Johnny Got His Gun to Finally Hit DVD13 Feb, 2009 By: Billy Gil
For the first time in North America, the 1971 war classic Johnny Got His Gun will be available on DVD April 29 (prebook March 31), loaded with a host of bonus features.
Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo made his name penning Hollywood classics such as Spartacus, Kitty Foyle, Exodus, Roman Holiday and The Brave One, some of which were written under pseudonyms as the writer had been blacklisted in 1947 as part of the Hollywood Ten, under suspicion of Communist affiliation. Subsequently his directorial debut, based on his own novel Johnny Got His Gun, about a young soldier in World War I who loses his limbs, his ability to speak and most of his senses, never really got a wide theatrical release.
“This movie is truly the essence of what it means to be an independent film,” said Jordan Fields, Shout! Factory’s director of DVD acquisition. “It was independently financed, distributed, and the producer, Bruce Campbell, I believe, pretty much drove around the country with prints of the film and four-walled it.”
This year is the 70th anniversary of the novel, and its relevance is as strong as ever, Fields said.
“We’re in the midst of two protracted wars,” Fields said. “With its take on the horrors of war and our capacities for compassion … its time has come again.”
The DVD includes a recent documentary on Trumbo made for the German release of the film on DVD; a new interview with star Timothy Bottoms, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for his lead performance; behind-the-scenes footage; a 1940 radio adaptation starring James Cagney; the music video for Metallica’s “One”, which famously featured clips of the film; a replica of the original poster; and the original theatrical trailer, which Fields said “is more like a statement about war,” with imagery of World War I and narration by star Jason Robards.
In addition to Bottoms and Robards, the film stars Donald Sutherland, Kathy Fields, Marsha Hunt and Diane Varsi. It debuted at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival and won the Grand Prix Special du Jury as well as the International Federation of Film Critics Prize.
Furthermore, Fields said, this release marks another entry into classic film for Shout! Factory, which has specialized in music and TV content in the past.
“We’re very excited about this release, and we hope it’s the beginning of many more such releases because we loved working on this, on a feature film that has this cult status but has been unavailable,” Fields said. “We’re really hoping to expand our catalog of these kinds of important features.”