Poor Billy Pilgrim (Michael Sacks), while just livin’ his life as a middle-aged optometrist, he keeps coming “unstuck” in time. One second he’s in the trenches of World War II, the next he’s on exhibit in a fancy zoo on the planet Tralfamadore, kicking it with sexy-ass Hollywood starlet Montana Wildhack (Valerie Perrine). That last one is pretty damn awesome, but unfortunately he must also cool his jets in a German POW camp in Dresden (the eponymous Slaughterhouse Five), or fight for his life after barely surviving a plane crash… all in any order the time stream feels is necessary. Will our hero find a happy end or just keep fast forwarding and rewinding his life’s events until he expires?
Slaughterhouse-Five is one hell of a crazy ride cats n’ creeps! We get time travel, nazis, aliens, nudity… you know, the big ticket items, but things are never presented in a manner other than melancholy, introspective, and often blackly humorous. This shit is full of questions about what it is to be human and follow the path destiny or fate has given us, and even if we could go back and forth, we simply can’t change what life has in store for us… and never gets over-the-top comic style crazy no matter how outlandish the conceits of the plot may be.
Of course the material (which was adapted from the incredible novel by the great Kurt Vonnegut Jr. if ya didn’t know… ) is only as good as the actors that bring the words to life, and we are fortunate to have some fantastic performances on display here let me tell ya! Sacks plays the role of hapless cipher to perfection (and believable no matter the age he is portraying), and Perrine is great as the sexpot starlet/New Age guru that becomes our hero’s greatest love.
The co-stars are nothing to sneeze at with Ron Leibman playing a severely psychotic soldier imprisoned with Pilgrim in World War II leading the pack as far as riveting performances go. Credit should also be given to Perry King (from that Riptide program the kids are so wild about these days) who plays Billy’s son Robert who goes from fap-happy teen to counter-culture rebel (take that you graveyard; you too of ‘the man’), to clean-cut soldier… it’s a dramatically different performance at every turn, and King nails it!
Adding to the grounding of the fantastic; director George Roy Hill presents the proceedings in a rather straightforward way (minus those killer matte paintings utilized in the realization of Tralfamadore). The whole affair presents an epic sense of world building that is kept well within the realm of the either real, or a believable approximation thereof, that makes us just accept the more fanciful elements of Billy’s narrative.
As for extras on this Blu-ray release from Arrow Video, we kick things off with a new audio commentary featuring critic Troy Howarth, which gives us a factoid packed examination of the film and it’s production. Following that we get a new appreciation of the film courtesy of author Kim Newman presented in his normal informed and highly engaging manner!
Next we get interviews with King, Rocky Lang (the son of the film’s executive producer) discussing the pic’s distro, behind-the-scenes filmmaker/production assistant Robert Crawford Jr., a discussion of the film’s score by music historian Daniel Schweiger, and the flick’s theatrical trailer.
With it’s realistic tone contrasted against elements of time travel and alien abduction, Slaughterhouse-Five is one hell of a sci-fi fantasy, while at the same time being an evocative examination of the human condition… a true cult film masterpiece for those of you that dig on high concept all swirled into your pulp sci-fi adventure!