can hardly be defined as a comedy. It causes one to think a great deal about a very serious subject....more info
    We in the Sixties cheered this film heartily.

    Now it would be as popular as the Dixie Chix.

    Such is the collapse of peace and our world cutlure and consciousness.

    In the Sixties we understood war to be insane and immoral.

    Now we are taught from our first film to kill the Other.

    Watch this film from a "kinder, gentler" age and remember your own inner humanity, and how to love in peace.

    Why are we here? Where are we? Where are we going? Are we having fun yet?

    This film through theatre of the absurd responds to the universal and essential questions. General Geranium has such a finer grasp of questions of war than our Rumsfeld.

    Watch this film as an antidote to our current elevated urgent war-mongering for fun and profit.

    You may even once again dare to love the French people.

    Peace, baby.
    Peace will win in the end because war does not create.

    Private Pumpernickel convinced us the only way to drop out of an insane and violent society is to join the marginalized and rejected from society. Many of us managed to harm ourselves deeply in an effort to drop out. Seek life first, and peace.

    And Love.

    Such is to be human, and to live.

    This is the best movie from that era and essential viewing for children and other living humans.

    This movie frees us from that fear which sells wars.

    It is a religious film.
    ...more info
  • an Alan Bates fan
    Saw this movie back when I was in college, so it brings back memories. Better than I remembered. ...more info
  • learning by fools
    Each year I Invite friends in a cinema to look a good film (like Clear Slate - Tavernier, May fools - Malle, One, Two Three - Wilder, Sunrise - Murnau). But the one film I'm looking for since years and I would like to present,is "King of Hearts": the old dream against psychiatry. That the fools have something, what has been lost in us; that they are more innocent, more wise and more creative than us domesticated people. Not able to lie, they show all our courtesies as fishy compromises. I would get this film with german undertitles. Where?...more info
  • Madness Squared
    Writer/director Philippe de Broca considered this film to be his "crowning achievement" -no pun intended. Not a prolific director, giving us small classics like THAT MAN FROM RIO (1964), he labored over each film lovingly. Early on in his career he spent time as a AD for both Claude Chabrol and Francois Truffaut. A devout humorist, he appeared in the film in the cameo role of Corporal Adolf Hitler. A colorful human being, he was once married to Margot Kidder, and had a child with Marthe Keller. He released this film with unflinching accuracy right in the middle of America's anti-war rallies and protests of the 60's. It achieved an instant cult status. For several years in Seattle it rivaled the outrageous ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1970) as a popular midnight screening. In Cambridge, MA, it broke a world record for being shown on one screen for over five years.

    We follow the zany WWI adventures of Scottish Private Charles Plumpick, an ornithologist mistaken for an ordinance expert, who was sent to French village on what was considered a suicide mission. It was nearing the end of the war, and as the German garrison prepared to leave the village, they wired up all of their excess bombs and explosives, cramming them into a huge concrete blockhouse erected in the town square. It stood under the church tower, with its statuesque clock complete with a mechanical armored knight who clicked out and pounded a bell with his battleaxe at midnight. The fiendish spiked-helmeted Hessians used this as a trigger for their planned Gaulish mini-apocalypse.

    The entire population of the town had evacuated, leaving the denizens of the insane asylum to wander freely in the streets, shops, and homes. At one point after Plumpick arrived in the village, while fleeing the Germans, he masqueraded as an inmate. He sat next to a house of cards. When challenged by the soldiers, the first inmate introduced himself as the Duke of Clubs. So naturally Plumpick decided that he would be the King of Hearts. The mad folk immediately accepted him as royalty, waving hankies out the barred windows as he fled.

    Racing about the streets like a rodent in a maze while endeavoring to evade the blood-thirsty Germans, Plumpick was knocked unconscious. Coming to he found himself wandering in a dazed dream of mirth and madness, for the inmates had assumed the identities of the missing populous--the cathouse was opened with aplomb and glee, one became the archbishop and another became the barber, and the shiny fire engine became a fun ride vehicle, with dozens of uniformed bogus fireman hanging from it. All the pouting, posing, prancing, postulating, pedantic raving and political machinations were accompanied by merrymaking music as some of them played fife, drum, and horns becoming a circus band. Each tableau and each little drama or comedic circumstance was underscored with carnivale tinkling as the masque's players performed their chosen roles. We watched while the spirit of Jacques Tati and the circus of Fellini showered us with absurdity and symbolism.

    Death has no sting here amongst these Commedia pratfalls and fervent satire -yet the message is clarion; war is the dominion of dunces, as the silly characters play dolts and the soldiers, German, British, and French are presented as caustic idiotic cardboard caricatures. Still at the close of the tale, as protagonist Plumpick chooses fantasy over reality, we have to seriously question who were, and are, truly the madmen.
    ...more info
  • What fools we had made ourselves!
    Many years ago, I heard an actor talk about acting. He said, actors should be able to bring the reality into drama, and from there, look back the reality. That has always been my philosophy about Art. And that's exactly what this film is about. How foolish our mortals have been, searching the peace in wars. The film was truthful then (1968, when it was released), as it is now. I think it was very mean, but somewhat heart-warming in a way that makes it comfortable to watch. An excellent film!...more info
  • Daffy but daft sociological fable, mildly dated
    Like the novels of Hermann Hesse and Ayn Rand, my love of this drily funny little movie belongs to the pre-ironic, not-yet-cynical splendor of my early 20s... That said, for all its simplicity, idealism, and panting 1960s enthusiastic vim, TKOH's clear-cut social dichotomy -- e.g., separating the mad from the mad -- never fails to lift the otherwise toothgrindingly lonesome human spirit. Actually, that all sounds too serious -- the movie's incredibly (though Gallicly) funny, and makes a fine double-feature with Marat/Sade....more info
  • High energy, garish chromatics, an autonomous world almost to the end.
    I practically found it necessary to get my hands on a copy of this film after acquaintances kept referring to it whenever a discussion of all-time "guilty cinematic pleasures" arose. For much of the film's first half, I confess I was impressed by little else than the kaleidoscopic, richly-saturated colors and non-stop energy in virtually every scene. In describing the film to a newbie, comparisons seem only natural, and yet the film is sufficiently unique to resist them. Think of "Strangelove" as directed by Fellini in glorious technicolor with lots of help from the Monty Python crew. It's still only a start. The closest parallel is Lewis Caroll: "But I don't want to go among mad people," said Alice. "Oh, you can't help that," said the cat. "We're all mad here."

    The strength of this film is that it creates a world as autonomous, as sui generis, as unrelated to anything but itself as "Alice in Wonderland"--far too removed from any familiar historical reality to qualify as what we normally think of as "satire." And yet we know that at some level this gala spectacle with all of its manic narcissism and theatrical self-indulgence is connected with the serious business of war, and perhaps the most tragic and devastating world war of them all--a war with machines capable of destroying millions but without the medicine to alleviate the pain of a mere few.

    The only letdown comes when, following the ceremonious mutual destruction of two armies, one of the "lunatics" asks, "Don't you think this acting is a bit over the top?" By this time we've accepted such outrageous and bizarre behavior as our norm, and being told that it's sane when compared to a world at war is not a little didactic and gratuitous. More satisfying is a lunatic's final pronouncement that murder and mayhem are best seen "through a window"--or, as the film enables us to discover, on a movie screen and in the company of fellow spectators capable of joining us in a theater of the imagination--or, if you prefer the story's metaphor, an asylum with like-minded lunatics.

    The present DVD copy retains all of the color of some of the better technicolor prints of the '50s (many '60s and '70s films show their age due to fading or iridescent chromatics); the images are quite sharp; the monophonic soundtrack is sufficiently resonant and festive. The aspect ratio is somewhat of a disappointment: 3 of the ratios are distorted or poorly fitted to a 16:9 screen; the "right" one uses only half of the total screen space. It's a neat little film, but much of its success goes beyond plot, offering in its place an alternative cinematic world for the spectator to find a place in. It's due for a resized, remastered Blu Ray edition--if it could be so fortunate as to find present-day applicants for the asylum....more info