28. 1941 (1979)
Release Date: December 14, 1979
Chronology: Spielberg’s fifth movie, 1941 followed the massive success of Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind and preceded the hugely popular Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.
Box Office: $32 million ($104 million, adjusted for inflation)
Oscars: 3 nominations, 0 wins
Premise: In the wake of the Pearl Harbor bombing, several groups of people around Los Angeles panic and react to the threat of a Japanese invasion.
Over Two Hours?: Yes, almost two and a half
John Williams Score?: Yes
Father Issues?: Just Betty Douglas (Dianne Kay) disobeying his father by going to a dance
War?: World War II
Aliens?: None to be found
Surprise Appearances: Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Christopher Lee, Toshirô Mifune, Robert Stack, John Candy, Treat Williams, Slim Pickens, Joe Flaherty, Michael McKean, Mickey Rourke, and James Caan
Fun Fact: John Wayne tried to get Spielberg to abandon 1941 during pre-production, because he felt the script was insulting to World War II veterans and that it was “a very un-American movie.”
Best Line: “It’s big. The biggest one here. You know what else? It’s got a lot of range. You know what I mean by range, don’t you? I mean it can stay up for a long time. A very long time. And it’s built firm and solid. Because it has to be. Because of its tremendous forward thrust. And when this baby delivers its payload… devastating.”
Verdict: The first of Spielberg’s admirable failures, 1941 is made with good intentions and a steady hand, but just fails to click. Spielberg has always had difficulty doing straightforward comedies, and the screwball farce of this comedy of errors is out of his wheelhouse. An excellent cast makes for an enjoyable game of spot-the-actors, but the scattered plot — and bloated runtime — makes the movie feel painfully longer than it should.
Rating: 2½ stars / 5