King and Country

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King and Country
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Joseph Losey
Produced by Joseph Losey
Norman Priggen
Written by Evan Jones (screenplay)
based on the play Hamp (1964) by John Wilson and the novel Return to the Wood (1955) by James Lansdale Hodson
Starring Dirk Bogarde
Tom Courtenay
Leo McKern
Barry Foster
Music by Larry Adler
Cinematography Denys Coop
Edited by Reginald Mills
BHE Films (UK)
Landau/Unger (US)
Distributed by Warner-Pathé (UK)
Allied Artists (US)
Release date
September 1964, Venice Film Festival
Running time
88 min.
Country United Kingdom
Language English

King and Country (stylised as King & Country) is a 1964 British war film directed by Joseph Losey, shot in black and white, and starring Dirk Bogarde and Tom Courtenay. The film was adapted for the screen by British screenwriter Evan Jones based on a play by John Wilson and a novel by James Lansdale Hodson.


See British Army during World War I for information on the historical background.


During World War I, in the British trenches at Passchendaele, an army private, Arthur Hamp (Tom Courtenay) is accused of desertion. He is to be defended at his trial by an officer, Captain Hargreaves (Dirk Bogarde). Hamp had been a volunteer at the outbreak of the war and was the sole survivor of his company but then decided to 'go for a walk': he had contemplated walking to his home in London but after more than 24 hours on the road, he's picked up by the Military Police and sent back to his unit to face court-martial for desertion.

Hargreaves is initially impatient with the simple-minded Hamp but comes to identify with his plight. Following testimony from an unsympathetic doctor (Leo McKern) (whose solution to all ailments is to prescribe laxatives), Hargreaves is unable to persuade the court to consider the possibility that Hamp may have been suffering from shell shock. He is found guilty, but the court's recommendation for mercy is overruled by higher command, who wish to make an example of Hamp to bolster morale in his division. He is shot by firing squad, but as he is not killed outright Hargreaves has to finish him off with a revolver. His family are informed that he has been killed in action.

The action is confined to the mud-entrenched, rat-infested confines of the trenches and dugouts. The film shows a grim picture of life in the trenches during the war.



The novel had been filmed for Australian TV in 1962 as The Case of Private Hamp.


Tom Courtenay received the award for the Best Actor for his role as Hamp at the 1964 Venice Film Festival, where the film was also nominated for the Golden Lion. The film was nominated for four 1965 BAFTA awards, including Best Film.

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