- Actors: Alan Arkin, Martin Balsam, Richard Benjamin, Art Garfunkel
- Directors: Mike Nichols
- Format: NTSC
- Language: English, French
- Dubbed: English, French
- MPAA Rating:
- Studio: Paramount
- Release Date: Aug. 8 2006
- Average Customer Review: 38 customer reviews
- ASIN: B000GJ0KSW
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #57,706 in Movies & TV Shows (See Top 100 in Movies & TV Shows)
Joseph Heller's novel was one of the seminal literary events of the 1960s, but Mike Nichols's film ultimately proved too literal in its attempt to bring Heller's fragmented fiction to the screen. Still, Nichols, who made this on the heels of The Graduate, seemed the ideal candidate to tackle this Buck Henry adaptation. The story deals with bomber pilot Yossarian (Alan Arkin), who has flown enough missions to get out of World War II but can't because the number of missions needed for discharge keeps getting raised. The satire and absurdity of Heller's book get lost in Nichols's effort to give screen time to the members of his all-star cast, which includes Orson Welles, Jon Voight, Bob Newhart, Anthony Perkins, Richard Benjamin, and Martin Sheen, among others. --Marshall Fine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Mike Nichols (I bet you didn't know his real name was Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky) turned it into the film Catch-22 in 1970. Again, the reviews were mixed. It was called "intellectual."
Watching it now, it's clear that the cast and crew wanted to be faithful to the spirit of the book. The film is manic and jarring. Without knowledge of the structure of the novel, audiences might rightly think Nichols was nuts. It's badly imperfect. It's very strange.
Robert Altman's MASH (1970), hit theatres in January that year, and I think it works much better as a black comedy about war. Catch-22 is never very funny. Worse, it is scattered with several scenes of disturbing violence. A man's upper body is vaporized by a plane propeller, and his legs fall into the sea. This happens only about a third into the film, unlike the novel, which unleashes its darkest moments in a torrent in the final chapters.
It's somehow too pointy to work. It is desperately short on subtlety. Like Dr. Strangelove (1964), the film suffers from collegiate humour, bad puns, and mawkish giggles about nudity and sexuality, all in spite of its attempted intellectual tone. The screenplay by Buck Henry, who plays Colonel Korn (see?) is no novel. Cinematically, its repetitions and obsessions seem not surreal, but unnecessary. Pointless.
I wonder if the reception of the book in the fifties, and the film in the seventies, translate at all today. They both "seem" important. The core issues that actually are important in the novel are largely buried under stylistic and silly filmic treatment.
Therein lies the irony of a film about irony.
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