Films and TV based upon Kurt Vonnegut’s writings (not exhaustive), often with him as screenwriter. For those of you who would rather watch TV than read a book this list is for you, and you know who you are:
Happy Birthday, Wanda June (1971)
In this film we see how the members of a family react when the husband returns home, after he abandoned it seven years ago.
I'll be the third person to comment on this movie; seems like an exclusive club. Anyway, this is a very strange movie; Vonnegut does black comedy and touches on ideas he put in "Slaughterhouse Five". I saw this movie about 20 years ago, late at night on television, and it says a lot that although it's never going to be in my top 50 list, every so often I recall it and smile. Rod Steiger is an egotistical, Iron John type adventurer and explorer who abandoned his wife to go off exploring with his friend, played by William Hickey (who was the man who dropped the atom bomb on Nagasaki, not Hiroshima, as the previous person said) and was missing, presumed dead for 7 years. Steiger thinks he can just waltz back into everyone's lives again and they'll all come running to him, but the reality is very different. Interspersed with this are cut always to a little girl in Heaven called Wanda June who never got her big birthday party while she was living. Memory has dulled why her character and story is significant. One of the funniest scenes is where Steiger and Hickey enter their favorite bar after years away and the bartender yells out "Hey! This is the guy that dropped the bomb on Nagasaki!": A Japanese businessman looks on with contempt and backs away but a bearded hippy says "wow, I always wanted to meet you, man!" – “uber commando” from London
What happened to this movie? I've recommended it for 3 decades as one of the finest of the surreal comedies and it seems to have vanished. Who owns the rights? Please reissue this farcical drama. Like "Where's Poppa?" Central Park represents the evils of the world. The heaven-related references are hilarious. Ms. York was never prettier. Rod Steiger delivers a (not unexpectedly) bravura performance. It's based on a Kurt Vonnegut story. What more need I say? If you enjoyed "A Boy and His Dog", you certainly will savor the sophisticated and sly humor to be found in "Happy Birthday, Wanda June." – “grantch”
Also starring Susannah York
Unavailable (Columbia), but you or your kids might have seen it in school, so is out there in 16mm. I did, and it was WOW!
Between Time and Timbuktu (1972) (TV)
A poet-astronaut is shot through an area of space called the Chrono-Synclastic Infidibulum. He is duplicated into infinite copies of himself, each of whom finds himself in a bizarre situations on a different world. (These scenarios are all derived from the novels and short stories of 'Kurt Vonnegut Jr.', including Cat's Cradle, Welcome to the Monkey House, 'Harrison Bergeron', and 'Happy Birthday, Wanda June'. — Shawn Wilson
1973 Hugo nominee
Unavailable, but you or your kids might have seen it in school, so is out there in 16mm. I did and liked it.
"Listen: Billie Pilgrim has come unstuck in time." The opening words of the famous novel are the quickest summary of this haunting, funny film. Director George Roy Hill faithfully renders for the screen Vonnegut's obsessive story of Pilgrim, who survives the 1945 firebombing of Dresden, then lives simultaneously in his past as a young American POW, in the future as a well-cared-for resident of a zoo on the planet Tralfamadore, and in the present as a middle-aged optometrist in Ilium, N.Y.
Staring a very nude Valerie Perrine. Book and screenplay by Vonnegut. Considered his best novel.
# Universal Studios
# ASIN: B0001FVDGY
Who Am I This Time? (1982) (TV)
From a short story by Kurt Vonnegut. Christopher Walken is a shy hardware store employee. But whenever he takes a part in a local amateur theater production, he becomes the part completely—while on screen. Susan Sarandon is new in town, a lonely itinerant telephone company employee. On a whim, she auditions for and gets the part of Stella to Walken's Stanley when the theater group does A Streetcar Named Desire. Before anyone realizes the problem, she falls deeply in love with the sexy brute, not knowing what the real man is like. — Reid Gagle
# Studio: Monterey Video
# ASIN: B000F9RLG2
Slapstick (Of Another Kind) (1982)
Jerry Lewis, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Pat Morita, John Abbott, Jim Backus, Merv Griffin, Orson Welles
Aliens possess the bodies of two children in this spoof of "Close Encounters", "2001", et. al.
This is not the BEST parody film, but one of the better ones. Kurt's novel is rather poignant in places and is captured in the film rather well. — ????
The book is worth the read, but it is weird. The film sucked and was not especially reminiscent of the book, IMHO. – Powell
# Studio: Vestron Video
# ASIN: B0009UD6M0 (VHS)
Displaced Person (1985) (TV)
Displaced Person is the story of a post World War II black German boy orphan who seeks his father. Until now, he has never met or seen another black person in his life. When he reaches American soldiers, he attaches himself to the African American Sergeant in charge. Instead, the boy calls him "Papa" and he becomes attached to the boy. He is the consciousness of the film. While it is a short story and old after-school special, it did win an Emmy award for outstanding children's program. It certainly deserved it. This short story is excellently done with a fine cast including one of my favorites, Rolf Saxon, in a small role. It should be studied and seen in classes especially in urban cities and even in the rural areas. Children can learn to identify easily with these characters. — Sylvia Marciniak
# Studio: American Playhouse
# Run Time: 58 minutes
# ASIN: B000MPPGJ8 (VHS)
Monkey House (1991) (TV)
TV episodes based upon the short stories Next Door, The Euphio Question and All the King's Horses from book Welcome to the Monkey House
Harrison Bergeron(1995) (TV)
[This was Ernie’s favorite.] "All men are not created equal. It is the purpose of the Government to make them so." This is the premise of the Showtime film adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's futuristic short story Harrison Bergeron. The film centers around a young man (Harrison) who is smarter than his peers, and is not affected by the usual "Handicapping" which is used to train all Americans so everyone is of equal intelligence. — Glenn Kurtzrock
# Studio: Republic Pictures
# ASIN: 6303801919
Mother Night (1996)
Nick Nolte, Sheryl Lee, Alan Arkin, Kirsten Dunst
Howard W. Campbell, Jr., an American expatriate playwright, Nazi radio propagandist, and Allied spy, writes his memoirs during his pre-trial confinement in 1961 Haifa and learns that people are what they pretend to be. — Erik Gregersen
Howard W. Campbell Jr., an American living in Germany since childhood, is recruited by the United States to become an informer during the upcoming Second World War. What he does become, is one of the leading anti-Semitic news broadcasters of Nazi Germany. After the fall of Hitler's Germany, Campbell's government friends arrange for a quiet life in the United States. His life is quiet until a complex web of spies and neo-Nazis draws him back into the life which he once lead. Eventually captured by the Israelis, Campbell's one defense was: "I was an American Spy." — Anthony Hughes
[This is my favorite of all of Vonnegut’s books. Imagine being a spy, rising to the very top of Nazi Germany circles producing propaganda for Hitler, and later sitting in an Israeli prison contemplating that you may have done more harm enacting your cover than the good you did your nation spying. Haunting. I have not seen the movie. – Powell]
# Studio: New Line Home Video
# ASIN: B00004RFAJ
Breakfast of Champions (1999)
A portrait of a fictional town in the mid west that is home to a group of idiosyncratic and slightly neurotic characters. Dwayne Hoover is a wealthy car dealer-ship owner that's on the brink of suicide and is losing touch with reality. – J. Keating
Based on the classic Kurt Vonnegut novel, Breakfast of Champions chronicles the meeting between Dwayne Hoover (Bruce Willis), an unstable Pontiac dealer, and Kilgore Trout (Albert Finney), an "overly creative" science fiction writer. The film also features Nick Nolte as Harry LeSabre, Hoover's cross-dressing associate, and Barbara Hershey. — Malachi
Also staring Glenne Headly, Lukas Haas, Buck Henry, Will Patton, Owen Wilson
# Studio: Walt Disney Video
# ASIN: B00004TCKI