That is why successfully adapting a Vonnegut is one of the Holy Grails of film adaptation.
Vonnegut had been adapted six times. All but two have been failures. The two successful adaptations (Robert B. Weide's adaptation of Mother Night and Stephen Gellar's adaptation of Slaughterhouse-Five) have managed to be successful by staying as close to the book as possible and by picking books that can make a transition to the screen with less difficulty.
Slaughterhouse-Five is the story of Billy Pilgrim, a man unstuck in time. He is constantly drifting from one point in his life to another, pseudo-randomly working his way through three intertwined storylines about his experiences during the war (culminating in the bombing of Dresden), in the psychologically unpleasant life of suburbia, and on the planet Tralfamadore with porn-starlet Montana Wildhack.
As bizarre as this summarization sounds, the movie actually manages to do Kurt Vonnegut's novel about accepting the bad things in life a good amount of justice. This is mostly do to the wonderful transitions that director George Roy Hill gives us, which lay down a sort of pattern to Billy's time travel.
Although Michael Sacks plays Billy Pilgrim in the exact naïve fashion which the character was conceived, the supporting cast ends up slightly disappointing. For instance, Paul Lazzaro (Ron Liebman) ends up coming off as if he were the villain from Johnny Dangerously. He gets too deep into his character and transforms it into a stereotype.
Still, giving credit where credit is due Slaughterhouse-Five is the first good Vonnegut adaptation. It was proof that it was possible, and a Holy Grail of screenwriting grabbed.
Run time: 104 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 15th March 1972
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Production compaines: Vanadas Productions
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Fresh: 10 Rotten: 3
IMDB: 7.0 / 10
Director: George Roy Hill
Producer: Paul Monash
Screenwriter: Stephen Geller
Starring: Michael Sacks as Billy Pilgrim, Ron Leibman as Paul Lazzaro, Eugene Roche as Edgar Derby, Sharon Gans as Valencia Merble Pilgrim, Valerie Perrine as Montana Wildhack, Holly Near as Barbara Pilgrim, Perry King as Robert Pilgrim, Kevin Conway as Roland Weary, Friedrich von Ledebur as German Leader, Ekkehardt Belle as Young German Guard, Sorrell Booke as Lionel Merble, Roberts Blossom as Wild Bob Cody, John Dehner as Prof. Rumfoord, Gary Waynesmith as Stanley, Richard Schaal as Howard W. Campbell Jr., Gilmer McCormick as Lily Rumfoord, Stan Gottlieb as Hobo, Karl-Otto Alberty as German Guard - Group Two, Lucille Benson as Billy's Mother, John Wood as English Officer, Henry Bumstead as Eliot Rosewater
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