STUDIO: Shout Factory
MSRP: $19.99

  • 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 the film’s DP, Jules Brenner & Timothy Bottoms.
  • Original theatrical trailer.
  • Metallica Music video for ‘One’, featuring footage from the film.
  • 1940 Radio adaptation staring James Cagney.

The Pitch

War can fuck you up.

The Humans

Timothy Bottoms, Donald Sutherland and Jason Robards

The Nutshell

Joe (Timothy Bottoms) is a young man that’s horribly injured on the final day of World War I. His face has been blown off and he’s loss the use of major limbs. Somehow, he still holds onto life. Unable to communicate with the outside world, Joe lives inside of his life. He thinks a lot about his life, spirituality and his eventual acceptance of death. But, will death ever come?

I can’t see these guys without hearing Kirk Hammett playing in the background.

The Lowdown

Dalton Trumbo was one of the greatest screenwriters in Hollywood history. In 1939, he wrote one of the most meaningful Anti-War novels. In 1971, he decided to film his novel as a statement against the Vietnam War. The usual suspect turned out and what resulted was an interesting piece of Cinema that looks at the thin lines that connect life and death. Somehow, Metallica ended up owning the rights to the film.

The bulk of younger people came to know of the film from its inclusion in Metallica’s One video. The popular story is that the band was a big fan of the film, but didn’t know how to get footage for it. Seeing that the long Out of Print was cheaper to buy outright than license clips, the metal band picked it up. I’m not sure if the band still owns it, but I thank them for introducing me to the film.

Donald Christ looked up his work and it was good. He’ll name the Starchild something manly. Jack Bauer’s a good name. Thus, a television legend was born.

The film’s main character Joe is pretty one-dimensional when we meet him. He’s a young man that is unsure of his place in War. His father tells him that he’ll glady sacrifice him to defend Democracy around the world. But, Joe spends his days in foxholes trying to figure out his place in the world. On the final day of the War, Joe gets pinned down by enemy forces and gets the ultimate frag. Joe awakens in a hospital under gauze, bandages and a face mask. He can’t move, he can’t feel and he can’t speak.

The hospital administrators and the military are fascinated by Joe’s inability to die. So, they decide to experiment on him. They want to see how long they can keep the basket case alive before he finally kicks it. Eventually, Joe discovers a way to communicate with the nurses in morse code. Unfortunately, this puts a crimp in the Army Hospital’s plans.

Johnny Got His Gun proves that the best way to address matters regarding War is to show its true horror. Placing the focus on an individual and breaking down periods in his life, we see how a man can come apart. Still, nothing beats that finale. Joe lying in bed, just begging to be given the final gift one can give a person. It’s a meditation on dignity and respect vs. one’s station in life.

Trauma trough.

The Package

Replication of the Original Poster – Included is a decent fold-out replica of the original theatrical poster

Dalton Trumbo: Rebel in Hollywood – This is the first time that this documentary has been available on DVD in America. It’s a short ride through Trumbo’s past and his many accomplishments.

Metallica music video for One – You get to see the video that inspired me to seek out this film as a younger man. Thrill to a once-legendary band in their heyday. See the mullets. Stay for the melancholy.

Interview with star Timothy Bottoms – Tim Bottoms looks too much like George W. Bush now. There’s a reason for that.

Original Theatrical Trailer – The trailer. 

1940 Radio Adaptation audio clip starring James Cagney – Taking a page from Criterion, Shout Factory has hunted down the full audio for the 1940 Radio Adaptation of Trumbo’s original novel. Cagney makes the reading exciting, but that’s about it. 

Behind-the-scenes footage – Commentary from the film’s Director of Photography, the star and a producer on the film’s impact and how they went about constructing it.

Robards wanted to be The Ringmaster in Roger Corman’s Hulk film in the worst way.

8.5 out of 10