The Brilliant Black Comedy “Catch-22!” A Neglected Movie Masterpiece!

It’s “Forgotten Movie Monday”! Time to rediscover a classic slice of cinema!

Catch-22 iconic poster

The phrase “Catch-22” is probably one of the most iconic in history, but do you know what it means?

“That’s some catch that catch-22.”
“One of the best!”

Well, we are about to explore the origin of the phrase, and also re-discover one of the most neglected films of the 1970’s…

neglected films

“Catch -22” was a massive bestselling novel, turned into the blackest of black comedies by one of the film’s greatest Directors. It was also one of the biggest flops of the 70’s! Yes, the cult novel turned literary sensation was a massive box office disaster upon release – and it is a brilliant black comedy action war movie, from one of the greatest novels ever written…time to rediscover a classic movie:

Catch-22 movie


Talk about a catch: a film based on one of the world’s most acclaimed anti-war novels, released at the height of the country’s anti-war movement over Vietnam, and it was directed by the hottest movie Director working at the time, with an all-star cast…

catch-22 book

Maj. Major Major Major: Is something wrong?
Tappman: No, no. I . . . just thought I saw something.
Maj. Major Major Major: A naked man in a tree?
Tappman: Yes, that’s it.
Danby: [looking through binoculars] That’s just Yossarian.

Catch-22 naked in a tree

As you can see, Yossarian was no fan of World War 2 – and he wanted OUT.

In 1970, on the heels of the success of “MASH”, anti-war statements were the rage. So acclaimed Director Mike Nichols took on one of the most celebrated novels of our time.

Here is the unique trailer from 1970, which shows the scene that explains exactly what “Catch-22” is:


“Catch-22” tells the story of Yossarian, a WW2 bomber pilot who desperately wants to stop flying. But there’s a catch…

Yossarian: “Let me see if I’ve got this straight: in order to be grounded, I’ve got to be crazy and I must be crazy to keep flying. But if I ask to be grounded, that means I’m not crazy any more and I have to keep flying.”

Crazy pilots were grounded. But “Catch-22” required the pilots to request being grounded. But if they made the request, they were no longer crazy, so they had to keep flying…as I said:

“That’s Some Catch, That Catch-22!”


This movie had it all: Director Mike Nichols was coming off his Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Director for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff” and his Oscar win for directing “The Graduate.” Here is the director on the set of “Catch-22” with Orson Welles…


Nichols was the hottest Director in film at the time, and his movies captured perfectly the changing culture in America, and so, with “CAtch-22” he was determined to capture the madness of war…


The novel was one of the most acclaimed works of fiction of the 60’s – a scathing anti-war book at a time when the country was divided over our involvement in Vietnam…

anti-war book catch-22 book

Robert Altman’s masterpiece “MASH” had been released to critical and commercial acclaim, and it seemed the country was ready for another anti-war film…with an all-star cast…

catch-22 cast

Look At This Cast!

Nichols took this acclaimed novel and created a darkly comic look at war, and populated it with a “who’s who” of the time. Look at the stars who lined up to be in the film:

Alan Arkin Catch-22

The cast included Alan Arkin, Bob Newhart, Richard Benjamin, Charles Grodin, Jon Voight, Art Garfunkel, Bob Balaban, Anthony Perkins, Martin Sheen and legendary Director Orson Welles:

Orson Welles Catch-22

– that’s right, ORSON WELLES, here being interviewed by Director Peter Bogdanovich on-set while Candace Bergen takes a photo – it was the biggest, loudest, most star-studded movie of it’s time!


The Simon & Garfunkel Rift!

Here is great trivia, courtesy of IMDB: “Since shooting took longer than planned, Art Garfunkel wasn’t able to make it back to New York in time to start writing and recording the Simon & Garfunkel album “Bridge Over Troubled Water”!

Simon and Garfunkel rift

Angered by the delay, Paul Simon wrote the track “The Only Living Boy in New York” about the incident. The lyrics

“Tom, get your plane right on time / I know your part’ll go fine / Fly down to Mexico”

were a thinly veiled attack aimed at Garfunkel (who was “Tom” of Simon & Garfunkel’s earlier incarnation, Tom & Jerry), leaving Simon alone in New York to write the bulk of the album himself.”

all-star Catch-22 cast

Jon Voight as Milo Minderbinder!

One of the best parts of the book and film involves 1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder, who is obsessed with making money from the war. Here, Minderbinder, played by Jon Voight, tries to explain to Alan Arkin that a few “adjustments” to the men’s food rations could make them rich:

1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder: I want to serve this to the men. Taste it and let me know what you think.

[Yossarian takes a bite]

Yossarian: What is it?

1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder: Chocolate covered cotton.

Yossarian: What are you, crazy?

1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder: No good, huh?

Yossarian: For Christ’s sake, you didn’t even take the seeds out.

1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder: Is it really that bad?

Yossarian: It’s cotton!

catch-22 trivia

“Catch-22” had it all, and when it was released, it bombed spectacularly! Dark comedy and satire is tough to pull off, and the film is unflinching in its depiction of war – it is also a very hard “R” rating for the time…and America rejected it!

Mike Nichols Directs Catch-22

This surreal nightmare of a war film is not perfect, but there are some amazing sequences in the film, as well as many disturbing images…it’s a black comedy with a social sting, and it is worth discovering – especially since the DVD special edition includes a conversation between Director Mike Nichols and Director Steven Soderbergh, who is a huge fan of the film!

great anti-war movies

If you are a fan of black comedy, and want to see a movie that puts it all out there – no matter how tough it may be to take – then this is the movie for you!

catch-22 movie

Categories: 70's Cinema, Academy Awards, Action Films, Awards, Books / Media, Comedy Movies, documentary films, Golden Globes, Great Films, Movies, Obscure Movies, Politics, Steven Soderbergh, Talent/Celebrities, Uncategorized

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8 replies

  1. Saw…no, experienced CATCH-22 first-run the summer in-between my 10th and 11th grade. Would say it was part of the learning curve already taking steep swoops. It’s thoroughly underrated as a war and anti-war film and has certainly left its mark on me. I’d only add that this all-star cast included the chronically unappreciated Paula Prentiss…and her waving greeting to Yossarian from the water, like Sophia Loren’s boat entrance in BOY ON A DOLPHIN (1957), was part of my maturation process, that’s for sure. 😉

  2. Great essay John, and ironic in that I just this weekend was reading an article about Art G and I too found his remarks a bit scattered, disjointed, and strange…I concluded a sort of manipause thing. Lol I also watched MASH on TurnerMC last night for the first time in years….I now want to see Catch22 I’m gonna look for it…Thanx John, keep blogging’,Jeff

    • Thanks Jeff! “Catch-22” is a great film with an incredible cast…including Garfunkel, who left Simon stewing back in NYC waiting to record “Bridge Over Troubled Water!”


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