1941 (1979)

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If there’s one thing I can’t stand seeing, it’s Americans fighting Americans.

This is just one of the great lines from 1941, also known as Spielberg’s Folly.  The lines are great but only so when taken as a one-liner.  Without doubt 1941 is one of the twenty-five worst movies ever made.

1941 isn’t remembered often and definitely is not near the top of the list when one rattles off Steven Spielberg’s impressive filmography.  In this sense it is very similar to Howard the Duck from George Lucas.   And rightfully so.

1941 is, simply put, a disjointed mess.  The cast and crew are a who’s who of the time, but together it just doesn’t work.  The film tells the story of Los Angeles in the week after December 7, 1941.  We get several story lines which attempt to follow the hysteria and fear of imminent Japanese invasion of the western coast of the US.

Sadly, none of the story lines are good or funny, much less do they go anywhere.  We have a rogue Japanese sub attempting to bombard Hollywood and instead destroying an oceanside carnival; a general’s aide attempting to seduce a woman insanely attracted to airborne aircraft; a crazy fighter pilot tracking a Japanese squadron, and more.

Everything is loud and over the top – we have screaming, fighting, and explosions galore.  As one reviewer noted, by the end of the film everything is destroyed.  Strangely, everyone’s career was relatively unscathed.

There really isn’t a plot, but rather a series of individual set pieces which are for the most part forced together into a mishmashed product. Some of the pieces work (especially the piece in the USO nightclub), but none are particularly memorable.  And as each piece attempts to top the previous ones, the lunacy builds exponentially throughout without a break.

The cast is outstanding – John Candy, John Belushi, Dan Acroyd, Christopher Lee, Tim Mattheson, Robert Stack, Treat Williams, and more play pretty large parts here but sadly rarely if ever do they share the screen together so synergy is never really created.

Unsurprisingly this film was at one point considered to be made as a musical and was such a flop at the time of release that subsequent Spielberg films, when teasing Spielberg’s great successes, never mention 1941. This is a bit ironic since 1941 has scenes which directly parody Jaws.

There are also bits of racism in the film as well, at least at first look. But then one realizes that everyone is mocked and stereotyped.

The best part of the film is the John Williams’ score, which you can get from iTunes without the misery of watching the film.  The opening march alone is worth the price.

Avoid unless you really have an acute case of insomnia.

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