Johnny Got His Gun
Dalton Trumbo was one of Hollywood's most successful and respected screenwriters, but he was also a committed political activist -- his leftist views led to him being blacklisted during the "Red Scare" of the 1950s -- and in 1938 he wrote an impassioned anti-war novel, Johnny Got His Gun, that was a major critical success. In 1971, Trumbo hade his belated directorial debut with a screen adaptation of the book, but the film received only a limited release, and it found its widest audience through a most unlikely circumstance -- the heavy metal band Metallica used clips from the movie in the music video for their song about a victim of war, "One." Shout Factory has finally given Johnny Got His Gun its North American video debut with a DVD edition of the picture. Johnny Got Hs Gun has been given a widescreen transfer to disc, letterboxed at 1.85:1 on conventional televisions and enhanced for anamorphic playback on 16x9 monitors, and the image looks just a bit soft, with a muted color palate in the scenes not presented in black and white, suggesting the disc may have been mastered from a PAL video source. However, the transfer was taken from a clean looking print, free of scratches and blemishes, and it's noticeably better than the bootleg videos that have circulated on this title for years (some taken from European VHS copies of the film). The audio is in Dolby Digital Stereo, retaining the film's original monophonic sound mix, and the fidelity is good though not unusually so. The dialogue is in English, with no subtitles or multiple language options. A number of bonus features appear on this release, most notably Dalton Trumbo: Rebel In Hollywood, a documentary which looks in detail at Trumbo's career, his years under the blacklist, and the making of Johnny Got His Gun. Also included is a recent interview with actor Timothy Bottoms about his experiences making the film, an audio-only presentation of a 1940 radio adaptation of the novel featuring the voice of James Cagney, an article on the production from American Cinematographer magazine, the original theatrical trailer, and Metallica's "One" video. If this release of Johnny Got His Gun is a few stops less than perfect, it looks very good if not great and makes an elusive title available in North America at last, and the extras offer a fascinating perspective on its history and production.