Blu-ray and DVD: Slaughterhouse-Five (1972)
Billy Pilgrim (Michael Sacks) becomes ‘unstuck in time’ and begins moving uncontrollably in a non-linear way throughout various points in his life, including being abducted by an alien lifeform who houses him on a distant planet and is desperate for him to mate with a sexy movie actress whom they also abduct.
The central thread of the story concerns his time as a G.I. serving in Germany during WWII and he flip flops between there and his earlier life where he meets his wife to be Valencia (Sharon Gans), and also his later life where the couple now have 2 children.
Based on the classic sci-fi novel by Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five is expertly directed by George Roy Hill (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting) who crafts what most people thought to be an unfilmable novel into a sci-fi/comedy/drama that constantly leaves you wondering what the hell is going to happen next.
The performances throughout are excellent and particular mention has to go to both Michael Sacks, who at only 24 years old was in his first movie role and had to portray Billy Pilgrim at various points in his life, and also to Ron Libman who plays Billy’s war time nemesis Paul Lazzaro; a man so twisted and evil I felt like booing at the screen whenever he appeared.
The drama does sometimes stray into the absurd, particularly in a sequence when Valencia is speeding in her car to get to Billy’s side in hospital. What would normally have been played in a more serious fashion comes across as an almost Keystone Cops affair, complete with crazy musical accompaniment and lots of driving back and too along the same road. Even this doesn’t seem weird though and still fits in with the tone of the movie which is not constrained to one particular genre and reveals more to you as every minute goes by. It reminded somewhat of Barbarella (though admittedly I haven’t seen that movie for quite some time) in that it has that late 60’s/ early 70’s sic-fi/comedy vibe as its core. But then when you begin to feel comfortable in its lightheartedness, it throws a dramatic bombing of Dresden at you, highlighting the carnage which follows and the suffering of all involved.
Surprisingly, this was my first ever viewing of Slaughterhouse_Five and it fascinated me. I had never read the novel and had no idea where the story was going to take me, which definitely improved the experience. Having said that though, it demands repeat viewing as there is so much going on that it is hard to take it all in during a single viewing.
Slaughterhouse-Five may not be for everyone, and it could possibly do with losing 15 minutes from a saggy middle section, but if you’re in the right frame of mind and want to watch something a bit different, I can definitely recommend that you become unstuck with Billy Pilgrim.
Slaughterhouse-Five will be available to buy from 26th June, 2017.
Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Fabulous Films.