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Catch 22 "Catch 22" on DVD

WWII Satire

Mike Nichols' "Catch 22" is an antiwar comedy that follows a bizarre group of US Army Airmen stationed in Italy near the end of World War II.

The hero is Yossarian (Alan Arkin), a B-25 bombardier who wants out. He has flown the requisite number of missions but can't go home because his commanding officer keeps raising the number of missions required.

To make matters worse, when he tries to get himself grounded, he runs into the now-famous Catch 22. You see, he wants to be grounded on the grounds that his wartime action has made him crazy, yet by asking to be grounded because he doesn't want to fly any more clearly show that he isn't crazy - so he has to keep flying.

This absurd catch is but one of the film's absurdities as parachutes are traded by Milo Minderbender's commercial syndicate (leaving a share in the syndicate in their place, to be discovered by airmen when they try to don their chutes), medals are given for failure, etc.

Catch 22 features an all star cast put into absurd situations, yet if this is a comedy there aren't too many laughs. It's more of a statement on the absurdity of war, a typical Vietnam-era response made by people who undoubtedly never had to fight for anything. Still, it has many good moments, and some spectacular bits of moviemaking.

Fans of WWII airplanes will also enjoy the marvelous collection of North American B-25 bombers the production assembled for the film. Today they'd just do it with models and digital effects and, while some of the shots use special effects, there are enough of the real planes on screen to keep aviation nuts very, very happy.

This reviewer first saw Catch-22 on its initial theatrical release and hated it. Revisiting it some thirty years later he found it a much more enjoyable film than it seemed 'way back then. So, at the very least, it's well worth a look.

The DVD is in anamorphic widescreen video, 16x9 compatible, and the audio has been remixed into Dolby Digital 5.1 (mono is also included). Audio quality is very good, though there's some distortion during particularly loud sequences. The picture looks very good, though, with fine color and good resolution.

Paramount has included more extras than usual on this disc, and that's great. You get a running commentary from director Mike Nichols and filmmake Steven Soderbergh and a photo gallery, as well as the usual theatrical trailer.

Catch 22, from Paramount Home Video
121 min, widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Alan Arkin, Martin Balsam, Richard Benjamin, Arthur Garfunkel, Jack Gilford, Buck Henry, Bob Newhart, Anthony Perkins, Paula Prentiss, Martin Sheen, Jon Voight, Orson Welles
Produced by John Calley and Martin Ransohoff
Written by Buck Henry, Directed by Mike Nichols


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Updated May 13, 2006