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King of Hearts [Eureka! Masters of Cinema] (Blu-ray Review)

A cult comic masterpiece from acclaimed director Philippe de Broca, King of Hearts was a flop upon initial release in France, but was a smash hit in the US, where it ended up running for five years straight. During the latter part of World War I, Private Charles Plumpick ( Alan Bates; Women in Love) is chosen to go into the French town of Marville and disconnect a bomb that the German army has planted. However, Charles is chased by some Germans and finds himself holed up at the local insane asylum, where the inmates are convinced that he is the “King of Hearts.” Feeling obligated to help the inmates, Charles attempts to lead them out of town, but they are afraid to leave and frolic about the streets in gay costumes. Will Charles be able to deactivate the bomb in time and save his newfound friends? Featuring a score by legendary film composer Georges Delerue and also starring Geneviève Bujold ( Anne of the Thousand Days, Dead Ringers), King of Hearts is presented here from a gorgeous new 4K restoration in its UK debut as part of The Masters of Cinema Series, in a special Dual Format edition.

 

Film

King of Hearts, on the surface, has a somewhat straight-forward story. During the end of WWI Scottish born Plumpick (Alan Bates) is recruited to visit a nearby German occupied French town to diffuse a bomb that is set to explode by midnight – essentially vaporizing it and the small population within. The town is empty with the exception of a group of inmates that stayed behind or were conveniently left behind. The inmates are not of the traditional kind either – they live in the insane asylum and assume the identities of the local townsfolk. They crown Plumpick the “King of Hearts” and all may end well after all.

When viewing King of Hearts, I had absolutely no idea what I was in for. Not even ten minutes into the film and I was captivated by the visuals, story, and colorful characters. I immediately saw various parallels to popular and not-so popular films that have come before and after it. I saw flourishes of The Ninth Configuration, One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 12 Monkeys, and various Fellini movies – not to mention some silent film homages, as well. There are also many scenes within King of Hearts that clearly suggest it belongs to the absurdist film movement while conveying a pretty heavy message at the same time.

They’re in no way directly related but some of the themes run right through those previously mentioned films. The film’s history is also quite curious in that it was released in 1966 in France, where it bombed, then it was released a few years later in the United States where it played for five straight years to acclaim. The film uses the famous “Macguffin” device while leading the viewer to a more profound end. King of Hearts is anti-war but a love story – some even say it’s also quite subversive and that it even echoes bits and pieces of Dr. Strangelove in getting its point across – especially in the end. It’s also assumed that it did really well in the United States due to the anti-Vietnam attitude in the country at the time. People were drawing parallels to what was going on stateside and what was going on in the film.

King of Hearts is a lovely picture and quite captivating. The leads are charismatic, funny, and it’s just a well-made film altogether. It’s epic in scope, shot on location, and the fact that it runs for about an 1hr and 40mins. is astounding, because it’s quite the epic. A film like King of Hearts could easily have gone the three-hour route – it’s as if the material was made for a much longer epic. As it stands, King of Hearts is a tight and succinct film that says what it needs to say within the allotted time limit and takes the viewer on a crazy journey.

 

Video

Encoding: AVC/MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Clarity/Detail: As you can see by the rating this 4K sourced print looks phenomenal on Blu-ray. Contrast levels have not been boosted, film grain is nice and structures, and sharpness is kept in check. The picture never looks soft or blurry thanks to the fine grain structure ever present throughout the whole film. It’s definitely a reference quality video presentation.

Depth: This 4K restoration has some immense depth. There are several scenes that showcase the vantage point where certain characters exit or make their retreat. These scenes look spectacular in their native aspect ratio.

Black Levels: Black levels are superb. Black crush was not present and all of the scenes taking place at night had nice separation.

Color Reproduction: The color palette has an almost pastel quality to it. Colors are bright and vivid without looking over-saturated. Banding was also not an issue.

Flesh Tones: Flesh tones looked nice natural. Hardly anyone breaks a sweat unless they’ve been drinking, but do to the often-theatrical emphasis of the story, folks tend to have nice and matte complexions.

Noise/Artifacts: The 50+ year old image is relatively free from noise, dirt, anomalies, and artifacts.

 

 

Audio

Audio Format(s): English LPCM 2.0 (48 kHz/24-bit)

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: King of Hearts is presented in a high resolution LPCM 2.0 soundtrack. The film is in French with English subtitles and there are several languages throughout like German and English. The subtitles are forced, but you are able to watch the feature without subtitles by selecting that option in the main menu. This is a nice lossless 2.0 track. It’s self-contained to the front speakers, so it’s a full-frontal assault. Dialogue, music, onscreen/offscreen effects all cohabit within the left and right front speakers. There were no instances of clipping or distortion. It’s a terrific audio presentation.

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue was clear and crisp. Several languages were spoken throughout and all could be heard without any problems.

 

Extras

The extras on the Eureka! Masters of Cinema Blu-ray have special packaging features such as an O-Card slipcase on first print run copies and a collector’s booklet. The interviews with Genevieve Bujold and Pierre Lhomme are from the Cohen Media Group release. The interview with Michelle de Broca is done in voiceover with footage of the film – she’s not on camera, and is exclusive to this edition. An awesome audio commentary is provided by Wade Major (KPCC & DigiGods) and the trailer for the UK 2018 theatrical release of the film rounds out the supplemental features.

  • Limited Edition O-Card slipcase ( first print run only)
  • Feature length audio commentary by film critic Wade Major
  • Geneviève Bujold on the making of King of Hearts – An interview with the Academy Award nominated actress from 2017 (HD)
  • Interview with Pierre Lhomme the cinematographer discusses working with Philippe de Broca, and the techniques used for filming King of Hearts (HD)
  • Interview with Michelle de Broca Producer and ex-wife of director Philippe de Broca talks about working on King of Hearts (HD)
  • Eureka! trailer for the 2018 UK theatrical release of King of Hearts (HD)
  • A collector s booklet featuring a new essay by Philip Kemp

 

 

Summary

On the surface, King of Hearts plays like an absurdist film, which it does have elements of, but the message behind the entire film is anything but absurd. The video and audio specifications are to die for and the special features are quite adequate for this release. Eureka! Masters of Cinema have done a great job in porting over this release for UK audiences. Highly recommended!

 

 

King of Hearts is is released July 16, 2018

on Blu-ray & DVD in the UK!

ORDER NOW!

 

 

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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