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Catch-22 (1970)

18 years after the novel was published, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 – a black comedy set in wartime Italy – hit the big screen. At one point, it looked as though it would be filmed by Stanley Kubrick, but the man at the helm of the $10 million Paramount production was Mike Nichols.

Alan Arkin headed a starry cast as Captain Yossarian, the pacifist American Army Air Corps bomber pilot trapped in the coils of military double-think contained in the title and personified by Orson Welles’ monstrous General Dreedle.


The ‘catch-22’ of the title refers to a military snafu whereby Yossarian attempts to get out of the military by feigning insanity – however, completing the required paperwork for this proves him sane.

No matter how crazy Yossarian behaves, the Army Air Corps is crazier.

His superior officers are buffoons and his peers are maniacs, especially Milo Minderbinder (Jon Voight), a wheeler-dealer who soon has the entire war effort working for his personal profit.

Shot at a cost of $18 million – with Mexico substituting for the Mediterranean – the film is mounted on a grand scale with at least a dozen B-25 planes enlisted to provide an appropriately grandiose bombing campaign.

The picture represented a considerable technical triumph for Nichols, but he was only intermittently successful in transferring Heller’s bleakly surreal vision to the screen.

David Watkin’s camerawork is brilliant, capturing the feel of the bright sunlight of the location. Second Unit Director John Jordan refused to wear a harness during a bomber scene. While giving a hand signal to another plane from the tail gunner position in the camera plane, he lost his grip and fell 4000 feet to his death.

catch22_4Captain Yossarian
Alan Arkin
Colonel Cathcart
Martin Balsam
Major Danby
Richard Benjamin
Captain Nately
Art Garfunkel
Doc Daneeka
Jack Gilford
Lieutenant Colonel Korn
Buck Henry
Major Major
Bob Newhart
Chaplain Tappman
Anthony Perkins
Nurse Duckett
Paula Prentiss
Lieutenant Dobbs
Martin Sheen
Milo Minderbinder
Jon Voight
General Dreedle
Orson Welles
Captain Orr
Bob Balaban
Olimpia Carlisi
Sergeant Towser
Norman Fell
Aarfy Aardvark
Charles Grodin
Colonel Moodus
Austin Pendleton
Captain McWatt
Peter Bonerz
General Dreedle’s WAC
Susanne Benton

Mike Nichols