1941 is a 1979 American comedy film directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale. The film stars an ensemble cast including Dan Aykroyd, Ned Beatty, John Belushi, John Candy, Christopher Lee, Tim Matheson, Toshiro Mifune, Robert Stack, Nancy Allen, and Mickey Rourke in his film debut. The story involves a panic in the Los Angeles area after the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
Although 1941 was not as financially nor critically successful as many of Spielberg's other films, it received belated popularity after an expanded version aired on ABC, with subsequent television broadcasts and home video reissues, raising it to cult status.
On Saturday, December 13, 1941, at 7:01 a.m. (six days after the attack on Pearl Harbor), an Imperial Japanese Navy submarine, commanded by Akiro Mitamura and carrying Kriegsmarine officer Wolfgang von Kleinschmidt, surfaces off the Californian coast. Wanting to destroy something "honorable" in Los Angeles, Mitamura decides to target Hollywood. Later that morning, a 10th Armored Division M3 Lee tank crew, consisting of Sergeant Frank Tree, Corporal Chuck Sitarski, and Privates Foley, Reese, and Henshaw, are having breakfast at a cafe where dishwasher Wally Stephens and his friend Dennis DeSoto work. Wally is planning to enter a dance contest at a club that evening with his girlfriend, Betty Douglas. Sitarski instantly dislikes Wally and trips him, causing a fight.
According to Steven Spielberg's appearance in the documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures, Kubrick suggested that 1941 should have been marketed as a drama rather than a comedy. The chaos of the events following the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 is summarized by Dan Aykroyd's character, Sgt. Tree, who repeatedly states, 'If there's one thing I can't stand seeing, it's Americans fighting Americans."
1941 is also notable as one of the few American films featuring Toshiro Mifune, a popular Japanese actor. It is also the only American film in which Mifune used his own voice in speaking Japanese and English. In his previous movies, Mifune's lines were dubbed by Paul Frees.
Renowned modelmaker Greg Jein worked on the film, and would later use the hull number "NCC-1941" for the starship USS Bozeman in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Cause and Effect". Paul De Rolf choreographed the film.
1941 is dedicated to the memory of Charlsie Bryant, a longtime script supervisor at Universal Studios. She had worked on both Jaws and Close Encounters, and would have reprised those duties with this film had she not unexpectedly died.
The Oscar-winning team of L.B. Abbott and A.D. Flowers were in charge of the special effects on 1941. The film is widely recognized for its Academy Award-nominated special-effects laden progressive action and camera sequences.[N 1]
The advance teaser trailer for 1941, directed by the film's executive producer/co-story writer John Milius, featured a voice-over by Aykroyd as Belushi's character Kelso, after landing his plane, gives the viewers a pep-talk encouraging them to join the United States Armed Forces, lest they find one morning that the country will have been taken over (for instance, "the street signs will be written in Japanese!").
The musical score for 1941 was composed and conducted by John Williams. The titular march is used throughout the film and is perhaps the most memorable piece written for it. (Spielberg has said it is his favorite Williams march.) The score also includes a swing composition titled "Swing, Swing, Swing" composed by John Williams. In addition, the score includes a sound-alike version of Glenn Miller's "In the Mood", and two 1940s recordings by The Andrews Sisters, "Daddy" and "Down by the Ohio". The Irish tune "The Rakes of Mallow", is heard during the riot at the USO.
After the success of his 1980 "Special Edition" of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Spielberg was given permission to create his own "extended cut" of 1941 to represent his original director's cut. This was done for network television (it was only shown on ABC once, but it was seen years later on The Disney Channel). It was first released on VHS and Betamax in 1980 from MCA Videocassette Inc. and from MCA Home Video in 1986 and 1990. A similar extended version (with additional footage and a few subtle changes) was released on LaserDisc in 1995. It included a 101-minute documentary featuring interviews with Spielberg, executive producer John Milius, writers Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, editor Michael Kahn, composer John Williams and others involved. This set also included an isolated music score, three theatrical trailers, deleted scenes, photo galleries, and reviews of the movie.
On October 14, 2014, Universal Pictures released 1941 on Blu-ray as part of their Steven Spielberg's Director's Collection box set. The disc features both the theatrical (118 minutes) and extended version (146 minutes) of the film, a documentary of the making of the film, production photographs (carried over from the LaserDisc collector's edition), and theatrical trailers, although the isolated score that was included on the Laserdisc and DVD releases is not present on the Blu-ray. The standalone Blu-ray version was released on May 5, 2015.
During its theatrical run, 1941 had earned $23.4 million in theatrical rentals from the United States and Canada. Because 1941 grossed significantly less than Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the film had been thought to be a box office disaster, but in actuality, the film grossed $90 million worldwide and returned a profit, making it a success.
Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film two and a half out of four stars in which he applauded the film's visual effects, but "there is so much flab here that become meaningless after a few minutes." Writing in his review for The New York Times, Vincent Canby wrote "There are too many characters who aren't immediately comic. There are too many simultaneous actions that necessitate a lot of cross-cutting, and cross-cutting between unrelated anecdotes can kill a laugh faster than a yawn. Everything is too big...The slapstick gags, obviously choreographed with extreme care, do not build to boffs; they simply go on too long. I'm not sure if it's the fault of the director or of the editor, but I've seldom seen a comedy more ineptly timed." Similarly, Variety labeled the movie as "long on spectacle, but short on comedy" in which the magazine felt "1941 suffers from Spielberg's infatuation with physical comedy, even when the gags involve tanks, planes and submarines, rather than the usual stuff of screen hijinks. Pic is so overstuffed with visual humor of a rather monstrous nature that feeling emerges, once you've seen 10 explosions, you've seen them all."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film one and a half stars out of four, writing that the film "feels forced together chaotically, as if the editors wanted to keep the material moving at any cost. The movie finally reduces itself to an assault on our eyes and ears, a nonstop series of climaxes, screams, explosions, double-takes, sight gags, and ethnic jokes that's finally just not very funny." He labeled the film's central problem on having been "never thought through on a basic level of character and story." Charles Champlin, reviewing for the Los Angeles Times, commented "If 1941 is angering (and you may well suspect that it is), it is because the film seems merely an expensive indulgence, begat by those who know how to say it, if only they had something to say." Dave Kehr of The Chicago Reader called it "a chattering wind-up toy of a movie [that] blows its spring early on. The characters are so crudely drawn that the film seems to have no human base whatsoever...the people in it are unremittingly foolish, and the physical comedy quickly degenerates into childish destructiveness."
Years later, the film would be re-appraised by critics like Richard Brody of The New Yorker, who claimed it was "the movie in which [Spielberg] came nearest to cutting loose" and "the only movie where he tried to go past where he knew he could...its failure, combined with his need for success, inhibited him maybe definitively." Jonathan Rosenbaum of The Chicago Reader would hail 1941 as Spielberg's best film until 2001's A.I. Artificial Intelligence, writing that he was impressed by the virtuosity of 1941 and argued that its "honest mean-spiritedness and teenage irreverence" struck him as "closer to Spielberg's soul" than more popular and celebrated works like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and The Color Purple.
It's not fair to say Steven Spielberg's "1941" lacks "pacing." It's got it, all right, but all at the same pace: The movie relentlessly throws gags at us until we're dizzy. It's an attempt at that most tricky of genres, the blockbuster comedy, and it tries so hard to dazzle us that we want a break. It's a good-hearted, cheerfully disorganized mess that makes us appreciate "Dr. Strangelove," just a little bit more.
Because Spielberg allows this sequence to continue until it finds its own rhythm, it has a nice zany feel to it. But most of the other stuff in "1941" feels forced together chaotically, as if the editors wanted to keep the material moving at any cost. The movie finally reduces itself to an assault on our eyes and ears, a nonstop series of climaxes, screams, explosions, double-takes, sight gags, and ethnic jokes that's finally just not very funny.
The closest thing the movie has to a central character is John Belushi, as a P-40 fighter pilot who flies up and down the coast looking for Japanese and finally crash-lands in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard. The boulevard has earlier been the scene of several other buzzings by military aircraft, in scenes involving lots of special effects thatt must have been difficult to create but come out so disorganized that we're more confused than amused. With the exception of a few high points like a runaway ferris wheel, the special effects in "1941" seem disorganized in general: If we don't have a clear idea of what the big moments mean to the plot, how can we know if they're funny? 781b155fdc
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