STARRING: Michael Sacks, Ron Leibman, Eugene Roche, Sharon Gans, Valerie Perrine, Roberts Blossom, Sorrell Booke, Kevin Conway, Gary Waynesmith, John Dehner  

1972, 104 Minutes, Directed by: George Roy Hill

slaught.jpg (13723 bytes)The book is always better: that goes without saying. But where to begin with a review of Slaughterhouse-Five?

Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five is usually mentioned in the same breath as other great post-war American novels such as Catch 22, Portnoy’s Complaint and The World According to Garp. Is it any good? It’s brilliant and if you haven’t read it then I urge you to dash out now to buy, borrow or steal a copy to read. Would I urge you to do the same with the movie? I’ll get to that . . .

What’s it about? Well, that’s very difficult to even begin with. It basically follows the adventures of a character called Billy Pilgrim who, as an American POW during World War II, survived the Allied bombing of Dresden.

Dresden will perhaps go down as the biggest case of aerial bombardment in history: some historians estimate that more people probably died in Dresden than when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Considered a non-military target, Dresden was mostly left defenseless to bombardment by the British and Americans towards the end of WWII. (A good book on the topic is David Irving’s non-fictional The Destruction of Dresden, which I would also urge you to read as sort of a companion piece to Vonnegut’s novel). Later on, Billy Pilgrim will get "unstuck in time" (his own words) after being held captive in an intergalactic zoo along with a porn star by aliens . . .

Anyway, like I said I couldn’t even begin to explain. Read the book. See the movie? I don’t know. Essentially Vonnegut’s novel is unfilmable yet the film (directed by George Roy Hill, perhaps best known for directing The Sting and Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid) does a reasonable job at capturing its essence.

I can complain about especially one sequence in the novel (which lent itself very much to cinematic adaptation - if you have read the book you would know what I’m referring to) being left out, but it is really to no avail. I have a vague suspicion that people unacquainted with the novel might find events in the film bewildering although some people who have seen the movie but not read the book I spoke to said that they thought it was very good. In my case it made me feel like rereading the novel again . . .


Sci-Fi Movie Page Pick: The book's better, but this isn't bad. You'd be better off reading Kurt Vonnegut's off-beat classic of the same title, but this film adaptation will at least make you want to read the book to more clearly understand on-screen events.


 # 99
 of the
Top 100 Sci-Fi Movies
 of all time





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