Catch-22 is a 1970 American black comedy war film adapted from the
novel of the same name by Joseph Heller. In creating a black comedy
revolving around the "lunatic characters" of Heller's satirical
anti-war novel set at a fictional
World War II
World War II Mediterranean base,
Mike Nichols and screenwriter
Buck Henry (also in the cast)
worked on the film script for two years, converting Heller's complex
novel to the medium of film.
The cast included Alan Arkin, Bob Balaban, Martin Balsam, Richard
Benjamin, Italian actress Olimpia Carlisi, French comedian Marcel
Art Garfunkel (his acting debut), Jack Gilford, Charles Grodin,
Bob Newhart, Anthony Perkins, Paula Prentiss, Martin Sheen, Jon
Voight, and Orson Welles.
3.3 Death on the set
5 Adaptations in other media
6 In popular culture
8 See also
10 External links
Yossarian (Alan Arkin), a U.S. Army Air Force B-25 bombardier,
is stationed on the Mediterranean base on
Pianosa during World War II.
Along with his squadron members,
Yossarian is committed to flying
dangerous missions, and after watching friends die, he seeks a means
Futilely appealing to his commanding officer,
Colonel Cathcart (Martin
Balsam), who continually increases the number of missions required to
rotate home before anyone can reach it,
Yossarian learns that even a
mental breakdown is no release when
Doc Daneeka (Jack Gilford)
explains the "Catch-22" the Army Air Corps employs. As explained, an
airman "would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but
if he was sane he'd have to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and
didn't have to; but if he didn't, he was sane and had to." Another
strange "catch" in the movie involves Major Major (Bob Newhart) who
had recently gotten promoted by Brigadier General Dreedle, who didn't
like the look of the name "Capt. Major" on the roll call. Capt. Major
was promoted to Major Major and put in charge of a squadron, but Major
didn't want to be bothered, so he told First Sgt. Towser (Norman Fell)
that if someone wanted to talk to Major Major, the person had to wait
in the waiting room until office hours were over, unless Major wasn't
in his office. Then the visitor could go right in, but Major wouldn't
Trapped by this convoluted logic,
Yossarian watches as individuals in
the squadron resort to unusual means to cope; Lt. Milo Minderbinder
(Jon Voight) concocts elaborate black market schemes while crazed
Captain "Aarfy" Aardvark (Charles Grodin) commits murder to silence a
girl he raped. Lieutenant
Nately (Art Garfunkel) falls for a
prostitute, Major Danby (Richard Benjamin) delivers goofy pep talks
before every bomb run and Captain Orr (Bob Balaban) keeps crashing at
sea. Meanwhile, Nurse Duckett (Paula Prentiss) occasionally beds
Yossarian survives an attempt on his life when an unknown assailant
stabs him (in the novel it was "Nately's whore," and in the director's
commentary Nichols says he regrets not making this clear in the film):
the murder attempt is shown in the film's start and ending. Once
Yossarian sets out to sea in a raft, paddling to Sweden,
after he learns from the Chaplain and Major Danby that it is now the
refuge for Captain Orr, whose repeated 'crash' landings had been a
subterfuge for practicing and planning his own escape from the
Further information: List of
Main cast (as appearing in screen credits):
Alan Arkin as Captain John
Bob Balaban as Captain Orr (Bomber Pilot)
Martin Balsam as
Colonel Cathcart (Group Commander, 256th Bomb Group)
Buck Henry as Lt. Colonel Korn (Group XO / Roman policeman)
Richard Benjamin as Major Danby (Group Operations Officer)
Susanne Benton as Dreedle's WAC
Marcel Dalio as Old Man in Whorehouse
Norman Fell as First Sgt. Towser (Major Major's Desk Clerk, later
Acting Squadron Commander)
Art Garfunkel (billed Arthur Garfunkel) as Lt.
Jack Gilford as Dr. "Doc" Daneeka (Group Flight Surgeon)
Charles Grodin as Captain "Aarfy" Aardvark (Navigator)
Bob Newhart as Captain/Major Major (Laundry Officer, later Squadron
Austin Pendleton as Lt. Col. Moodus
Anthony Perkins as Capt. Fr. A. T. Tappman (Chaplain)
Paula Prentiss as Nurse Duckett (Army Medical Nurse Corps)
Martin Sheen as 1st Lt. Dobbs (Pilot)
Jon Voight as 1st Lt.
Milo Minderbinder (Mess Officer)
Orson Welles as Brigadier General Dreedle (Wing Commander)
The adaptation changed the book's plot. Several story arcs are left
out, and many characters in the movie speak dialogue and experience
events of other characters in the book. Despite the changes in the
screenplay, Heller approved of the film, according to a commentary by
Steven Soderbergh included on a
DVD release. According
to Nichols, Heller was particularly impressed with a few scenes and
bits of dialogue Henry created for the film, and said he wished he
could have included them in the novel.
The pacing of the novel
Catch-22 is frenetic, its tenor intellectual,
and its tone largely absurdist, interspersed with brief moments of
gritty, almost horrific, realism. The novel did not follow a normal
chronological progression; rather, it was told as a series of
different and often (seemingly, until later) unrelated events, most
from the point of view of the central character Yossarian. The film
simplified the plot to largely follow events in chronological order,
with only one event shown in Yossarian's flashbacks.
In a long, continuous shot, in the scene where Captain Major accepts
his rank as Major, becoming Major Major Major Major, the portrait in
his office inexplicably changes from President Roosevelt, to Prime
Minister Churchill, then to Premier Stalin.
B-25 from the movie Catch 22.
B-25 Mitchell aircraft in Catch-22
Paramount assigned a $17 million budget to the production and planned
to film key flying scenes for six weeks, but the aerial sequences
required six months of camera work, resulting in the bombers flying
about 1,500 hours. They appear on screen for approximately 10
Catch-22 is renowned for its role in saving the
B-25 Mitchell aircraft
from possible extinction. The film's budget accommodated 17
flyable B-25 Mitchells, and one hulk was acquired in Mexico, and flown
with landing gear down to the Guaymas, Sonora,
location. The aircraft was burned and destroyed in the crash
landing scene. The wreck was then buried in the ground by the runway,
where it remains.
For the film, prop upper turrets were installed, and to represent
different models, several aircraft had turrets installed behind the
wings representing early (B-25C/D type) aircraft. Initially, the
camera ships also had mock turrets installed, but problems with
buffeting necessitated their removal.
Many of the "Tallmantz Air Force fleet" went on to careers in films
and television, before being sold as surplus. Fifteen of the 18
bombers remain intact, including one displayed at the Smithsonian
Institution's National Air and Space Museum.
Death on the set
Second Unit Director John Jordan refused to wear a harness during a
bomber scene and fell out of the open tail turret 4,000 ft
(1,200 m) to his death.
Catch-22 was not regarded as a great success with the contemporary
public or critics, earning less money and acclaim than MASH, another
war-themed black comedy from the same year. In addition, the film
appeared as Americans were becoming resentful of the bitter and ugly
experience of the Vietnam War, leading to a general declined interest
in war movies, with the notable exceptions of MASH and Patton.
Critic Lucia Bozzola wrote "Paramount spent a great deal of money on
Catch-22, but it wound up getting trumped by another 1970 antiwar
farce: Robert Altman's MASH." Film historians and reviewers Jack
Harwick and Ed Schnepf characterized it as deeply flawed, noting that
Henry's screenplay was disjointed and that the only redeeming features
were the limited aerial sequences. Despite the film's commercial
and critical failures, it was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best
Cinematography and retained a cult following. A modern reassessment
has made the film a "cult" favorite; it presently holds an 85% "Fresh"
Rotten Tomatoes based on 26 reviews.
Adaptations in other media
A pilot episode for a
Catch-22 series was aired on CBS in 1973, with
Richard Dreyfuss in the Captain
There have been other films with "Catch-22" in their names, including
Catch-22 (2007) and the short films Catch 22: The New
Contract (2009) and Catch22 (2010), but they have been unrelated to
either the book or film adaptation.
In popular culture
The anti-war song “Survivor Guilt” by punk rock band Rise Against
features samples of dialog from the movie at, specifically, the
Nately and the old man about the fall of great
countries and potential fall of the USA, and their argument about the
phrase “It’s better to live on your feet than die on your
knees.” The same excerpts from the film were previously used by lead
singer Tim McIlrath, in the song, "Burden" with his former band,
Catch-22 was re-released to
DVD by Paramount Home Video on May 21,
2013: a previous version was released on May 11, 2004.
List of American films of 1970
^ Most of the aerial footage was unused due to a directorial conflict
between Nichols and Tallman, head of the Air Operations and Aerial
^ "Catch-22, Box Office Information." The Numbers. Retrieved: May 23,
^ a b Canby, Vincent. "
Catch-22 (1970) Movie Review." The New York
Times, June 25, 1970.
^ a b Tallman 2008, p. 15 (Editor's Note).
^ Nichols and Soderbergh 2001
^ McCarthy, Todd. "
Catch-22 (Review)." Variety, December 31, 1969.
^ Evans 2000, p. 38.
^ "Trivia." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: November 20, 2011.
^ a b Orriss 1984, p. 189.
^ a b Farmer 1972, p. 59.
^ Farmer 1972, pp. 20–21.
^ Thompson 1980, p. 75.
^ Farmer 1972, p. 23.
^ Farmer 1972, pp. 58–59.
National Air and Space Museum
National Air and Space Museum Collections Database." Smithsonian
Institution, National Air and Space Museum. Retrieved: April 16, 2008.
^ Conant, Richard. "The 70's movies Rewind." 70s.fast-rewind.com.
Retrieved: June 27, 2009.
^ Bozzola, Lucia. "
Catch-22 (overview)." The New York Times.
Retrieved: April 15, 2008.
^ Harwick and Schnepf 1989, p. 62.
^ "Catch 22 (1973)." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: November 20,
^ "Catch-22." IMDb. Retrieved: November 20, 2011.
^ "Reviews: "
File under: Rejuvenated political punk (from Rise Against
Endgame)." Archived March 17, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
altpress.com, March 15, 2011. Retrieved: May 22, 2012.
Bennighof, James.The Words and Music of Paul Simon. Portsmouth, New
Hampshire: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007.
Evans, Alun. Brassey's Guide to War Films. Dulles, Virginia: Potomac
Books, 2000. ISBN 1-57488-263-5.
Farmer, James H. "The
Catch-22 Air Force." Air Classics, Volume 8, No.
14, December 1972.
Harwick, Jack and Ed Schnepf. "A Viewer's Guide to Aviation Movies".
The Making of the Great Aviation Films, General Aviation Series,
Volume 2, 1989.
Nichols, Mike and Steven Soderbergh. "Commentary."
Special Features). Los Angeles:
Paramount Pictures Home
Orriss, Bruce. When Hollywood Ruled the Skies: The Aviation Film
Classics of World War II. Hawthorne, California: Aero Associates Inc.,
1984. ISBN 0-9613088-0-X.
Tallman, Frank. "The Making of Catch-22." Warbirds International, Vol.
27, no. 4, May/June 2008.
Thompson, Scott A. "Hollywood Mitchells." Air Classics, Vol. 16, No.
9, September 1980.
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