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Monday, February 11, 2013

Slaughterhouse-Five (1972)

Adapting Kurt Vonnegut Jr's popular and complex book for the silver screen is no easy task.  Thankfully Stephen Geller is up to the task and brings the audience on a wild, trippy ride that left me on the edge of my seat for the duration of the film.  Much of the success of Slaughterhouse-Five is also due to the considerable talents of director George Roy Hill [The Sting, Butch Cassidy an the Sundance Kid] and cinematographer Miroslav Ondricek [Hair, Awakenings, Amadeus] who give us a visually and dramatically compelling film about the life of Billy Pilgrim.  Pilgrim's life is not like the rest of us as he lives all the stages of his life simultaneously, jumping back and forth through time. I won't reveal the rest of the story because it's best for the audience to form its own impression of what is going on in the film.

Michael Sacks is wonderful as Pilgrim and it left me wondering why he didn't go on to become a huge star.  Apparently he left Hollywood an went on to become an executive director for Morgan Stanley which shows the kind of brain power he possessed.  The rest of the cast is definitely second fiddle to Sacks but there were a few memorable performances.

The strongest scenes are those when Pilgrim was a soldier during WW II.  Not only is Sacks fantastic in these scenes but fellow soldiers Edgar Derby [Eugene Roche] and Paul Lazzaro [Ron Leibman] from a powerful trio together.  Roche [Webster, Magnum PI] is a wonderful character actor who gives the film its compassion.  Leibman [Norma Rae] brings a spirit of vengeance and terror to the lives of everyone in the film.  These three are a delight to watch as they flesh out their characters.

As a final note the scenes shot during WW II are the best in the movie.  They are done so lovingly well, especially the bombing of Dresden.  If all filmmaking were this good, we would be most fortunate indeed.  Slaughterhouse-Five is not technically a horror film, but it could be classified as a Sci-Fi thriller that is brutally honest about the human condition.  It should be seen by everyone who loved cinema.

RATING: Excellent.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

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