Tuesday, April 09, 2019


“Mother used to say escape is never further than the nearest book.”
― David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
During my early to mid-teenage years I loved to read novels, or see films, about prisoners of war in Germany or Japan during World War II, and their attempts to escape. A book by Paul Brickhill, Boldness Be My Friend began my fandom of such stories, I think. I'd scour the library for similar tales, and found several.

I've wondered why I had this penchant for prisoner of war escape stories. My conclusion has been that, back in my teen years, I was feeling "imprisoned" by school and home strictures and wanted to escape myself. Or...perhaps I just enjoyed reading about the way human nature adapts, sometimes never gives up - no matter what.

Over the years I've loved, read/seen (more than once) versions of A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute; The Great Escape; Stalag whatever; The Naked Island (that was a grizzly one if I recall correctly); Papillon (1973 version) and others whose titles I now don't recall.

At the weekend I noticed that Turner Movie Channel was showing "King Rat" on Saturday afternoon.
King Rat is a 1965 World War II film directed by Bryan Forbes, starring George Segal and James Fox. They play Corporal King and Marlowe, respectively, two World War II prisoners of war in a squalid camp near Singapore. Among the supporting cast are John Mills and Tom Courtenay. The film was adapted from James Clavell's novel King Rat (1962), which in turn is partly based on Clavell's experiences as a POW at Changi Prison during the Second World War.

We decided to give the movie a whirl. It's an excellent, excellent film - should be much better known! There's a lot more to it than a straightforward POW movie. Escaping isn't an issue in this tale; escape would be virtually impossible due to the geographical situation of the Changi prison camp. The film examines the varied attitudes of individuals to the camp's horrendous circumstances; different psychological ways of dealing with what has to be dealt with. Acting is first class throughout, and many familiar faces (especially familiar to British viewers) pop up frequently.

James Clavell's book is now on my "to read" list - once I get through Winston Graham's 12 Poldark novels of which I'm currently in the midst. 1945 Changi, Singapore will offer quite a culture shock after so many tales of 18th century Cornwall, England!


Wisewebwoman said...

Interesting this - I had a similar passion. Still have but in perhaps different arenas as in hostage taking, escape plans, etc. And I love all the books I've read on the French underground during the war. Marvelous stories based on memoirs, etc. Bridge on the River Kwai was one of my faves, Guns of Navarone, The Great Escape, etc. And of course King Rat and another one I can't recall the name - maybe Beating Heart, something with heart, about the psychology of war living as a POW.


R J Adams said...

Like WWW I, too, like the old war films. I watched again The Guns of Navarone only a few weeks ago while my wife was in hospital. Maybe because we're of an age that lived through the war - well, in my case, being the young 'un (!) born just after - our childhood reminiscences were all of that era. I've not seen 'King Rat' but I'll certainly look out for it.

As for Poldark, the original 1975 BBC series with Robin Ellis and the delightful and much lamented Angharad Rees in the leading roles was, in my opinion, head and shoulders above the latest all sex and violence twaddle with Aidan Turner, and Eleanor Tomlinson as a very poor Demelza. Just my opinion, but then I know, I'm just an old fuddy-duddy and proud of it!

Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~ I'd missed these comments - for some reason my e-mail doesn't carry notifications any longer. I'm glad I'm not the only one with this rather odd taste for POW stories. :)

Twilight said...

RJ Adams ~ I haven't yet seen the original 1975 Poldark series. I'm kind of indoctrinated with the current Ross and Demelza - I like 'em and can hardly imagine the 2 earlier actors in those roles. I'm now reading the 12 novels - just about to finish the 4th one right now, and naturally I "see" the characters much as they are in the newer version of Poldark. One day, I hope to see the original series - out of curiosity.