King and Country is a dark, brutal, effective attack on war by the exiled American director, Joseph Losey. A shell shocked soldier, one Private Hamp (Tom Courtenay), is put on trial for desertion after he walks away from the brutality and loss of humanity of war. The young soldier has already served three years at the front, witnessing the violent, senseless, inhuman pointlessness of trench warfare. Living in rat-infested conditions, witnessing one atrocity after another, Hamp, after one particular brutal day of warfare, leaves. He wants to go home.
His lawyer is Captain Hargreaves (Dirk Bogarde), a straight-laced military career man who at first can find little, if any, sympathy for the young war-weary seasoned soldier. Hargreaves will defend him only because it’s his job. As the film progresses, the lawyer discovers the layers of human frailty in a boy scarred by the violence and brutality of constant battle. Hargreaves also comes to realize and understand the strong unforgiving arm of military injustice. One of the most powerful scenes occurs during an interrogation by Hargreaves of an arrogant doctor portrayed by Leo McKern defending his wrong-headed medical position for the young soldier’s behavior.
King and Country is not a film for the faint of heart. There are some very unpleasant scenes of animal cruelty requiring a strong stomach. However, they are not gratuitous, they are used to reflect the numbing effect the brutality of war has on men. Trench warfare was claustrophobic, grim and medieval. It was like living in a hellish inferno. There are masterful performances from both Tom Courtenay and Dirk Bogarde and is earnestly directed by Losey.
King and Country had its American premiere at the second New York Film Festival in 1964 before beginning a regular run at an Eastside theater in Manhattan.
Based on Humphrey Cobb’s novel, Paths of Glory made it to the screen thanks to its star Kirk Douglas who had the guts to bring the controversial book to movie theaters. The film deals with the execution of three innocent French soldiers charged with being cowards after a general orders an unachievable attack upon a German fortress. After the men retreat the general, to protect his vanity and ambitions of a promotion, orders three men arbitrarily picked to be put on trial for cowardice and executed. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, the film is a harrowing look at how the soldiers are treated as nothing more than numbers instead of as human beings.
Though this film was made more than 50 years ago the battle scenes are brutally realistic. One of the most emotional scenes in the film is the execution of the three men. Its gut wrenching and you will be drained after watching it.
Along with Kubrick, the screenplay was written by pulp fiction writer Jim Thompson (The Killer Inside Me, The Grifters, After Dark, My Sweet) and Calder Willingham. Thompson had previously worked with Kubrick on The Killing.
The film opened on Christmas day in 1957.