One of the lesser luminaries of the French New Wave, Philippe de Broca scored a cult hit with this atmospheric black comedy set at the end of the First World War.
The retreating Germans have booby-trapped a small town. All the inhabitants have been evacuated – well, all except the occupants of the zoo and the lunatic asylum!
Alan Bates is superb as Private Charles Plumpick, the Scot who is dispatched to locate the Germans’ explosives.
The satirical swipes at monarchy, patriotism and war are played down in favour of whimsical, if occasionally anarchic, comedy, as the asylum patient townsfolk urge Bates to become their king.
The French cast is exceptional, with Pierre Brasseur, Jean-Claude Brialy and Michel Serrault the stand-out performers.
Geneviève Bujold made her name as Coquelicot.
Private Charles Plumpick
The Duke aka Le Duc de Trèfle
Col Alexander MacBibenbrook
Bishop Daisy aka Monseigneur Marguerite
Colonel Helmut von Krack
Philippe de Broca