King of Hearts (1966 film)
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|Le Roi de Coeur (original French title)
King of Hearts (United States)
Original U.S. release poster
|Directed by||Philipe de Broca|
|Produced by||Philipe de Broca|
|Written by||Daniel Boulanger (screenplay)
Maurice Bessy (screenwriter)
|Music by||Georges Delerue|
|Edited by||Francoise Javet (II)|
|Distributed by||Les Productions Artistes Associés
United Artists (United States)
|Language||French, English, German|
The film is set in a small town in France near the end of World War I. As the Imperial German Army retreats they booby trap the whole town to explode. The locals flee and, left to their own devices, a gaggle of cheerful lunatics escape the asylum and take over the town — thoroughly confusing the lone Scottish soldier who has been dispatched to defuse the bomb.
Charles Plumpick (Bates) is a kilt-wearing Scottish soldier who is sent by his commanding officer to disarm a bomb placed in the town square by the retreating Germans.
As the fighting comes closer to the town, its inhabitants—including those who run the insane asylum—abandon it. The asylum gates are left open, and the inmates leave the asylum and take on the roles of the townspeople. Plumpick has no reason to think they are not who they appear to be—other than the colorful and playful way in which they're living their lives, so at odds with the fearful and war-ravaged times. The lunatics crown Plumpick King of Hearts with surreal pageantry as he frantically tries to find the bomb before it goes off.
The film ends with the question of who is more insane, those in the asylum or those who create wars.
When it was released in France in 1966, King of Hearts was not especially successful critically or at the box office with only 141,035 admissions.
However, it achieved bona fide cult-film status, when United States distribution rights were picked up by Randy Finley and Specialty Films in Seattle in 1973. It was paired with Marv Newland's Bambi Meets Godzilla and John Magnuson's Thank You Mask Man and marketed under the heading "The King of Hearts and His Loyal Short Subjects." During the mid 1970s it was seen in repertory movie theaters across America, eventually running for five years, at the now defunct film house, the Central Square Cinemas (2 screens) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.