Even though it’s only been about a year since King of Hearts (1966) was run locally, it’s nice to see this early cult classic (maybe the first film deserving that accolade) being remembered. The film seems a little less of a groundbreaker today, and its soft tone has caused it to be severely downgraded in many quarters, but that doesn’t keep the film from having its charms—nor does it keep modern viewers from being able to understand what all the fuss was about some 40-odd years ago.
The film’s story line does suffer from its romanticized portrayal of the mentally ill as somehow saner than the people walking around outside. In many cases, that’s just plain demonstrably nonsensical—it’s even a bit that way in the film itself—but in the context of war as presented here it works. The idea of an army entering a deserted town that has been taken over by the inmates of the local asylum (no one bothered evacuating them) is an amusing one. Tossing in the bestiary of a circus enhances it and leads to some of the film’s most charming scenes. Regardless, the film itself is a pleasing work with lovely performances from Alan Bates and Geneviève Bujold—and it’s certainly worth revisiting from time to time, if only to hold our cynicism in check.