“You’re a very weird person, Yossarian.”–General Dreedle, Catch-22
“When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.”–Randall Jarrell, “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner”
DIRECTED BY: Mike Nichols
FEATURING: Alan Arkin, Martin Balsam, Jack Gilford, Jon Voight, Art Garfunkle, Orson Welles, Bob Newhart, Anthony Perkins, Paula Prentiss, Buck Henry, Richard Benjamin, Bob Balaban, Charles Grodin, Martin Sheen, Gina Rovere, Olimpia Carlisi
PLOT: The story is told out of sequence, but begins with Capt. Yossarian, an Air Force bombardier at a Mediterranean air base, being stabbed in the back by what appears to be a fellow soldier. This leads directly into the first of a recurring sequence of flashbacks where Yossarian tends to a young wounded airman in the belly of his bomber. Further flashbacks reveal a protagonist of questionable sanity in the company of equally insane flyboys, including a quartermaster who schemes with the Group commanders to create a black market syndicate that morphs into a fascist regime.
- Joseph Heller published the absurdist comic novel “Catch-22” in 1961, based on his own experiences as a bombardier in World War II.
- Orson Welles had attempted and failed to acquire the rights to the novel, a fact Mike Nichols was not aware of when he cast him as General Dreedle.
- Catch-22 was Nichols’ followup to his smash hit The Graduate. He once again worked with screenwriter Buck Henry (who also played Colonel Korn here). The screenplay took two years to produce.
- Filming (in Rome and Mexico) took more than six months to complete. Cinematographer David Watkins would only shoot the exterior scenes between two and three o’clock in the afternoon, so that the lighting would be exactly the same. This meant the cast and crew were sitting around for long periods of time with nothing to do, which led to resentment on the set.
- Catch-22 is credited as the first American film to show a person sitting on a toilet, and the first modern Hollywood film to feature full-frontal nudity.
- Second Unit director John Jordan plummeted to his death when he fell out of the camera plane while daring to film a flight scene without being strapped into a harness.
- Although the film did not bomb at the box office, it was overshadowed by Robert Altman‘s similar (but lighter and more realistic) M*A*S*H*.
- George Clooney is producing a new adaptation of the novel as a six-part miniseries scheduled to air on Hulu.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: The gruesome death of Hungry Joe, who’s cut in half by an airplane propeller while standing on a platform in the beautiful blue Tyrrhenian Sea.
THREE WEIRD THINGS: Urine I.V.; offscreen portrait switching; friendly fire for hire
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Catch-22 was a novel of paradoxical, circular logic and inverted moral geometries. The certifiably insane Yossarian is saner than his schizoid comrades and commanders—but only because he is the only one who realizes he is crazy. The movie doesn’t soar to the heights of the book, but it creates its own weird all-star universe of moral decay and dystopian reasoning. There aren’t twenty-one other catches. One catch serves as a catchall. Catch-22. It’s the best there is.
Original trailer for Catch-22
COMMENTS: Adapting Catch-22, a novel whose building blocks are Continue reading 323. CATCH-22 (1970)