Watching this director's cut, it's finally possible to see why the studio made Spielberg mercilessly hack up this comedy: it's a screaming movie (everyone screams a lot), and screaming movies do not need character developm... more »ent. So all those character-development scenes hit the cutting-room floor and, surprise, they were all critical to Spielberg's pace for the humor in this film. The screaming wasn't that funny then--and it still isn't--but what is funny are the reinserted development scenes, showcasing the now-evident sense of hysteria in the Los Angeles community, post-Pearl Harbor. A bunch of certified nitwits, and a few certified lunatics, act as if Tojo Hideki's entire Imperial force is just off the mainland. Actually, one Japanese submarine is, and it helps fuel the frenzy. John Belushi is Wild Bill Kelso, an insane fighter pilot, and Dan Aykroyd plays a conciliatory tank commander. Robert Stack's performance as General Stilwell, one of the best of the film, finally makes sense. Also fun for the numerous cameos, Spielberg's inside jokes, and John Williams's great score. --Keith Simanton« less
Brent A. Anthonisen | Alpharetta, GA, USA | 07/27/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The reverential tone Steven Spielberg has taken lately with World War II as evident in "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan" (in addition to the 1987 boys' adventure "Empire Of The Sun") is nowhere to be found in this largely panned yet outrageously entertaining screwball comedy that would have done Blake Edwards proud.
Based loosely on events that actually occurred stateside during World War II (specifically the sighting of a Japanese submarine off the coast of California and the infamous "zoot suit riots" among day-glo dressed street hoods and servicemen), this movie pays tribute to the paranoia that gripped the West Coast in the days following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Notoriously overbudget, this film was considered the "Waterworld" of its day, with the obvious difference being that it took itself not the least bit seriously. It was Spielberg's much-expected flop in the wake of "Jaws" and "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind"...but did it deserve to be?
An able cast of comedic talent headlined by the incomparable John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd with up-and-coming SCTV alumnus John Candy and recent "Animal House" veteran Tim Matheson supported ably by character actors Ned Beatty, Robert Stack, Treat Williams, and Lorraine Gary and all-time good ol' boy Slim Pickens on one side...and veteran Hammer Films horror star Christopher Lee slumming with Akira Kurosawa's number-one samurai Toshiro Mifune and the crew of a Japanese submarine with faulty navigational equipment on the other.
It is an all-star cast performing well up to its own high standard in what would be the most unusual twist on war since "Hogan's Heroes"...mainly the notion that this tragedy which brought so much pain and sorrow to the entire world could in fact be something that, in the right hands, could be uproariously funny. Spielberg's fingerprints are of course ubiquitous; the use of children, the collaboration with John Williams, breakaway stuntwork, special effects and well-designed set pieces...but it is the actors that make this movie work, particularly John Belushi who, like Brad Pitt in movies like "Thelma & Louise", "True Romance", and "Snatch" manages to steal completely a movie in which he actually has very little face time. All the actors are encouraged to play to their strengths, and the ability to "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain" (i.e., remember than none of this ever happened and that this is a comedy, not a documentary...Michael Moore, are you listening?) will enable the viewer some deep bellylaughs and some time well-spent viewing the bonus features which attempt to explain just WHY this is one of Spielberg's least understood or appreciated films."
1941...It's A Mad,Mad,Mad War!
Yendor | Gilroy, CA United States | 01/29/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This 1979 WWII comedy spectacle bombed when it first released but its not as bad as its reputation suggests. Steven Spielberg's direction in this movie can be compared to some of the type of direction of today's big budget films (i.e Armageddon). The movie is noteworthy for the fact that it boasts an all-star cast including Tishiro Mifune, Christopher Lee (as a German officer on board the Japanese sub as a guest), stars from SNL, Second City, and stars from tv sitcoms of the 1970's. Also, it's one of the few movies John Belushi did before his untimely death. There are a lot of people screaming, great special effects and stunts, and some outrageous characters. The plot is mainly about a Japanese submarine that is off course, arriving in the L.A. harbor, and causing hysteria among the L.A residences. With that, there are related subplots such as Belushi's Wild Bill Kelso flying an airplane to L.A. and Ned Beatty's Ward Douglas receiving an anti-aircraft gun from the army to be placed on his beachfront backyard. Some standout supporting performances from Bobby Di Cicco as Wally Stephens, an unlisted man whose only joy is to dance in his zoot suit, and Dianne Kay (from TV's EIGHT IS ENOUGH) as his girlfriend. These two (along with Robert Stack as General Stillwell) are the "calm in the hurricane" or the only sane people in this movie. The rest are all too cartoony and over the top. This is the type of movie to watch as background noise if you are doing other things like writing your bills, doing your homework, or surfing the net. You can look up occasionally to catch something for a chuckle or two.
Note: Back in 1979, Dan Ackroyed must have been embarassed by this movie. In movie ads and posters released after this film, his face is removed from the original movie poster and replaced with someone else's face."
Jen Martinez | USA | 11/08/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I am sorry to hear that so many people did not like this film. It would have to be one of my all time favorites. Yah, there's a lot of screaming. Yah, there's a lot of running around. Yah, there's a lot of overacting, but this is what makes it so great. No thinking needed. A wonderful sit down-eat a snack-drink a beverage of your choice movie. Don't expect a high quality movie, but do expect a comedy that can leave you laughing. Some great names in there as well."
Great and HYSTERICAL !
Yendor | 05/11/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I think Mike from Chicago had one too many baby back ribs. This movie is hysterical. Speilberg directed a comedy classic, and with Belushi, Aykroyd, and John Candy this comedy is of the 5-star variety. One of the funniest movies ever made !Hey Mike, get a sense of humor, and then watch this again. Maybe you'll laugh like the rest of us !"
Take a second look
Yendor | 12/11/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Almost all critics hated this film (and still do), and at the time it came out people were going out to the movies less and less. That's really too bad because after all the madcap nonsense and running around that made up the majority of the movie, there's an underlying current of paranoia and fear reflecting a time when the country was just starting to flex its power on a global scale. Thankfully, that sense of dread is brought back into the movie with nearly a half hour of footage cut out in 1980. Now as you may have read at the top this was done because sitting through a 21/2 comedy was unheard of then (it would still be frowned on now), but Spielberg using the comedy classic, "It's a mad,mad,mad,mad world" as his model, obviously knew what he was doing! Most of this new footage is at the beginning as its almost all character devolpment. Exactly what feels missing from the studio original! I had seen this movie over and over so many times, yet when I saw this version I finally see what the mean by "Director's cut" A huge thank you to whoever got this movie back on tape and impressively restored despite its bad reputation. It may not have been the right movie for 1980, but definitely check this version out and see what a difference it makes."