Filmed near Hollywood but having the feel and casting of an overseas pic, King Rat is a grim, downbeat and often raw prison camp drama depicting the character destruction wrought by a smalltime sharpie on fellow inmates of a Japanese POW site in the final days of the Second World War pic has some fine characterizations and directions, backed by stark, realistic and therefore solid production values, which offset in part its overlength and some script softness.
George Segal does an excellent job as US Corporal King, the ‘Rat’, a con artist who manipulates the meagre goods and characters of other prisoners, most of whom have higher military rank. Director Bryan Forbes has sharply etched his main character.
Ditto for Tom Courtenay, the young British officer trying to perform provost-marshal duties in the behind-the-wire hierarchy topped by weary, but worldly and practical John Mills, effective in brief footage.
James Fox, another young British officer, registers solidly as he comes under Segal’s influence and develops an affection for him.
1965: Nominations: Best B&W Cinematography, B&W Art Direction