Slaughterhouse-Five (1972)

SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE (1972)
Article #1784 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-1-2006
Posting Date: 7-1-2006
Directed by George Roy Hill
Featuring Michael Sacks, Ron Leibman, Eugene Roche

Billy Pilgrim, unstuck in time, finds himself flitting back and forth through his life, including his time as a prisoner-of-war in Dresden and his abduction by aliens from Tralfamadore.

I was once a voracious reader of Kurt Vonnegut’s novels, but it’s been a long time since I’ve read one of them. For some reason, I never warmed up to this novel (I preferred Cat’s Cradle and Breakfast of Champions), but from what I remember, the movie seems reasonably true to it, and I liked the movie enough that I plan to revisit the novel in the near future. It’s supposed to be his greatest work, but I suspect that I was really not mature enough at the time of my reading of it to appreciate the many dark ironies that make up the story here. And it is, after all, dark ironies that drive this story, from the circumstances that surround the death of his wife to the fact that the greatest threat to his life during the war is not the Germans but a fellow American. Adapting this work must have been a daunting task, but George Roy Hill manages it by largely shunting back and forth between two storylines; the incidents surrounding the fire-bombing of Dresden and the story of his life after his return home. Humorous at times, darkly tragic at others, you become attached to the many characters you meet, especially to his wartime friend played by Eugene Roche. Other Vonnegut characters pop up in the story; Eliot Rosewater was from Vonnegut’s “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” and Howard Campbell was from “Mother Night”. There are several familiar names in the cast, including Ron Leibman, Valerie Perrine (almost her motion picture debut), Holly Near (who is primarily known as a folksinger), Perry King, and the ever-popular John Dehner.

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