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Chicagoist Weekend Theater: 'Johnny Got His Gun'

By Jon Graef in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 25, 2013 8:00PM

On August 25th, 1988, Metallica's last masterpiece of pure thrash metal, And Justice For All, was released. The album is notable for many reasons, as it represents a lot of firsts and lasts for the band.

Justice is the first album with bassist Jason Newsted, who replaced former bassist Cliff Burton after he died in a horrific bus accident while Metallica was on tour.

It is also the last album Metallica made which was produced by Danish producer Flemming Rasmussen, who worked on the band's previous metal masterworks Ride The Lightning and Master of Puppets. (The tinny, bass nonexistent production of Justice remains a sore spot on an otherwise excellent record.)

Another first, more significant for this post, is that Justice marks the first time Metallica made a music video. (Itself another source of controversy for the record, due to the band's previous, ardent anti-video stance.) The video in question, however, is one of the medium's greatest. It is a clip for the band's scathing anti-war screed "One," a deserved fan favorite and radio hit to this day.

The video is a basic black-and-white performance clip, but interspersed are devastating clips from 1971 film Johnny Got His Gun, directed by original Hollywood Ten member and Sparticus screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, and based on Trumbo's 1939 novel of the same name.

The film, which provided inspiration for the song "One," tells of a soldier who becomes a quadruple amputee after being hit by an artillery shell in World War I. The soldier, named Joe Bonham, also loses his eyes, ears, mouth and nose.

The one thing that does work? His mind. But, alas, he cannot communicate with the outside world. So, he retreats to more pleasant memories, while trying to figure how to communicate his anguish to those around him.

In order to use excerpts from the film, Metallica ended up buying the rights to Johnny Got His Gun. The end result is that the band introduced many generations of fans to an anti-war classic.

We present it here in honor of And Justice For All's twenty-fifth anniversary.

Listen to And Justice For All, too: