Slaughterhouse Five – 1972
George Roy Hill
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (novel)
Stephen Geller (screenplay)
Review by Wayne Malin
Strange but fascinating,
Story about Billy Pilgrim (Michael Sacks)–a man who has become “unstuck in time”. He keeps flashing around to WWII experiences, his married life and his ultimate future.
I never read Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s book but I was warned that I wouldn’t be able to understand this movie without it. Well–I had no trouble figuring this one out. What the ultimate point is I’m not quite sure–but it gives you a lot to think about. The film is very surrealistic (especially the war scenes) but never looses its footing. It keeps jumping through Billy’s life but the film is structured so you can understand it (at least I could). It’s never boring because you’re never sure when it’s going to change. It mixes comedy, tragedy and drama perfectly.
The acting is great–Sacks had a very difficult role but pulls it off. Ron Leibman is good as a vicious soldier. Eugene Roche is excellent as Edgar Derby–Billy’s wartime friend. Also Valerie Perine and Perry King are good in small roles.
This film was a box office failure which probably explains its relative obscurity today. I can see why it bombed–it’s not a simple movie and impossible to categorize. I know people who said it makes no sense! It makes perfect sense to me though and leaves the audience with quite a few different views to think about.
I originally caught this on commercial TV were (surprisingly) it wasn’t that badly edited. Only a few profanities were bleeped out and some (minor) nudity was shaded out. I just saw it uncut on cable–but the slightly edited version is not too bad. Recommended. I give it an 8.