King of Hearts (Blu-ray Review)
DirectorPhillipe de Broca
Release Date(s)1966 (June 12, 2018)
Studio(s)United Artists/MGM (Cohen Media)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B
French film director Philippe de Broca, whose career as a director lasted for over 50 years, considers his anti-war parody, Le roi de coeur (known as King of Hearts to American audiences) to be his masterpiece which, in addition to directing, he also co-wrote and produced.
Near the end of World War I, Scottish soldier Charles Plumpick (Alan Bates) is sent by his commanding officer (Adolfo Celi) to disarm a bomb that has been placed in the town of Marville by retreating German soldiers. Along his way, Plumpick winds up trapped in an insane asylum. As the war inches closer to Marville, the villagers flee for their lives, including the staff of the asylum who accidentally leave the gates open. All of the inmates escape and take over the town, attempting to live like normal townsfolk. Plumpick, having also escaped, continues his mission to find the bomb, but with the help of the escaped inmates, including his love interest Poppy (Geneviève Bujold), who crowns him and refers to him as the King of Hearts.
King of Hearts is a fun, charming, powerful, and thought-provoking film. The performances by the cast are top notch, as is the cinematography by Pierre Lhomme, and the musical score by Georges Delerue. Director De Broca does a fantastic job of keeping the pace moving along briskly without getting lost in any of the subplots. His blending of comedy, drama, and romance within an anti-war message is done to perfection.
Upon its initial release, King of Hearts was a flop at the box office in its home country of France. However, it was received much better in the United States – so much better in fact that it became a hit and played in theaters across the country throughout a span of five years during the 1970s.
King of Hearts is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Cohen Media with a new 4K scan. Colors are beautiful and vivid while the image quality is finely-detailed with deep textures. Flesh tones also have a nice, natural look to them. The outdoor scenery in broad daylight is just outstanding. Film grain is present throughout and there are no signs of wear or print damage. The audio is presented in French 2.0 LPCM, with brief instances of English spoken as well. Everything, including dialogue, music, and sound effects are all clear without any drop-outs, hiss, or other audio issues. Also included are a set of forced English subtitles.
There are also some excellent supplements on this release. There’s an audio commentary by DigiGods critic Wade Major, wherein he discusses the film, the cast, and other tidbits. There are also two interviews: a 14-minute conversational piece with actress Geneviève Bujold, who is interviewed by IndieWire’s Anne Thompson and reflects upon the film, what it means, and why it’s still relevant; and the other a brand new 24-minute piece with cinematographer Pierre Lhomme, which contains his recollection of the making of the film, along with a few behind the scenes stories. He speaks English during the interview, but is a little difficult to understand at times. Rounding out the extras is a 2018 re-release trailer, along with a French re-release trailer.
Considered to be one of the greatest films ever made, King of Hearts should not disappoint. Add to that a brilliant high definition release and the viewing experience is as appealing as it will ever get. Highly recommended.
- David Steigman