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Film / Catch-22

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The 1970 film adaptation of Joseph Heller's classic 1961 novel of the same name, directed by Mike Nichols and featuring an All-Star Cast headed by Alan Arkin as Yossarian. Buck Henry (who appears as Lt. Colonel Korn) wrote the screenplay adaptation.

Despite its impressive credentials, the film was a commercial and critical flop upon its release, but has since come to garner a cult following.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Heroism: Many of Yossarian's more unsavory actions from the novel are excised.
  • Adapted Out: Many of the characters and incidents from the rather sprawling novel.
  • Age Lift: Colonel Cathcart is visibly older than in the novel.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Most of the cast, as played largely by Jewish actors.
  • And Starring: Orson Welles as Dreedle.
  • Catch-22 Dilemma: This story is the Trope Namer. The soldiers of Pianosa are caught in various illogical binds, mostly from military law.
  • Composite Character: Many examples of this, including Dobbs taking on traits of the novel's Clevinger, and Hungry Joe being Demoted to Extra and becoming the novel's character of Kid Sampson in all but name.
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    • Buck Henry's original script has Major Major taking on aspects of the novel's Major —— de Coverley.
  • Demoted to Extra: McWatt to a certain degree, Hungry Joe (as mentioned above), The Soldier in White, The Soldier Who Sees Everything Twice (who only appears as a corpse), and Nately's Whore's Kid Sister.
  • The Film of the Book
  • Flipping the Bird: When Colonel Cathcart attempts to give the pilots a Rousing Speech, at the end, he gives them all a thumbs up signal. All of them reciprocate except for Yossarian, who flips him the bird.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • Early in the film Colonel Cathcart and Milo are having a conversation near the airfield while a B-25 crash-lands behind them, then explodes into flame. Neither character notices.
    • When Major Major is talking to Sgt. Towser in his office, he paces back and forth, and a picture on the office wall pops in and out of frame. As it does so, it repeatedly changes from a portrait of Roosevelt to Churchill and finally Stalin.
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  • Half the Man He Used to Be: The fate of Hungry Joe.
  • Hitler Cam: Used on Milo Minderbinder when the Syndicate takes over a good chunk of Rome.
  • How We Got Here: The movie opens with Col. Cathcart and Col. Korn offering their deal to Yossarian (though we don't hear it due to the noise of the planes), and Yossarian getting stabbed. Near the end, we return to that scene.
  • Ironic Echo Cut: A scene features Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn, having had enough of Yossarian's troublemaking, ending a meeting with a vow to (metaphorically) "kick him in the balls!" Cut to Yossarian getting literally kneed in the groin by a nurse he'd gotten a little too overly friendly with.
  • Just Plane Wrong: Averted. The aircraft used were genuine WWII era B-25 Mitchells, and the filming saved them from scrapping. Most of them are still either flying as warbirds, or are in various aviation museums.
  • Male Gaze: The camera focus when Yossarian is chasing Luciana down the streets of Rome (set to "Thus Spoke Zarathustra").
  • Ms. Fanservice: General Dreedle's secretary/girlfriend. Heavily lampshaded in the movie because her mere presence distracts the entire squadron from paying attention to the mission briefing.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: The scene of Yossarian trying to treat Snowden in the plane after he's been wounded is repeated a few times until the last time shows the full extent of his injuries.
    • Also done with the beginning scene (see How We Got Here above), where we see Col. Cathcart and Col. Korn offering a deal to Yossarian. Near the end, the scene is expanded, so that we've seen what led them to offer that deal to Yossarian (and we can hear the dialogue over the noise of the planes). We also can tell who exactly stabs Yossarian In the Back at the end of the scene - Nately's whore.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Many of the characters and incidents from the novel are left out of the film.
  • Vindicated by History: The film was a box office failure, but has since become a cult film.

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