In 1966 this genial French anti-war comedy-drama starring a younger-looking 32 year old Alan Bates and featuring the beautiful 24 year-old Genevieve Bujold was launched without much critical or commercial success, but has since achieved cult status as a film that makes its serious points amusingly.
Bates, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2003 aged 69 plays Private Plumpick, a kilt-wearing Scottish Signal Corps soldier in the First World War who looks after carrier pigeons but, due to being French-born is sent by his superiors to scupper the arrangements of the German soldiers who have set a booby-trap of enough explosives to blow a small French town off the map, this triggered by the church clock where a knight in armour comes out and strikes a bell at 12.00 midnight.
Before Plumpick arrives the locals, warned about the destruction to come, vacate the place, leaving the gate to the local asylum open for the inmates to escape. This they do and start play-acting roles left by the fleeing townspeople, such as barber, mayor, and appointing themselves Count, Countess, Duke, General etc When Plumpick arrives he is crowned their King of Hearts by them and is gradually charmed by them and their sunny dispositions, in contrast to everyone else he knows, caught up in the real madness and futility of war. Especially charming for him is Poppy (Bujold),a lovely young prostitute from the local brothel who engagingly trips around everywhere in a fetching tutu.
Also featuring a strong French cast King of Hearts has been restored by Eureka Entertainment and started playing in selected cinemas in the UK and Ireland from June 8th.