King, Queen, Knave (1979)

R | 92 mins | Black comedy | 4 May 1979

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HISTORY

A 7 May 1968 HR news item announced that executive producer, David Wolper, had finalized a deal at “well over $500,000” for the screen rights to Vladimir Nabokov’s novel, King, Queen, Knave, immediately after its 1968 publication.
       According to a 11 Feb 1969 HR brief, Wolper initially planned to produce the project for Warner Bros.--Seven Arts, Inc. (W7), but the company does not appear in onscreen credits or in AMPAS library production files. A 24 Mar 1971 Var item mentioned that Stan Margulies and Mel Stuart, who worked as producer and director, respectively, on Wolper’s production of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971, see entry), would serve in the same capacity on King, Queen, Knave. However, Margulies is not listed in the screen credits, and Jerzy Skolimowski was later hired to direct.
       As reported in a 13 Sep 1971 DV brief, principal photography was scheduled to begin 6 Oct 1971 at the Bavaria Studios in Munich, West Germany. A 3 Mar 1971 DV item specified that the studio and Wolper had negotiated a co-production agreement. According to a 9 Nov 1971 DV brief, the production also shot on location in London, England.
       King, Queen, Knave was showed in competition at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival, but production files indicate that the film was not released in the U.S. until the late 1970s. The film screened in New York City at the Thalia Theatre during Dec 1978, as part of a double bill with Skolimowski’s foreign picture The Adventures of ... More Less

A 7 May 1968 HR news item announced that executive producer, David Wolper, had finalized a deal at “well over $500,000” for the screen rights to Vladimir Nabokov’s novel, King, Queen, Knave, immediately after its 1968 publication.
       According to a 11 Feb 1969 HR brief, Wolper initially planned to produce the project for Warner Bros.--Seven Arts, Inc. (W7), but the company does not appear in onscreen credits or in AMPAS library production files. A 24 Mar 1971 Var item mentioned that Stan Margulies and Mel Stuart, who worked as producer and director, respectively, on Wolper’s production of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971, see entry), would serve in the same capacity on King, Queen, Knave. However, Margulies is not listed in the screen credits, and Jerzy Skolimowski was later hired to direct.
       As reported in a 13 Sep 1971 DV brief, principal photography was scheduled to begin 6 Oct 1971 at the Bavaria Studios in Munich, West Germany. A 3 Mar 1971 DV item specified that the studio and Wolper had negotiated a co-production agreement. According to a 9 Nov 1971 DV brief, the production also shot on location in London, England.
       King, Queen, Knave was showed in competition at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival, but production files indicate that the film was not released in the U.S. until the late 1970s. The film screened in New York City at the Thalia Theatre during Dec 1978, as part of a double bill with Skolimowski’s foreign picture The Adventures of Gerard (1970), as noted in 8 Dec 1978 NYT review. The first engagement in Los Angeles, CA, began 4 May 1979 at the Picfair Theater on the same bill with Skolimowski’s Deep End (1970), according to the LAT review from the same date.
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
3 Mar 1971.
---
Daily Variety
13 Sep 1971.
---
Daily Variety
9 Nov 1971.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 May 1968.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Feb 1969.
---
Los Angeles Times
4 May 1979
Section G, p. 15.
New York Times
8 Dec 1978
Section C, p. 30.
Variety
24 Mar 1971.
---
Variety
24 May 1972
p. 26.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
An Embassy Pictures Release
A David L. Wolper-Maran Film Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
MUSIC
Mus adv, composition and performance, "Speak To Me
Electronics
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel King, Queen, Knave by Vladimir Nabokov (London, 1968).
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Herzbube
King, Queen, Knave, Sex, Love and Murder
Release Date:
4 May 1979
Premiere Information:
Cannes Film Festival: May 1972
Los Angeles opening: 4 May 1979
Production Date:
6 October 1971 at Bavaria Studios, Munich, West Germany
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
92
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
Germany (West), United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Recently orphaned Frank Dreyer, a gawky young man from Northern England, is invited to visit his wealthy uncle, Charles Dreyer, who resides in Munich, West Germany. Charles had taken advantage of business opportunities in post-World War II Germany to establish the Dreyer department stores, and now wonders if his nephew Frank might be a possible heir to the fortune. When blundering Frank finally arrives in Munich after missing his connecting flight in London, England, he stumbles over his suitcase at the front gate of the estate and breaks his eyeglasses. As Frank gropes his way toward the house, he is greeted by Charles’s flamboyant Italian wife, Martha, who is stunned by the young man’s clumsiness. That evening, Charles tells his wife to give the boy a chance before sending him back to England. Later, Charles introduces his nephew to the retail business, and recognizes a glimmer of potential in the awkward youth. While Martha helps Frank buy a new pair of eyeglasses and negotiates a studio apartment for him, she develops a rapport with the young man. Meanwhile, virginal Frank becomes infatuated with his aunt. One night, Frank’s next-door neighbor at the apartment, Professor Ritter, demonstrates an elastic material that he has invented called “voskin,” which resembles human flesh. Ritter wants Frank to show the sample to his entrepreneurial uncle. Looking for an excuse to visit the estate and see his aunt, Frank rushes to the house with the sample. Dressed in a negligee, Martha flirts with Frank until her husband returns home. Afterward, Frank is embarrassed by his lack of sexual experience and ... +


Recently orphaned Frank Dreyer, a gawky young man from Northern England, is invited to visit his wealthy uncle, Charles Dreyer, who resides in Munich, West Germany. Charles had taken advantage of business opportunities in post-World War II Germany to establish the Dreyer department stores, and now wonders if his nephew Frank might be a possible heir to the fortune. When blundering Frank finally arrives in Munich after missing his connecting flight in London, England, he stumbles over his suitcase at the front gate of the estate and breaks his eyeglasses. As Frank gropes his way toward the house, he is greeted by Charles’s flamboyant Italian wife, Martha, who is stunned by the young man’s clumsiness. That evening, Charles tells his wife to give the boy a chance before sending him back to England. Later, Charles introduces his nephew to the retail business, and recognizes a glimmer of potential in the awkward youth. While Martha helps Frank buy a new pair of eyeglasses and negotiates a studio apartment for him, she develops a rapport with the young man. Meanwhile, virginal Frank becomes infatuated with his aunt. One night, Frank’s next-door neighbor at the apartment, Professor Ritter, demonstrates an elastic material that he has invented called “voskin,” which resembles human flesh. Ritter wants Frank to show the sample to his entrepreneurial uncle. Looking for an excuse to visit the estate and see his aunt, Frank rushes to the house with the sample. Dressed in a negligee, Martha flirts with Frank until her husband returns home. Afterward, Frank is embarrassed by his lack of sexual experience and decides to avoid Martha, but arranges a meeting between Charles and Ritter. The professor suggests that voskin could be used to make a unique moving mannequin, but he needs financing to construct a model. Charles is intrigued with the proposal and later tells Martha that Frank may have the business instincts to be a worthy heir, after all. Inspired with an idea, Martha pays a surprise visit to Frank at his apartment. After ordering him to undress, she seduces her nephew and teaches him about lovemaking. As Martha and Frank continue their affair and meet every afternoon, Charles believes that his wife is busy with church charity meetings. Before returning home, Martha always leaves a note for Frank while he is sleeping. Meanwhile, Charles is excited by Ritter’s progress with the mannequins and wants to reward Frank with an executive position for introducing the voskin idea to the company. During one of their afternoon trysts, Martha tells Frank that she does not love Charles and married the wealthy Englishman when she was a poor Italian war refugee. However, Frank becomes anxious when she hints that Charles could unexpectedly die. While hosting a party at the estate, Charles plays a practical joke on the guests by turning off the lights and pretending to be an intruder. During the confusion, Martha notices that Frank is very protective of her. Later, Charles informs Martha that he is taking a ski vacation alone, but he secretly brings along two mistresses, Isolde and Ida. While he is away, Martha persuades Frank to kill her husband, and they discuss different methods of murder. While they frolic in the bedroom, Charles arrives home a week earlier than expected, but Frank manages to slip away from the house without being noticed. At a demonstration of the voskin mannequins, Charles is furious when the professor’s prototypes malfunction in front of potential buyers. That evening, Martha notices her husband’s stress and suggests they take a seaside vacation with Frank on the French Riviera. Although he reminds his wife that neither one of them can swim, he agrees to the trip. The next day, Frank is not at home when Martha arrives for their afternoon rendezvous. She is excited to tell him about their travel plans and begins to undress. While rushing home to meet Martha, Frank encounters Charles in the street, and his uncle insists on seeing the apartment. Martha hears her husband’s voice in the hallway and bars the door. Just as she is about to be discovered, the landlord, Enricht, says that Frank’s girl friend is waiting inside. Laughing, Charles says goodbye to his nephew. On the way out, he asks Ritter about Frank’s lover. Unaware that Martha is Charles’s wife, the professor says that she is a sophisticated, older woman with black hair. Based on Ritter’s description, Charles thinks the look would make an ideal voskin mannequin. The professor agrees to have the model ready when Charles returns from France. Later, Ritter finds a photograph of Martha in Frank’s apartment to construct the new mannequin. Meanwhile, Martha tells Frank that drowning will be the perfect murder. When they arrive for the seaside vacation, Martha plots to push Charles overboard during a rowboat excursion, but Frank is nervous and secretly wants to cancel the plan. After Martha persuades her husband to join her and Frank in the rowboat, Charles announces that tomorrow he will return to Munich to sign a contract for the voskin mannequins, which will earn him a fortune. Subsequently, Martha tries to stop Frank from knocking Charles overboard. In the confusion, Frank loses his eyeglasses and tips the balance of the boat, inadvertently causing the three of them to fall into the water. Charles and Frank survive, but Martha drowns. After the funeral, Frank appears less naïve and develops the manners of an arrogant executive. When his uncle assures him that he will inherit the business, Frank moves into the estate. Later, landlord Enricht delivers Frank’s love letters from Martha that were left in the apartment, but Frank is able to destroy them before Charles discovers their content. Meanwhile, Ritter also arrives at the estate to show Charles the new voskin mannequin, a perfect likeness of Martha. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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