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Johnny Got His Gun
Johnny Got His Gun
Actors: Timothy Bottoms, Donald Sutherland, Jason Robards
Director: Dalton Trumbo
Genres: Drama, Music Video & Concerts, Television, Military & War
PG     2009     1hr 46min

A young American soldier (Timothy Bottoms) is wounded by a mortar shell on the last day of World War I. He lies in a hospital bed as a quadruple amputee who has lost his arms, legs, eyes, ears, mouth and nose. He remains c...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Timothy Bottoms, Donald Sutherland, Jason Robards
Director: Dalton Trumbo
Genres: Drama, Music Video & Concerts, Television, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Drama, Metallica, Drama, Military & War
Studio: Shout! Factory
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 04/28/2009
Original Release Date: 01/01/1971
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1971
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 1hr 46min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 14
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English

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Member Movie Reviews

Cara F. (dichten) from PRT WASHINGTN, WI
Reviewed on 12/6/2009...
Dalton Trumbo's book is one of my all-time favorites, so I delayed watching this movie for years (my reasoning being that the book is murderous; one can be left like Joe Bonham: dead without dying from its power). What does that mean for this movie, directed by the author himself?

This is searing, tortuous social commentary at its finest. As each word in Trumbo's book rings loudly with substance, importance and sharp agony, so does each image of the movie.

Watch this movie. Buy it. Place it on the tallest pillar beside the book. Spread its lesson and let it not be forgotten.
James B. (wandersoul73) from TYLER, TX
Reviewed on 6/15/2009...
I (like most people) probably never would've heard of this war-torn-classic if not for the stellar metal band Metallica. And I'm so greatful that I did. What a wonderful film.
2 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

Netherworld Follies
Glenn A. Buttkus | Sumner, WA USA | 08/04/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This is a significant film that has reached cult status. Dalton Trumbo wrote the novel in 1938, won the National Book Award, and then the book was banned as subversive. Trumbo suffered a polemic from HUAC in 1949, and spent a year in jail for contempt of congress. The book was banned again in 1950, during the Korean War. Kirk Douglas brought him out of exile in 1960 to write the screenplay for SPARTACUS. In 1970, Trumbo directed this film himself, adapted from his own book, and it emerged as a scathing anti-war allegory. When the film opened, it did poorly at the box office in America. The Viet Nam war had clouded the issue. Perhaps if he had included more humor and satire in the picture it would have been easier to digest. Watching it is like drinking white lightning; it burns all the way down.

In 1989, the rock group Metallica released a 7 minute video called TWO OF ONE, and it did use clips from this film. This helped to generate more interest in the movie. The cinematography was above average, done by Jules Brenner, nicely blending B&W, sepia, and full color scenes.

We are introduced in the opening scene to a group of doctors discussing a decerebrated patient, a grievously wounded soldier, assumed to be brain dead; incapable of sentience or dreams; just an armless, legless, faceless, totally deaf living chunk of meat with a beating heart and an active colon. But we soon hear the soldier's voice, and realize he is aware of his environment.

Timothy Bottoms, in his film debut, played the young soldier, Joe Bonham. He did an exceptional job with the voice over work, and we get to see him in the flesh in flashbacks; even the moment he crouched in the trenches, readying himself for his rendezvous with the howitzer shell that had his name on it. There were some rough spots in his acting, but overall he was fine as the fresh-faced naive Joe. Jason Robards played the father, and he underplayed brilliantly. He was a terrific actor, who could bray and strut like in A THOUSAND CLOWNS, or he could quietly inhabit a role like he did in this film. Kathy Fields did a credible job as Joe's sweetheart, Kareen. Charles McGraw was wonderfully gruff, yet compassionate at Kareen's Dad. Eduard Franz, a skilled character actor, played the pivotal role of General Tillery, the doctor that had spared Joe's life, such as it was. Donald Sutherland played Christ, looking every inch both the hippy and the savoir. His scenes gave us a humorous take on death and war. Trumbo should have paid more attention to this level of satire. It might have made this movie more popular to the audiences of 1971.

Diane Varsi was outstanding as the fourth Nurse. She found a way to share her love of humanity with what was left of Joe. Her willingness to see him as a human being, to open windows, to sponge bathe him, even masturbate him, showed a level of compassion unrivaled in the piece. It was she that figured out Joe's incessant head movements were important. They turned out to be Morse code. Joe found a way to commlunicate with his doctors.

He asked to be allowed to be around other people, even to be given over to a carnival if necessary. He was tired of being alone. If they would not do this, then they should kill him. It was a chilling scene indeed, when shame, guilt, and cowardice washed over the medical assemblage. They fled quickly, exiling Nurse Varsi from the room, turned their backs on him, leaving him alone and drugged in the darkness and the complete silence, in the hellish limbo of the land of the living dead.

I liked this film a lot, more for its message than its content. As TV Guide put it, the movie was,"flawed but powerful." This film has sturdy teeth, and it bites through much of the traditional dogma, propaganda, and lies that politicians force-feed us eternally. It teaches us that blind patriotism can lead us into dark events, whereby the powers that be will be able to manipulate or sacrifice our life or limb on the alter of their choosing. It teaches us further that freedom, liberty, and democracy can be reduced to buzz words that can mantle the real issues. We come to realize that, in fact, there are worse things in this world than death."
Dark Masterpiece
Stephen Cannon | Yokohama, Japan | 06/14/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I haven't read the book, but I knew the basic plot outline and so when I saw this film, I expected very strong anti-war sentiments to be pervasive throughout the movie. However, even though the main character loses his arms, legs, face and four of his five senses to a mortar in World War I, not a drop of blood is shown in the movie and the film's indictment of the institution of war seems to take a backseat to the young soldier's struggle to adapt to his dark, silent and motionless environment.I was hesitant to watch this film at first because I thought it would be dull to watch a two-hour movie concerning a horribly maimed young man lying in bed. However, due to his unique condition of being connected to this world only through his sense of touch, I found it fascinating how he first struggles to distinguish his dreams from his reality, and after that tries puts his energy toward discerning the passage of time.The movie includes a number of dream sequences, which to a man deprived of sight, sound, smell and taste, must certainly at least rival anything that happens during his waking hours in importance. The numerous dream sequences serve to explain his past and shed light on his values. Some of them are quite surreal, some are unhappy while some are fairly humorous.The ending is grim and the man's predicament is left unresolved, which leaves the viewer to fill in some of the blanks, but this invites the viewer to give the movie some thought after seeing it, and I by no means felt that the movie was left so open-ended that I felt like I had been shortchanged. I strongly recommend this brilliant film even to those people who generally avoid war movies."
Never Judge A Book By Its Cover
James Morris | Jackson Heights, NY United States | 02/10/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"In 1971 I was 17, and a budding "hippie" with anti-war leanings and a rebel streak a mile long. While riding the NYC subway to work one day, I noticed a young man about my age absorbed in a book as he rode next to me. The title of the book was Johnny Got His Gun. "Probably some right-wing adolescent shoot-`em-up war epic", I thought to myself, dismissing the teen and his book from my mind. A few weeks later, I read an article in the newspaper that a film was being made of the book Johnny Got His Gun, and I was instantly embarrassed at my previous assumption of the book's subject matter when I read that Johnny Got His Gun was actually a pacifist anti-war classic, and that its author, Dalton Trumbo, had been blacklisted as a communist during the 1950's. A few days later, I ran across the book in my favorite bookstore, and picked it up almost without thinking.

I was immediately blown away by the intense imagery of the narrative's storyline. Joe Bonham, an 18-year old soldier, is hit by a bombshell on the last day of WWI, and awakes in a hospital bed horribly deformed. Unable to speak, see, hear, or smell, he gradually learns that his arms and legs have been amputated. As the horror of his situation unfolds in a stream-of-consciousness first person narrative, he slowly realizes that the bomb shell that hit him scooped out his face, leaving a gaping hole where his eyes, ears, nose and mouth used to be. The army doctors automatically assume he is a thoughtless vegetable, and in an experimental effort to see if they can keep someone in his condition alive, he spends the next several years in a hospital bed, well cared-for but practically forgotten. Joe is constantly thinking but unable to communicate. Deprived of all senses, except feelings and thoughts, his story movingly unfolds, and I was forever transformed by the beauty of Mr. Trumbo's story-telling ability and the terror-filled description of Joe's situation. He spends his days remembering the details of his young life, while struggling to overcome the inability to discern his conscious thoughts from his nightmares. As I waited for the film's premiere, I must have read and re-read the book a half dozen times, and 38 years later, portions of the powerful book still stick with me.

I saw the film on opening day in an art house on the east side of Manhattan, and although I was slightly disappointed by the movie's inability to project the author's hauntingly beautiful prose onto the screen, the story has remained a favorite of mine ever since. I recall that the film got lukewarm reviews, but I remember urging all of my friends to see it and experience it for themselves. I also remember a review by Rex Reed, then one of the top film critics in NY. In describing the scene where Joe finally manages to communicate with a nurse the fact that he has conscious thoughts, Mr. Reed said that that scene alone contained more tenderness than the entire film "Love Story" (which was then a current smash hit). I was also bitterly disappointed that the film did not get more attention.

Recently I learned that an all-region DVD of the film was available from Portugal, and I gladly paid Amazon the import price of the DVD. I also obtained a new copy of the book, and found to my delight that the story had lost none of its impact after 38 years. Why should it? The book was first published in 1939, and when I first discovered it 32 years later, I found it fresh, vibrant and surprisingly topical.

Apparently due the fact that a stage version (and a DVD of the stage version) is getting quite a bit of attention, the powers that be have finally decided to release this forgotten gem. I will now order the new DVD as well.

Although the film is slightly dated, I heartily recommend it for its unforgettable storyline. I also recommend that anyone who enjoys it check out the novel; Mr. Trumbo's masterpiece is every bit as compelling as any film version could ever be.