Dalton Trumbo, who was blacklisted during the witch-hunt against Communists in 1950s America and could only work on films under a pseudonym, ultimately staged his 1939 novel himself in 1971, after a production under director Luis Buñuel failed to materialise. The torso of a soldier is admitted to a military hospital and kept alive. The arms, legs and face of the soldier have been destroyed. From the subjective viewpoint of this corpse, we learn the story of Johnny, who went to war and was hit by a grenade, through, at times, surreal flashbacks and memories. While the scenes set in the present are shot in black and white, the flashbacks are in colour. The independently produced film received several awards at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival, but never made it to the German cinemas.

"I've always been interested in how Buñuel would have made it. I think he would have savagely attacked democracy. I imagine his approach would have been more shocking than my own. I've tended more to center on the young man, the soldier, and let you draw your own conclusions about the system that put him where he was. (...) Of course, I've gotten a little heat from the Left on that, because I didn't put in a revolutionary addendum. But that wouldn't have worked in a movie. In the novel, you have a time lapse. Joe, the soldier, has time to think through to an angry manifesto. But in the movie you see him, and his despair is visual. If he'd immediately hit on some sort of political conclusion, it would have been obscene."
(Roger Ebert: Interview With Dalton Trumbo; Chicago Sun-Times, 5.9.1971)

Author: Stefan Drößler
Director of the Film Museum in Munich

Translation by
TITELBILD Subtitling and Translation GmbH

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14 May 1971

Director: Dalton Trumbo
Screenplay: Dalton Trumbo, after his novel (1939)
Camera: Jules Brenner
Music: Jerry Fielding

Timothy Bottoms (Joe Bonham), Kathy Fields (Kareen), Marsha Hunt (Joes Mutter), Jason Robards (Joes Vater), Donald Sutherland (Christ), Charles McGraw (Mike Burkeman), Sandy Brown Wyeth (Lucky)

Production: World Entertainment
Format: 35mm, Breitwand 1:1,66, Schwarzweiß und Eastmancolor
Length: 111 min

DVD: Shout! Factory (no subtitles), Studiocanal Deutschland (German synchronisation / German subtitles), Europa Corp (French synchronisation / French subtitles)