DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


George Roy Hill
Michael Sacks, Ron Leibman, Eugene Roche
Writing Credits:
Stephen Geller

A man named Billy Pilgrim tells the story of how he became unstuck in time and was abducted by aliens.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English LPCM 1.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 103 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 12/3/2019

• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Troy Howarth
• “And So It Goes” Featurette
• “Pilgrim’s Progress” Featurette
• “Only On Earth” Featurette
• “Unstuck In Time” Featurette
• “Eternally Connected” Featurette
• Trailer


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Slaughterhouse-Five [Blu-Ray] (1972)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 8, 2020)

Based on Kurt Vonnegut’s 1969 novel, 1972’s Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to a young man named Billy Pilgrim (Michael Sacks). Billy finds himself “unstuck in time”.

This means that Billy seems to reside in no particular temporal location. Instead, he flits among a mix of years/eras.

In particular, Billy lands in three different periods. He visits his time as a chaplain’s assistant/POW in World War II, and he goes to his post-war life as a married optometrist.

More bizarrely, the third spot lands Billy as a prisoner on the planet Tralfamadore, where he resides as a “zoo animal” along with his dog Spot and Hollywood starlet Montana Wildhack (Valerie Perrine). Billy attempts to sort out these domains and shed his “unstuck” status.

Movies with non-linear structures can become a tough sell in the best of circumstances, and the set-up of Five creates an even greater challenge. We don’t simply flash back or forward to events – we follow a character who relives them.

And a character who finds himself on a foreign planet, to boot! Unquestionably, that element gives Five its biggest twist, though the whole thing comes with an offbeat narrative style.

I have to suspect this framework and story worked better as a novel than as a film. Though Vonnegut’s book ran under 300 pages, it still feels like the movie bites off more than it can chew in 103 minutes.

I do appreciate the lack of spoon-feeding on display. Naturally, the viewer might assume that Billy’s “unstuck” status really represents mental illness, not the ability to travel through time.

And maybe it does – the movie doesn’t state firmly either direction. I think it pushes us toward a more literal view of Billy’s “unstuck” nature, as he seems to know the future at times, but we still get a story that can go either way.

Perhaps those scenes work better in the novel, but the Tralfamadore segments feel nearly superfluous here. The film spends the least amount of time in that setting, and the sequences fail to integrate well. They feel tacked on and lack much obvious purpose.

They also threaten to become silly in a way the rest of the movie doesn’t. Again, it’s possible the alien scenes succeed in the novel, but as part of the movie, they don’t really score.

The rest of Five works better, though even there, the whole “bites off more than it can chew” issue I mentioned becomes a problem. Five offers an ambitious narrative that doesn’t slot into a 103-minute movie with ease, and the movie can’t quite synch the different segments in a satisfying manner.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that the WWII scenes become easily the movie’s most interesting, so the rest lacks much punch. We rush through aspects of Billy’s post-war life and don’t really invest in him.

It doesn’t help that the film fails to explore Billy especially well. It leaves him as a cipher much of the time, a choice that seems intentional but not one that satisfies.

Put simply, we don’t really get to know Billy so we don’t care about his journey. Instead, we feel like we find ourselves in a series of life events that fail to muster much impact.

Sacks also doesn’t seem up to the task of headlining a movie. He comes across as an ineffective presence, some of which suits the character, but it still becomes tough to invest in a story that revolves around such a flat character and lead performance.

I want to like Five, as it comes with real ambition. However, it seems too unfocused and unsure of itself to succeed.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Slaughterhouse-Five appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a more than watchable image.

For the most part, sharpness appeared fine. While the movie lacked terrific delineation, it usually seemed pretty accurate, and only a few moderately soft shots materialized.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no intrusive edge haloes. Print flaws remained absent, and grain felt natural.

Colors tended toward a bit of a brown bias, but more vivid tones emerged as well. These gave the hues a fair amount of pep and range.

Blacks were fairly deep and dense, while low-light shots boasted reasonable clarity. Nothing here impressed, but the result appeared pretty good for the movie’s age.

The flick’s LPCM monaural soundtrack also showed the restrictions related to the movie’s vintage, but it still worked fine. Speech usually seemed fairly natural, though the lines occasionally became a bit reedy.

Effects failed to present much life, but they lacked problematic distortion. While the music didn’t boast great vivacity, the score and songs still showed decent pep. This was an acceptable soundtrack for an older movie.

When we shift to extras, we begin with an audio commentary from film historian Troy Howarth. He provides a running, screen-specific look at the source and its adaptation, cast and performances, story and characters, sets and locations, and other filmmaking domains.

Prior commentaries from Howarth worked well, and this one follows suit. He proves informative and engaging in this briskly-paced and well-researched track.

Video programs follow. And So It Goes spans 21 minutes, five seconds and brings a “video appreciation” from film historian Kim Newman.

Here we learn about director George Roy Hill’s career, other works/adaptations from author Kurt Vonnegut, and aspects of Five. Newman tends to flit all over the place in this semi-disjointed chat, but he manages some useful notes.

Pilgrim’s Progress lasts 14 minutes, seven seconds and provides an interview with actor Perry King. He covers his career and his work in Five during this reasonably engaging reel.

Next comes Only On Earth, an eight-minute, 41-second chat with executive producer Jennings Lang’s son Rocky. He looks at his dad’s career and elements connected to Five. This winds up as a useful piece.

Unstuck In Time involves behind the scenes filmmaker/producer Robert Crawford, Jr., and spans 14 minutes, 38 seconds. He talks about the property’s path to the screen, casting, and experiences during the production, with an emphasis on the footage he filmed during the shoot. Crawford offers a good collection of memories.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we finish with Eternally Connected. It goes for 11 minutes, 36 seconds and involves film music historian Daniel Schweiger.

As expected, “Connected” looks at the movie’s use of music. It gives us a tight, effective view of the subject matter.

Apparently Slaughterhouse-Five became known as an “unfilmable novel”, but they tried anyway – and proved the initial point to be correct. Though occasionally interesting, the movie fails to cohere and become a compelling journey. The Blu-ray brings generally positive picture and audio along with a fairly useful roster of bonus materials. A mini-series version of this story might succeed, but 103 minutes seems like too little time to really explore the novel’s territory.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Main