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Johnny Got His Gun (1971)

Timothy Bottoms , Donald Sutherland , Dalton Trumbo  |  PG |  DVD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (122 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Timothy Bottoms, Donald Sutherland, Jason Robards
  • Directors: Dalton Trumbo
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Full Screen, NTSC, Closed-captioned
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Shout! Factory
  • DVD Release Date: April 28, 2009
  • Run Time: 106 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (122 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001O4KBPA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #96,173 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Johnny Got His Gun" on IMDb

Special Features

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo directed just one film in his career, but it was a doozy: Johnny Got His Gun, Trumbo’s 1971 adaptation of his 1939 novel and a work that has long been considered one of the most powerful anti-war movies ever produced. Ironically, though, there’s very little war in it, and nothing in the way of blood and guts. Instead, what we get is the tortured tale of one Joe Bonham (Timothy Bottoms), a callow 18-year-old who goes off to World War I because he believes that fighting for his country is the right thing to do. But when an officer orders some men to leave their trench and bury a dead enemy soldier, Joe is hit by a mortar shell and left without arms, legs, or a face (he can’t see, hear, or speak). Doctors assume that his cognitive brain function is gone as well, but in fact he can still think, reason, and feel (figuratively and literally); as a result, he has been consigned to a life far worse than death. The film intermingles scenes of Joe in an Army hospital as he gradually comes to understand his circumstances (we never actually see him, as he’s covered by a mask and sheets) with the various flashbacks, memories, and hallucinations he experiences during that process. The former, during which Bottoms supplies Joe’s thoughts in voice-over, are in black & white; the latter, which range from childhood memories (Joe’s father is played by Jason Robards) to bizarre fantasies like playing cards with Jesus Christ (Donald Sutherland), are in color, bathed in a kind of dreamy glow that’s countered by a heavy and persistent sense of dread. To be sure, Johnny Got His Gun has its heavy-handed, pretentious moments. But this is a smart, disturbing, and somber film that stands out in a genre (i.e., war movies) that unfortunately is never irrelevant. An excellent batch of bonus features includes an hour-long profile of Trumbo (who was jailed for contempt of Congress during the Communist witch hunts of the ‘40s and ‘50s, then blacklisted by Hollywood), a new interview with Bottoms, a 1940 radio adaptation of the story (featuring James Cagney as Joe), and even the Metallica music video “One,” which features extensive footage from the film. --Sam Graham

Product Description

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 conscious and able to think, thereby reliving his life through strange dreams, memories and conversations with Jesus (Donald Sutherland), unable to distinguish whether he is awake or dreaming. Dalton Trumbo, author of the famous 1930s antiwar book Johnny Got His Gun wrote and directed this film adaptation. In 1947, he refused to testify before a congressional committee investigating alleged Communist infiltration of the film industry. Blacklisted for nearly a decade, he wrote numerous scripts under pseudonyms including Roman Holiday and Gun Crazy until he was finally credited for his work on Exodus and Spartacus in 1960.

Bonus Features:

* Includes a limited-edition reproduction of the film poster in-pack.

* Dalton Trumbo: Rebel In Hollywood (60 min. feature available for the first time in U.S.).

* Interview with star Timothy Bottoms.

* Behind-the-scenes footage with commentary by films DP, Jules Brenner & Timothy Bottoms.

* Original theatrical trailer.

* Metallica Music video for 'One', featuring footage from the film.

* 1940 Radio adaptation staring James Cagney.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
78 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark Masterpiece June 13, 2002
Format:VHS Tape
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.
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93 of 99 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Netherworld Follies August 4, 2004
Format:VHS Tape
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.
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41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Never Judge A Book By Its Cover February 9, 2009
Format:DVD
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.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Get Johnny
A powerful and disturbing movie that has stood the test of time
Published 1 month ago by Flicker
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great seller great product and super fast shipping everything A+++++++
Published 1 month ago by Kenneth R Dellett
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing yet compelling anti-war story
This is the right way to make war movies. No glamorized heroics here, just honest and ugly. This is the reality of war, not the flag-waving hyped up hero-worship action movie... Read more
Published 3 months ago by James E. Foster
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written from the "patient's" perspective.
Since WW I, the field of medicine has made great strides by dedicated servants. Sadly in this story, the patient's fate was determined by the head doctor, whose pride ruled. Read more
Published 4 months ago by jkarmanowsky
3.0 out of 5 stars Anti-war movie
I am giving this an average grade because I have to save really lousy grades for really bad movies (most of which I will not consider watching). Read more
Published 4 months ago by complainer Dan
5.0 out of 5 stars Trust 'Complete Sentences Media'..I do.
The dvd was everything i expected it to be as far as my own expectations..and delivery was really quick which made it even better.
Published 4 months ago by victor riley
1.0 out of 5 stars Horrible movie!
I saw this movie when it first came out years ago and it was absolutely awful. I consider it the worst movie I've ever seen. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Gail Thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars I've wanted to see this
Not many words needed here. It was an awful movie and worth every second watched. Powerful, Harsh, Touching, Happy, and Sad all wrapped up in one hardcore war movie.
Published 5 months ago by Roy
2.0 out of 5 stars Too slow. Too weird.
This, to me, is a very pretentious, ponderous, story that crept along until I couldn't stand it and turned it off.
Published 5 months ago by Grace Gardiner
5.0 out of 5 stars I highly recommend this movie
I got interested in this movie because of a metallica video and the psychological aspects (I'm a psych major). Read more
Published 5 months ago by k. tormey
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