Although it is twenty times a better film than Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1957), King & Country (1964) is one of Joseph Losey’s few total misfires. An inflated, arty, overwrought Great War melodrama centering on the court-martial for desertion of an English working-class volunteer, a cobbler, who was disoriented at the time by shell-shock, the film is based on the play Hamp by John Wilson, who as a lawyer defended such a client during the war. Both this client and the one in the film, Private Arthur Hamp, were condemned to death.
In the end the verdict against Hamp doesn’t reflect his cowardice, as indeed it is shown that he wasn’t a coward, but, instead, reflects class prejudice and the imperative of military order. An example is made of him.
As Hamp, who was caught while trying to walk back home to England (to get away from the guns), Tom Courtenay applies his nasal voice to an oversized role. I cannot imagine why he won best actor at Venice.
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