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Sunday, May 17, 2015

1941 (1979)

In the week after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, paranoia grips the California coast as its citizens fear they may be attacked by the Japanese. As a Japanese submarine drifts along the coast looking for Los Angeles, everyone prepares for the big invasion. But there's still time for romancing and jitterbugging! Steven Spielberg's "everything but the kitchen sink" epic comedy is part of that comedy sub-genre: a multitude of characters run around hysterically in a panic while everything falls apart around them, usually accompanied by lots of destruction. The granddaddy of this sub-genre is IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD and either you're partial to it or you're not. I am. The humor is juvenile and obvious most of the time but it's still funny. The kidnapping of Slim Pickens by the Japanese and his subsequent interrogation in the submarine is genuinely hilarious and the film features one of Spielberg's best set pieces: the USO dance and brawl. The logistics of shooting that scene boggles the mind but it's a tour de force and makes one wish Spielberg would do a musical. The huge cast includes Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Toshiro Mifune, Christopher Lee, Treat Williams, Robert Stack, Ned Beatty, Warren Oates, Patti LuPone, Nancy Allen, Murray Hamilton, John Candy, Lorraine Gary, Tim Matheson, Lionel Stander, Elisha Cook, Penny Marshall,  Bobby Di Cicco and the director Samuel Fuller. 

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