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Death of a Soldier (1986)

R | | Crime, Drama, War | 16 May 1986 (USA)
Based on a true story, James Coburn portrays a military lawyer assigned to defend a confessed psychotic killer. Set in the context of WWII and the uneasy US-Australian military alliance. ... See full summary »


Philippe Mora


William L. Nagle (screenplay) (as William Nagle), William L. Nagle (story) (as William Nagle)
2 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
James Coburn ... Maj. Patrick Dannenberg
Bill Hunter ... Det. Sgt. Adams
Reb Brown ... Pvt. Edward J. Leonski
Maurie Fields ... Det. Sgt. Martin (as Maurice Fields)
Max Fairchild ... Maj. William Fricks
Belinda Davey Belinda Davey ... Margot Saunders
Randall Berger ... Pvt. Anthony Gallo
Michael Pate ... Maj. Gen. Sutherland
Jon Sidney Jon Sidney ... Gen. Douglas MacArthur
Nell Johnson Nell Johnson ... Maisie
Pippa Wilson Pippa Wilson ... Singer in Boomerang Bar
Kim Rushworth Kim Rushworth ... Band in Bar
John McTernan John McTernan ... Col. Williams (as John McTiernan)
Earl Francis Earl Francis ... Police Doctor
Ron Pinnell Ron Pinnell ... Mr. Harmon


Based on a true story, James Coburn portrays a military lawyer assigned to defend a confessed psychotic killer. Set in the context of WWII and the uneasy US-Australian military alliance. The accused killer claims to have killed 3 women in order to possess their voices. Despite the defense lawyer's concerns that the killer is not fit to stand trial, the US military presses forward with the case and its desire to have the killer executed in order to strengthen the shaky alliance. The real person who did this was Eddie Leonski. Written by Themanmir

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The obscenity of war. The brutality of murder. The travesty of justice.


Crime | Drama | War


R | See all certifications »






Release Date:

16 May 1986 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Dein Lied - Dein Tod See more »

Filming Locations:

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Suatu See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)| Black and White (archive footage)| Color (archive footage)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This movie is based on the true story of the murders of three Melbourne women by a US Army private stationed near the city during World War II. The series of killings are known as The Brown-Out Murders while the killer, Pvt. Eddie Leonski, was known as "The Brownout Strangler" or "The Brownout Murderer". "Brown-out" was a term used during the war when people would dim the lights in their houses to reduce the chances of enemy airplanes using them as a "beacon" for aerial bombing. At the time of the murders, Melbourne was in the thick of brown-out, in which the streets were dark and shadowy. See more »


Featured in The Spoony Experiment: Death of a Soldier (2011) See more »


Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy From Company B
Music by Don Raye and Hugh Prince
Lyrics by Don Raye and Hugh Prince
Performed by Kerrie Biddell and Sally Dodds and Wendy Grose
published by Leeds Music Corporation
See more »

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User Reviews

A fascinating flawed curiosity
13 November 2005 | by ptb-8See all my reviews

In the 1970s Phillipe Mora looked to be a director who was going to deliver the goods. His strange doco BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE A DIME was a 30s jigsaw puzzle of fascinating imagery that needed a commentary. In the 80s he delivered this quite fascinating film. But in the 90s it all went wrong with terrible horror films and now, nothing. In the last week I have seen two James Coburn films. I have never ever been interested in any performance or film of his. Timing has now led me to THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY (1964)...a superb military satire, and DEATH OF A SOLDIER, two films made 20 years apart both with him, both set during WW2... and I have to admit I now have a new found appreciation of Coburn's acting and characterizations. DEATH OF A SOLDIER is a very well made Wartime murder drama with a protagonist played by under rated and over looked he-man Reb Brown. My only vision of him was during BIG Wednesday of all things, when, during a hilarious house party, he cleaned up the gatecrashers in a demolition derby worthy of Hercules visiting Animal House. He is great looking and appears as a cross between Steve McQueen and Ryan O'Neal with a great physique. Here that look is used to great affect as a loudmouth Yankee party bumpkin on leave during WW2 whose alcoholic haze leads to crimes that actually did happen In Melbourne in the mid 40s.. His character is a lot like that of Don Murray, the yahooo-ing cowboy in the Marilyn Monroe film BUS STOP. It is the study of his mentality and it's effect that mires Coburn into a court trial or considerable predicament. The film is excellent and interesting in so many ways, and really flawed in two major things: the clumsy appearance of "General MacArthur" posing and strutting about.... never speaking ..even wearing sunglasses indoors to maintain the image (Jeez!) ....and the overuse of obvious 40s music. If I hear In The Mood again in a 40s film well..... Sadly the film did no biz in its day which I remember had a lot to do with Mora's difficulties with the distributor and with the media, and remains a strange and interesting example of a period piece pic almost 'got right'. Coburn is the best actor there, among Aussie stalwarts... with Maurie Fields being very real. There is far too much swearing.

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