Not only did they miss it, they butt-fucked it, they spit on it, they bastardized it, they turned out a cinematic abortion. They fucking re-wrote it!
If you haven’t read the book, much of this will not make much sense to you. And if you haven’t read the book … get it and read it, damn it!
Damn it, they got off to a reasonably good start, for about the first hour and a half. They brought in some stuff that Buck Henry had to leave out, such as Lieutenant Scheisskopf drilling the recruits at boot camp. They included Major —— de Coverly, a key character in the book. But then they fucked that up, too, later on. I am a major, major, major, major fan of Hugh Laurie, but he couldn’t be more wrong for this part. Major —— de Coverly had the face of an Old Testament God. He was so intimidating that no one in the squadron had dared ask him what his first name was. When Yossarian moved the bomb line during the Great Big Siege of Bologna, Major —— de Coverly foolishly went to the town and found himself behind enemy lines, and was never heard of again. In the book, Yossarian never really gave this a second thought. Here, he stews in guilt. He stews in guilt a lot.
They totally missed the humor of the book. Hardly a single scene made me laugh. Why should Yossarian give a shit about Major —— de Coverly? He was too busy trying to get out of flying missions, which is why he snuck up in the middle of the night and moved the bomb line in the first place, so he wouldn’t have to fly into what was reported to be the worst flak anyone had ever seen.
The idea that this would fool anyone for a split second is, of course, ridiculous. It’s a joke, you stupid people!
So Lieutenant Schiesskopf is promoted to general, and takes command of the squadron, and looks Yossarian in the eye and tells him he has to fly more missions, and it is clear that is because he found out Yossarian was screwing his wife back in California, and is repaying the grudge. In fact, the whole cadet class was screwing Shithead’s wife … and he never knew and wouldn’t have cared if he did! All he was concerned about was getting them to march in a straight line without moving their arms.
Oh, my, there is a long, long list of stuff like that. I do understand that changes must be made in translating a book into a movie. Stuff that you love has to be left out. Things have to be compressed. But don’t add things! There is a whole sequence here where Yossarian, after bailing out (which he never did) with a chunk of flak in his testicles, limps to an Italian farm and is wined and dined and eventually thrown out because the farmer’s daughter has the hots for him.
So we finally come to the absolute worst thing in a show overflowing with bad things. The ending. Here, Yossarian never tells Nately’s whore that Nately is dead, which causes her to make multiple attempts on his life, because in her grieving logic if he had not told her, Nately would still be alive. This is one of the most crucial events in the whole book.
Oh, fuck. I’m tired of running down this piece of shit. Believe me, I could write pages and pages more, but it would only impress it all more firmly in my memory, and I’m doing my best to forget it.