1941 (1979)

1941 (1979), directed by Steven Spielberg.

First review

I know this is considered one of Spielberg's clunkers, that the critics hated it, and that my wife did not laugh once. But I saw it about ten times in the theater. I must have been in love with Dianne Kay.

Well, it's not as funny now. Still, I think the jitterbug competition and driving the tank through the paint factory are worth the price of admission. Some fun references to Jaws (1975), Dr. Strangelove (1964) and Star Wars (1977).

The DVD is a disaster:

All I need is a nice new Blu-ray encode of the theatrical cut. (Later: a Blu-ray containing both theatrical and director's cuts appeared).

John Williams score.


Second review

Just as Star Wars (1977) revived the space opera and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) the adventure serial, so this tries to mine nostalgia for the old cavalcade-of-stars wacky comedy extravaganza. It doesn't do that as well as the other films but I try to get into the spirit. John Williams' music is a unifying glue for all three films.

Give them credit for a great comical evocation of 1940s L.A. The story is suggested by the real (but phony) Great Los Angeles Air Raid. And there really were Zoot Suit Riots.

On the down side: how silly is too silly? Some of the younger cast members don't add much. Lame gags, as when Treat Williams can't stand eggs! Something that worked better in the theater than on home video: the overblown yelling and screaming as buildup to something outrageous. It doesn't help that all that is reprised for the closing credits.


Available on Blu-ray, with both theatrical and the 28 minute longer director's cut. I much prefer the theatrical version. The extra footage gives more background -- particularly welcome for Frank McRae, making him less of a clown character -- but it slows down the pace way too much.