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Johnny Got His Gun (film)

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Title: Johnny Got His Gun (film)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: 1971 Cannes Film Festival, Grand Prix (Cannes Film Festival), Dalton Trumbo, Anti-war films about World War I, Bye Bye Monkey
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Johnny Got His Gun (film)

Johnny Got His Gun
Original theatrical poster
Directed by Dalton Trumbo
Produced by Bruce Campbell
Screenplay by Dalton Trumbo
Based on Johnny Got His Gun 
by Dalton Trumbo
Starring Timothy Bottoms
Jason Robards
Donald Sutherland
Diane Varsi
Kathy Fields
Music by Jerry Fielding
Cinematography Jules Brenner
Distributed by Cinemation Industries
Release dates May 14, 1971
Running time 111 min.
Country United States
Language English

Johnny Got His Gun is a 1971 drama anti-war film based on the novel of the same name written and directed by Dalton Trumbo and starring Timothy Bottoms, Jason Robards and Donald Sutherland, with Diane Varsi. The film was released on DVD in the U.S on April 28, 2009 via Shout! Factory, with special features.


Joe Bonham (Bottoms), a young American soldier hit by an artillery shell during World War I, lies in a hospital bed. He is a quadruple amputee who has also lost his eyes, ears, mouth and nose. He remains conscious and able to reason, but his wounds render him a prisoner in his own body. As he drifts between reality and fantasy, he remembers his old life with his family and girlfriend (Kathy Fields). He also forms a bond, of sorts, with a young nurse (Diane Varsi) who senses his plight.

At the end of the film, Joe tries to communicate to his doctors, via Morse code, and wishes for the Army to either put him in a glass coffin in a freak show as a demonstration of the horrors of war, or kill him. In the end, however, he realizes that the Army will grant neither wish, and will leave him in a state of living death.

In the film's climax, his nurse attempts to euthanize him by clamping his breathing tube, but her supervisor stops her before Joe can succumb. This does not occur in the novel. The film ends with Joe weakly chanting "S.O.S. Help me."



The film is well known for distinguishing between Joe's reality and fantasy with black-and-white for the hospital, and color for his dreams and memories. His dreams are drug-induced, as when he talks to his dead father and Christ, with the color being saturated. His memories are in a clearer color, such as the fishing trip and his last night with Kareen. Joe's face is never seen in the hospital scenes, and where his missing limbs would be are covered by hospital sheets.


The film was entered into the 1971 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Grand Prix Spécial du Jury and the FIPRESCI Prize.[1]


In 1988, the heavy metal band Metallica wrote the song "One", based on the book, and used clips from the film in the video for the song.

In early 2009, the 1971 film made its U.S. DVD debut, produced by Shout! Factory. The DVD included the original, uncut film, plus a 2005 documentary (Dalton Trumbo: Rebel In Hollywood), new cast interviews, Metallica's music video "One," behind-the-scenes footage with commentary by stars Timothy Bottoms and Jules Brenner, the 1940 radio adaptation, and the original theatrical trailer.[2]

In the 2008 remake, actor Benjamin McKenzie earned critical acclaim for his solo performance (as Joe Bonham) in the "live on stage, on film" version of the 1982 Off-Broadway play based on the novel, McKenzie's first starring role in a feature film.[3] In October 2010, a special educational DVD[4] of the 2008 film version starring McKenzie became available free of charge to every high school library in the U.S. The educational DVD contains both a pre-screening and post-screening discussion guide for students, in addition to a 15-minute featurette on the making of the film, the original movie's theatrical trailer, and a history of the original novel.


  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Johnny Got His Gun". Retrieved April 12, 2009. 
  2. ^ Shout! Factory website
  3. ^ Johnny Got His Gun review of the "live on stage, on film" version of Variety
  4. ^ Johnny Got His Gun the movie

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