51 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2004
The reverential tone Steven Spielberg has taken lately with World War II as evident in "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan" (in addition to the 1987 boys' adventure "Empire Of The Sun") is nowhere to be found in this largely panned yet outrageously entertaining screwball comedy that would have done Blake Edwards proud.
Based loosely on events that actually occurred stateside during World War II (specifically the sighting of a Japanese submarine off the coast of California and the infamous "zoot suit riots" among day-glo dressed street hoods and servicemen), this movie pays tribute to the paranoia that gripped the West Coast in the days following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Notoriously overbudget, this film was considered the "Waterworld" of its day, with the obvious difference being that it took itself not the least bit seriously. It was Spielberg's much-expected flop in the wake of "Jaws" and "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind"...but did it deserve to be?
An able cast of comedic talent headlined by the incomparable John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd with up-and-coming SCTV alumnus John Candy and recent "Animal House" veteran Tim Matheson supported ably by character actors Ned Beatty, Robert Stack, Treat Williams, and Lorraine Gary and all-time good ol' boy Slim Pickens on one side...and veteran Hammer Films horror star Christopher Lee slumming with Akira Kurosawa's number-one samurai Toshiro Mifune and the crew of a Japanese submarine with faulty navigational equipment on the other.
It is an all-star cast performing well up to its own high standard in what would be the most unusual twist on war since "Hogan's Heroes"...mainly the notion that this tragedy which brought so much pain and sorrow to the entire world could in fact be something that, in the right hands, could be uproariously funny. Spielberg's fingerprints are of course ubiquitous; the use of children, the collaboration with John Williams, breakaway stuntwork, special effects and well-designed set pieces...but it is the actors that make this movie work, particularly John Belushi who, like Brad Pitt in movies like "Thelma & Louise", "True Romance", and "Snatch" manages to steal completely a movie in which he actually has very little face time. All the actors are encouraged to play to their strengths, and the ability to "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain" (i.e., remember than none of this ever happened and that this is a comedy, not a documentary...Michael Moore, are you listening?) will enable the viewer some deep bellylaughs and some time well-spent viewing the bonus features which attempt to explain just WHY this is one of Spielberg's least understood or appreciated films.
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on April 15, 2000
Since 1941 is one of my all-time favorite movies,it was with great anticipation that I purchased the DVD. The supplemental material is exhaustive and fascinating, well worth the price of the DVD alone, but I was extremely disappointed in the sound and picture quality. Having seen 1941 in it's previous incarnations on VHS and laserdisc, I was eagerly looking forward to seeing how it looked on DVD. While the picture quality is somewhat improved over the laserdisc (slightly sharper picture and brighter colors) the overall look of the film is still hazy and washed-out (although, having viewed the 'making of' documentary, I discovered that Spielberg and his cinematographer may have intentionally been going for that look, since they used a lot of smoke throughout filming, to give it a feeling of having stepped back in time to another era.) As for the sound quality, this is where I was most disappointed. The laserdisc was THX certified, and the sound effects and music score had a nice, expansive quality to them to which the DVD cannot hold a candle. As for the movie itself, what can I say that hasn't already been beaten into the ground over the past 21 years? I agree that the movie really isn't that funny. What I enjoy so much about this movie, and I think most people who like this movie will agree with me, is how brilliantly crafted the movie is. Everything---the sets, the costumes, the special effects, the editing, the score---is first-rate. The film is consistently dazzling to look at. And to see most of Los Angeles get demolished in such a spectacular way---well, call me crazy, but I get a vicarious thrill out of it it all. Best scenes: the dogfight over Hollywood Blvd.; the jitterbug contest that turns into a riot; Lorraine Gary staring in helpless disbelief as husband Ned Beatty destroys their home with an anti-aircraft gun; Treat Williams and Wendi Jo Sperber in a runaway motorcycle side-car; the list goes on and on. The disc rates five stars for content, but I'm knocking it down to four stars due to the poor sound/picture quality.
35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2000
I think Mike from Chicago had one too many baby back ribs. This movie is hysterical. Speilberg directed a comedy classic, and with Belushi, Aykroyd, and John Candy this comedy is of the 5-star variety.
One of the funniest movies ever made !
Hey Mike, get a sense of humor, and then watch this again. Maybe you'll laugh like the rest of us !
31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2002
This 1979 WWII comedy spectacle bombed when it first released but its not as bad as its reputation suggests. Steven Spielberg's direction in this movie can be compared to some of the type of direction of today's big budget films (i.e Armageddon). The movie is noteworthy for the fact that it boasts an all-star cast including Tishiro Mifune, Christopher Lee (as a German officer on board the Japanese sub as a guest), stars from SNL, Second City, and stars from tv sitcoms of the 1970's. Also, it's one of the few movies John Belushi did before his untimely death. There are a lot of people screaming, great special effects and stunts, and some outrageous characters. The plot is mainly about a Japanese submarine that is off course, arriving in the L.A. harbor, and causing hysteria among the L.A residences. With that, there are related subplots such as Belushi's Wild Bill Kelso flying an airplane to L.A. and Ned Beatty's Ward Douglas receiving an anti-aircraft gun from the army to be placed on his beachfront backyard. Some standout supporting performances from Bobby Di Cicco as Wally Stephens, an unlisted man whose only joy is to dance in his zoot suit, and Dianne Kay (from TV's EIGHT IS ENOUGH) as his girlfriend. These two (along with Robert Stack as General Stillwell) are the "calm in the hurricane" or the only sane people in this movie. The rest are all too cartoony and over the top. This is the type of movie to watch as background noise if you are doing other things like writing your bills, doing your homework, or surfing the net. You can look up occasionally to catch something for a chuckle or two.
Note: Back in 1979, Dan Ackroyed must have been embarassed by this movie. In movie ads and posters released after this film, his face is removed from the original movie poster and replaced with someone else's face.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2002
OK, OK, I admit this movie is a bit sophmoric, but if that worked in 'Animal House', why can't it work here? I loved this movie, and those who are overly critical of it need to realize that simple humor does work. Notice I said 'simple' and not 'stupid', which in light of recent box office releases such as 'Jackass' seem to be somewhat popular.
What makes this movie more poignant is September 11th. Now, I know it isn't good form to make fun of the recent terrorist attacks, but the reaction by the US mirrors the events following the attack on Pearl Harbor, which this film makes fun of. Trust me, I am in the US military, and people we racking their brains in trying to guess what, where and how the next attack would occur. I read reports of people in small towns in west central Texas thinking they would be the next target. It was the same paranoia that occurred after December 7th.
I don't advocate taking terrorism any less serious, nor do I want to downplay the heroic actions of those in NYC, the Pentagon, or on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania; but we spun ourselves through the roof (and still do) with a "ready, fire, aim" mentality. Panic does not help, and the best thing to do is cool down and think clearly. I think this films shows us how ridiculous "war nerves" can make us all! Well worth the money!
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2000
I didn't see 1941 when it came out in theaters, because I believed the generally negative reviews it received at the time. I've been kicking myself ever since for never having had the experience of seeing it on the big screen, because that's where all this beautifully-crafted insanity would really shine.
1941's brilliant ensemble cast, daring director, and hard-working crew, including special-effects wizard Greg Jein, combined their talents to take viewers back to the opening days of World War II, to a comedic fantasy California in a '41 that never quite was. It has been criticized for being fragmented (it was cut to shreds against director Spielberg's wishes), and lambasted for not being funny. Personally, I laugh my arse off every time I watch it. I'd call it a guilty pleasure, but I'm not at all guilty about loving it. This film has so many brilliant qualities in its writing, design, photography, sound, music, direction, and acting, that I think anyone who appreciates screen comedy should own a copy. Now that the special edition DVD has restored Mr. Spielberg's original intention to this film, I hope it finds a new and appreciative audience in addition to those of us who have loved it for years.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2000
"1941" is not a simple farce, but a hilarious, carefully constructed, and well-targeted screwball comedy. The Seventies were short on these -- "What's Up, Doc?" comes to mind, but almost nothing else. Steven Spielberg really did bake a comic souffle, with almost every "SNL" and "SCTV" veteran and character actor he could find to keep it lively.
You couldn't tell that any of this was coherently told, though, until now. The widescreen VHS (and DVD) versions add 26 minutes of footage, and it all is worth watching. It turns what others have called a mere "scream-fest" into its own demented, alternate world-for-a-day, hemmed in by comic paranoia.
Other reviews have noted that this story took from historical events, such as an actual appearance of a Japanese sub, and the "zoot suit" riots of the following year. But what hasn't been noted are the comic rhythms that Spielberg was trying to use. They simply weren't visible until now.
Not only does the restored version put back over 20 minutes of one of John Williams's wittiest scores, but several items that were repeated throughout the film get those repetitions back. This makes all the difference for comic effect. The earlier video version was funny, but left you tired. This one, though, leaves you wrung out from being swept up in it ... and that's a much more satisfying feeling.
Here are some of the items that gain comic brilliance through many more witty and well-placed repetitions, only now restored in this director's cut:
"If there's one thing I can't stand, it's Americans fighting Americans." ~ "I hate eggs." ~ The RKO Pictures talent scout. ~ "Just a case of war nerves." ~ The two USO girls' manhunting. ~ "This will NEVER work." ~ White vs. black on the tank crew (not that pleasant to see, but historically accurate, and damn funny). ~ "Dumbo," adjective and film. ~ "Deep in the Heart of Texas," sung (!) by John Belushi at hilarious moments (and kept out of the video until now due to copyright problems).
Some scenes and characters only make sense with the added footage:
Wally, the zoot-suiter, hiding in the rafters of the garage, a perfectly built "topper" gag. ~ Why the zoot-suiters are around that night, for that matter. ~ Wally being "other side of the tracks" and proving himself in battle on Hollywood Boulevard. ~ Cpl. Sitarsky's easily triggered rage. ~ The tank crew, again. ~ Beginning-and-ending gags about "tearing out some walls." ~ How and why the two Civil Defense guys on the ferris wheel drive each other crazy. ~ Tim Matheson's airborne seduction.
It isn't the same film that had appeared before on video, that's all there is to it. The night-and-day difference in repeated comic elements, alone, is worth five stars. I only deduct one for the same thing that drove me crazy in the theater 20 years ago: Too many explosions!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2000
I just love this movie,I don't know what it is,but I can watch it anytime,and still see something new.There's just so much going on,your never bored.John Belushi really steals every scene he's in. The physical comedy of John's is missed alot. Dan Aykroyd is always fantastic.With his fast talking,and all of a sudden some word comes out that blows you away. I also enjoy Treat Williams and his hatred of Eggs. I also can't stand the taste,touch,or smell of an Eggs. I die laughing when the fairest wheel comes off,and rolls off the pier with the dummy screaming. This movie will live on forever,even though it was Spielbergs biggest flop.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 1998
Almost all critics hated this film (and still do), and at the time it came out people were going out to the movies less and less. That's really too bad because after all the madcap nonsense and running around that made up the majority of the movie, there's an underlying current of paranoia and fear reflecting a time when the country was just starting to flex its power on a global scale. Thankfully, that sense of dread is brought back into the movie with nearly a half hour of footage cut out in 1980. Now as you may have read at the top this was done because sitting through a 21/2 comedy was unheard of then (it would still be frowned on now), but Spielberg using the comedy classic, "It's a mad,mad,mad,mad world" as his model, obviously knew what he was doing! Most of this new footage is at the beginning as its almost all character devolpment. Exactly what feels missing from the studio original! I had seen this movie over and over so many times, yet when I saw this version I finally see what the mean by "Director's cut" A huge thank you to whoever got this movie back on tape and impressively restored despite its bad reputation. It may not have been the right movie for 1980, but definitely check this version out and see what a difference it makes.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 1999
This may have been a flawed film, but it really wasn't all that bad! Some scenes are, in fact, hilarious! But other parts are over-acted and overly-silly. This movie is semi-based on a real incident that happened on the west coast shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when war-jitters were at an all-time high! A Japanese submarine really did surface off the California coast and shell a refinery, doing minimal damage (it was operational again within a day!) This movie-version of that event expands upon it, sometimes with hilarious results --- and sometimes not. Still, the production values are excellent, and it moves at a quick pace. And if you like swing-music from the World War II years you'll want to see it for that alone!