Johnny Got His Gun (1971)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BB.5.  USA, 1971.  World Entertainment.  Screenplay by Dalton Trumbo, based on his novel.  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Cannes Film Festival 1971.  

Dalton Trumbo, once the blacklisted author whose unabashed screenplay credit in Spartacus effectively ended the reign of anti-Communist fear in Hollywood, wrote and directed this anti-war film based on his own novel. Timothy Bottoms plays a World War I soldier who survives the battlefield, but only barely:  he doesn’t have eyes, ears, a mouth, arms or legs, his doctors unsure of whether or not he is even cogniscent while we as an audience hear his narration and know that he is mentally sane. Trapped in his own body, he drifts in and out of memories of his life before battle, including his emotionally complex father (Jason Robards) and the sweetheart he left behind. The themes of the film are incredibly powerful but Trumbo, usually a much more reliable writer, fills the script with overly archaic dialogue that is meant to come off romantic but under his clunky direction is awkward. There’s a very uneven tone set between the writing and performances, but there are a few moments when it really shines.

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