1970s R-Rated Sci-Fi Adult Classic Saved But Not By Streaming

By Brian Myers | Published

With so many streaming platforms, it’s hard to imagine a classic film being absent from at least one online library. That’s the sad truth for the 1972 film Slaughterhouse-Five, which has proven to be a difficult film to watch in 2024. Thankfully, science fiction fans are still able to access this legendary movie via several on-demand services as well as purchasing the latest version on Blu-ray.

Slaughterhouse-Five Holds Up Decades Later

Slaughterhouse-Five details the life of Billy Pilgrim, a soldier caught by the German army while fighting in Belgium during WWII. His time in a POW camp and forced labor in a slaughterhouse earn him respect from some of his peers, but generates a potentially lethal enemy from one fellow prisoner. Following the war, Billy marries and has a family, but is haunted by visions that are eerily familiar and prophetic.

Alien abductions and time travel weave into the script, which brilliantly breathes screen life into a book of the same name written by the late Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Considered a “must-see” by fans of the genre, Slaughterhouse-Five is also a favorite of film critics. The 1972 film holds an outstanding rating of 82 percent across 17 critics on Rotten Tomatoes, showing that it has stood the test of time, which hasn’t been as kind to science fiction films from the same era.

The Movie Gets A Well Earned 4K Restoration

Arrow Video released Slaughterhouse Five on Blu-ray in 2019, loading the disc with extras that mega-fans of the film will certainly enjoy. The 4K restoration of the film is presented in 1080p High Definition, with original mono sound. Author Troy Howarth lends his voice to the audio commentary.

The disc version also contains interviews with the cast and crew, behind-the-scenes looks at the production of Slaughterhouse-Five, and the original theatrical trailer. The sleeve is a work of art itself, featuring the work of artist Corey Brickley.

The Cast

Slaughterhouse-Five stars Michael Sacks in his film debut as Billy Pilgrim, alongside Ron Leibman (Paul Lazzaro), Eugene Roche (Edgar Derby), and Valerie Perrine (Montana Wildhack). In the director’s chair for the production sat George Roy Hill, who went on to direct The Sting (1974), Slap Shot (1977), and the Chevy Chase classic, Funny Farm (1988). Vonnegut and Stephen Geller collaborated on the screenplay, helping to pave the way for Hill to win the Jury Prize at Cannes and a nomination for the film festival’s Palme d’Or.

Based On A Beloved Sci-Fi Novel

The 1969 Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. novel Slaughterhouse-Five was the first bestseller for the late writer. The book peaked at the fourth spot on the New York Times Bestseller List, spending a total of 16 weeks on the list. The book further cemented Vonnegut’s relevance as not only an author, but also as a respected voice as a social and political critic.

The Movie’s Recognition

While the film version of the Vonnegut novel did not enjoy the commercial success of the book, Slaughterhouse-Five had a great showing at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as earning a Golden Globe nomination for the film’s top-billed actor, Michael Sacks.

If you want to know more about Slaughterhouse-Five check out this episode of the GenreVision podcast.