SYNOPSIS: “Catch-22” is a satire set in WWII. The setting is an air base in the Mediterranean. The main character (Alan Arkin) is suffering from PTSD and wants to be declared insane so he can stop flying the hazardous missions. Unfortunately, the fact that he knows the situation is insanely dangerous means that he is sane enough to go on missions. The squadron is filled with odd-balls, including incompetent, scheming commanders and a war profiteer which allows the movie to satirize command and capitalism.
BACK-STORY: Mike Nichols (“Charlie Wilson’s War) took on one of the more difficult novels when he decided to make “Catch-22”. Joseph Heller’s novel is nonlinear and full of bizarre characters and labyrinthian dialogue. Buck Henry wrote the screenplay and Heller assembled an eclectic cast. Paramount gave Nichols a big budget and he used part of it to get 17 vintage B-25 Mitchell bombers. Six months were spent on the camerawork for the bombers alone. This required 1,500 flight hours. Unfortunately, little of the footage made it into the film as it is not an aerial combat movie. It is an anti-war satire that is often compared to “M*A*S*H”, which was released the same year. It was this coincidental release that probably contributed to the box office failure of “Catch-22”. The increasing unpopularity of the Vietnam War seemingly left room for only one successful war satire and the public chose “M*A*S*H”.
TRIVIA: Wikipedia, imdb, Guts and Glory
1. Joseph Heller was pleased with the film and praised the changes and additions by screenwriter Buck Henry.
2. The aerial sequences took six months and 1,500 hours of flying time. All of this resulted in ten minutes of screen time.
3. The film used 17 flyable B-25 Mitchell bombers.
4. The Second Unit Director John Jordan refused to use a safety harness to film from one of the bombers and fell to his death.
5. This was the first American movie to show a character (Martin Balsam’s Col. Cathcart) on the toilet. Balsam claims it is the greatest moment of his career. Just kidding.
6. This was Art Garfunkel’s first film. Paul Simon was supposed to also appear, but his role got cut. The film caused Garfunkel to be late for a recording session with his partner and Simon wrote a critical song about Art because of this.
7. Heller was a bombardier on B-25s. On one mission, a gunner was wounded and bled all over him.
Belle and Blade = 5.0
Brassey’s = 3.0
Video Hound = 3.1
War Movies = 4.4
Military History = not on list
Channel 4 = #42
Film Site = no
101 War Movies = yes
OPINION: “Catch-22” did not get a lot of love when it was released, but it’s reputation has gone up over the years. Having read the book, it is a worthy effort to bring a complex story to the screen. Buck Henry’s screenplay actually makes some improvements, while keeping much of the dialogue from the book. The cast is excellent and the characters are intriguing. It has several scenes that are iconic. It seems well-placed at #77.