Will Johnny ever get a DVD release?

Before I was making video essays based on footage from films in my project (starting with this one and progressing in complexity over several entries to this most recent one), I was posting unadorned clips from the films online. One phenomenon I haven’t commented on, until now, is that this site seems to get an equal amount of feedback comments on the YouTube pages for the various clips I’ve posted for this project. You don’t see them on this blog because the clips are embedded, but if you visit their respective YouTube pages you can find what are often abundant pithy messages from random viewers. You also can see the number of views for each clip, from the popular essay I produced on Inferno (1,420 views) to the poor, neglected analysis on The Saragossa Manuscript (93 views).

But far and away the TSPDT-related clips that I have posted that have received both the most views and the most comments are three excerpts I posted from the Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun. One clip has 11,000 views!  Most of the comments are clearly from middle school kids (some with dubious spelling ability) but they clearly express the impact that watch the clips has on them. ” so fucked up… omg…. im crying rite now… no joke.” “POST THE WHOLE VIDEO NOW. PLEASE.”

Quite a few of them were already aware of these clips from having seen the video of Metallica’s “One”, which liberally includes footage from Trumbo’s film — as I had mentioned in my entry on the film, Metallica had purchased the rights to the movie so that they could use it for their video.  It is unfortunate then that they have not seen it fit to give the film a proper DVD release (I had seen the film on VHS, which is where I extracted the clips to post on YouTube), especially given its relevance to our current military involvement in Iraq and elsewhere, with young men and women losing life and limb daily. The contemporary relevance of the film is not lost on a number of these anonymous viewers, a number of whom allude to having read the book in their high school classes (one mentioned that the teacher showed the Metallica video in class as a substitute for not having the Trumbo film available!)

Recently I was invited by someone to sign an online petition calling for a proper video release of Johnny Got His Gun.  Sadly as of now the petition has fewer than 50 signatures.  I’m not even sure what would be done with the petition if it received an overwhelmingly positive response.  I traced the petition to a Mikey Diablo who can be found on his MySpace page, A Verbal Bloodletting, dedicated to all things related to horror.  When I asked him about the petition, he re-confirmed that Metallica has the US rights, and bemoaned their lack of initiative for not releasing the film given its contemporaneity.  He did mention the existence of both a Region 2 UK and Region 0 Canadian DVD, though by doing an Amazon search I have only found the former, and it is out of print.

I’m curious if anyone out there has also seen this film.  Reading the firsthand accounts of its impact on young viewers on YouTube, I’m pretty much convinced that this film has more of a potential audience than ever, and needs to be brought back into the limelight.  But it seems that the film is currently languishing in a fate similar to its protagonist, in a land of silence and darkness.

If anyone has any ideas on how to convince Metallica to release the film, I’m all ears.

Author: alsolikelife

This is my pet project

  • http://www.panix.com/~sallitt Dan

    I haven’t seen the film, but I remember Truffaut once putting it on his list of the ten best American films of the 1968-1977 period.

  • Chris

    I saw the film a few years back and found it to be fairly potent. I agree with what Leonard Maltin’s blurb says in his reference book (although I think ** out of **** is a bit harsh) – that the films direction and acting seems too amateurish at times; but the message is strong and very relevant to what’s going on in our world today.

  • alsolikelife

    Dan – that’s interesting about Truffaut. For some reason the look of the film makes me think of Fahrenheit 451.

    Chris how did you get to see it? I saw it on an old out of print VHS from the library.

  • Griff

    Whatever Metallica decides to do, I hope they’ll restore and preserve the original version of the film. When I finally acquired the (long out-of-print) laserdisc of JOHNNY, I was dismayed to find the version on the disc was a washed-out tv print of the film.

  • http://hellonfriscobay.blogspot.com Brian

    Hmmmm… I used to work with someone who knows Kirk Hammett. I don’t know how well. Perhaps I should ask her for suggestions on reaching them?

  • alsolikelife

    Yeah, contacting Kirk couldn’t hurt – he always struck me as the nicest of those four guys.

    Well according to comments below one of the YouTube clips I uploaded, there is plans for a remake of the film, starring Benjamin Mackenzie from The OC

    IMDb has a page on the remake: http://imdb.com/title/tt1078582/

    but oddly there is no director listed.

  • http://s12.invisionfree.com/CFB/ Derek Vincent

    Don’t know if you know this story…

    ‘Back in Mexico City for Christmas, Buñuel visited his plush Camino al Desierto offices to hear about new schemes. The first, and most attractive, was “Johnny Got His Gun”, from the novel by blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo. A ferocious attack on militarism, “Johnny Got His Gun” shows an American boy turned into a deaf, dumb, blind and lifeless trunk by war. Interested, Luis got together with Trumbo who, in April 1964, presented him with a copy of the book inscribed ‘For Luis Buñuel-who is going to bring this book to life. I thank him in advance. With Deep respect.’

    They worked on the script for a few months, Buñuel mostly talking and Trumbo taking notes. Since a good deal of drinking took place, the notes sometimes rambled, and work turned into something more convivial. (Buñuel’s son) Juan Luis remembers Trumbo in his cups expressing admiration for Jeanne’s parrot, a vicious bird that only she could handle. ‘Dalton said: “I love birds. Let me have him.” My mother warned him, but he put out his hand, and the parrot jumped on it and bit it to the bone. He was so drunk he hardly noticed. He lifted the bird to his mouth and tried to kiss it, and the bird sank his beak into his lip, twice. There was blood everywhere, but Dalton didn’t care. My nother got it away from him. The last thing I remember seeing is dalton waving from the back of a taxi, drunk, with blood down his chin and all over his shirt.” – ‘Buñuel’ by John Baxter

    Trumbo shot the script that he and Don Luis wrote together…but didn’t give Buñuel credit.

    Despite Trumbo’s snubbing of Buñuel, I love the film. It is one of my stores few VHS films I have refused to selloff.


  • alsolikelife

    That’s a wonderful anecdote. Wonder why Trumbo did not credit Bunuel. There’s something kind of Bunuelian about the mise-en-scene in the film – a plain-spoken brand of surrealism, though it has many more sentimental moments than anything seen in Bunuel’s films.

    Met up with our old friends Addison and spinninginvertigo this past weekend in LA. Hope we can do the same with spinning in Toronto in a couple of weeks.

  • http://s12.invisionfree.com/CFB/ Derek Vincent

    Well…you do know that spinninginvertigo and his bf are staying at my house, don’t you?

    When will you and the gf be arriving? I’m trying to set up something so that you and spinning can meet all the Toronto CFBers.

    Leave me a pm on the CFB if you like.


    P.S. – My staff member Simon has a plumb spot at this year’s festival for his latest short film. It’s going to play before the first feature film that “Vice Magazine” produced, HEAVY METAL IN BAGHDAD

  • http://filmwalrus.blogspot.com/ Brian Vacek

    Great film that really does deserve a DVD release (I just went and signed the petition for what its worth). I especially enjoyed Sutherland’s Jesus figure. It is one of the most depressing films I’ve seen, but also one of the most important and moving. It is a shame that Bottoms isn’t quite strong enough to shoulder the role, especially with regards to his somewhat shaky narration.

    And P.S., I’m sorry to hear about the lack of love for your Saragossa Manuscript essay. I’ve written about it myself and wish more people could be drawn into its delightfully elaborate web.

  • alsolikelife

    Hi Brian – how did you manage to see it? Sure glad that you did.

    I’ve subscribed to your blog (now I just need time to read it). Thanks for visiting.

  • http://www.JohnnyGotHisGuntheMovie Shane


    Th new version of the book is NOT a remake of the original Trumbo film but rather a filmed version of the one-person 1982 Off-Broadway stage version which won (a then 29 yr. old) Jeff Daniels an Obie Award. Ben McKenzie (the O.C., Junebug & 88 Minutes) stars in the new movie coming to arthouses this fall (prior to the presidential election.)

  • Mike


    I have seen this film, in fact I have a copy in my VHS library. I strongly hope Metallica will release this for public consumption on DVD, until then everyone (who still has a VCR that is) get this on VHS and watch it, then invite your freinds and watch it again.

  • http://www.breastpumpdeals.com/medela-freestyle-breast-pump.html freestyles

    I really can't answer this question, however, Like Johnny's work!


  • http://www.acnetreatmentsite.com goldsmith011

    No idea about this. So, no comments!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/narinder.soorma Narinder Singh

    from the popular essay I produced on Inferno (1,420 views) to the poor, neglected analysis on The Saragossa Manuscript (93 views).