Published on August 25th, 2009 | by Chris


1941 (1979)

Review of: 1941 (1979)
Movie by :
Steven Speilberg

Reviewed by:
On August 25, 2009
Last modified:October 5, 2012


What starts off with a lot of promise, in premise AND on film, turns out to be a nightmarish trip into chaos.

1941 (1979)In all of Hollywood history, I don't think there have been many projects involving quite as many famous names and faces, in front of and behind the camera, as the "epic" 1941.  Directed by none other than Steven Spielberg, with a soundtrack by John Williams, and starring everyone from Dan Akroyd and John Belushi to Christopher Lee and Toshiro Mifune, with a dash of Slim Pickens and just about everyone else under the sun...  You'd think that a true bit of comedic classic history would fall together....

Well you couldn't be more wrong.  Oh, sure, 1941 starts out funny, I'll give it that.  Where else are you going to have John Williams AND Spielberg lampooning *their own work* (namely the Jaws theme/opening sequence) as a naked lady gets hoisted high on the periscope of a bumbling Japanese submarine?!

But as it goes along, the whole thing quickly falls into a morass of chaos and even more chaos, degrading into a giant clusterf*ck that there is no recovering from.  The problem?  I think that they tried to do way too much with the picture.  Too many sub-stories that really didn't interconnect in any way.  And enough already with the dance contest.  These scenes just dragged on way, way too far.

And don't get me started on Belushi.  What. in. the. hell.  You've got to wonder how they were even able to stand him up straight to get him to utter the few unintelligible lines he does have.

The short version:  What starts off with a lot of promise, in premise AND on film, turns out to be a nightmarish trip into chaos.

The thought came to me that this thing might have been written by the SNL gang, all sitting around a big table filled with booze and whatever else was in vogue in '79, and as the night went on, the more wasted they got, throwing ideas onto the table and eventually into the final product.   "Wouldn't it be cool if...?? Yeah! We need a ___, too! Awesome! And this that and the other! Sweet!"

Maybe as an example of what NOT to do, but otherwise, don't bother.  Not only that, but the DVD I acquired from Netflix was an early (1999) example of widescreen formatted/letterboxed for 4:3, so some major zooming and formatting action was required to get a full picture on my screen.  I guess nobody's bothered to update 1941 in the catalog, and probably for good reason.

1941 (1979) Chris

Summary: What starts off with a lot of promise, in premise AND on film, turns out to be a nightmarish trip into chaos.


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About the Author

I’ve been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I’ve been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.

2 Responses to 1941 (1979)

  1. Agree. Anytime you put a ventriloquist dummy in a movie you are grasping. Slim Pickens is hilarious, however.

  2. glyssandrine says:

    A messy, messy movie. Of course I agree with most of what you wrote, but I still have a weakness for this movie. I find it colorful enough to merrit a looksee. It was pretty dark stuff in 1978, with the us still dealing with the wounds of Vietnam.

    As a side note: I would have liked to see the ending Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis originally wrote put on screen (and the audience reaction in 1979). Originally, there was supposed to be a coda where the Bobby DiCcicio character is now a bombadier on the Enola Gay. As he drops the Atomic bomb on Hiroshima he mutters “Here’s for making me lose the USO dance competition!”

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