Johnny Got His Gun

Well, Johnny Got His Gun finally made it to the top of my Netflix queue and 5 days after arrival I finally watched it. I’d seen the Metallica music video, One a couple of times (at first I didn’t realize this was an actual movie). This was a very strange film. The black & white scenes look like an episode of the Twilight Zone, but that show was never as dark as this film. Body Horror and High Octane Nightmare Fuel are apt descriptions. Living Hell works too. There’s no happy ending, hope isn’t even implied. I have to wonder; has something like this actually happened? According to Wikipedia Dalton Trumbo was “inspired” by hearing about a Canadian WWI veteran who lost all his limbs and was struck blind, deaf, dumb. Is there any truth to that? Timothy Bottoms (accoding to the special features) seems to thing it was inspired by a South Pacific war veteran.

Not sure of the factual basis, but this is one of the overlooked masterpieces of American movies that has taken an unconscionably long time to become available. Now, raining AND pouring, Netflix also has it available streaming.

A bit foggy in memory, but I was around when it first came out and remember seeing it in the theaters.
Back then, the book had had some resurgence in popularity on college campuses. Because of that, the film didn’t seem to do justice to the book that was still fresh in everyone’s minds.
I am glad to hear people are watching it now - as even though I agreed back then that the film was flawed, compared to the book, I was one who thought the film did a decent job of getting message across.

I saw part of this movie on TCM a few months ago. I didn’t watch the whole thing, but decided to catch part of it. The guy had the bonnet/mask over his face. It seemed like a terribly depressing movie.

The reason I turned to it when I saw it was on? It was the movie my mom and dad went to see on their first date. The part I watched just kept me wondering what my dad was thinking by picking that movie. I also wondered if that should have been a sign they would eventually get divorced. This movie may have ended my parents’ marriage before it started.

I’m the boss, this is champagne! Merry christmas!

There were some good moments, but overall the film was blatantly overstated and heavy-handed. It’s “Antiwar for Dummies.” And dummies with a short attention span. We get the point immediately, but Trumbo makes it again and again and again and again and again. And then again, in case you didn’t notice.

Try King of Hearts to see a much better and more entertaining way of saying exactly the same thing using WWI as a background.

Wow, I couldn’t disagree more. On both counts: King of Hearts is insipid and glib and naive and sentimental: candybox schlock.

And to suggest that JGHG is “overstated” is to suggest that the message, which you seem to see as the driving agenda (it’s not), would be better served if punches were pulled. Granted, all things being equal it’s usually better for an artist to err on the side of subtlety. The kind of no-holds-barred, subtlety-be-damned approach that Trumbo took is not an approach for amateurs or the weak minded. But when it works, it works: fuck the rules. JGHG is a slap in the face, not only to the whole idea of war, but also to the kind of artistic complacency that makes war movies as entertainments rather than cautionary tales. Not that JGHG is even a cautionary tale: it’s more of a punishment, a nose-rubbing in the very complacency you deem more proper to such entertainments.

And so what if it’s framed as if “for dummies”? How many people remain complacent and blind in the face of such atrocities? People are willfully ignorant about such things; willful dummies.

Obfuscation does not equal greater art: sometimes an allegory or a metaphor is just so much sophistry and the full face direct approach is all that will do.

I thought the book was overall better, and beautifully written, but I preferred the movie’s ending, and found it more in keeping with what the military would really do.

Associated Press story from December 1936, about the abdication of King Edward, that may have served as the inspiration for Trumbo (although it does not specifically say the soldier was dismembered):