1941 [DVD] [1979]

After the back-to-back smashes of Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Steven Spielberg tried his hand at comedy with this loud, chaotic wartime comedy. The end result has long been dismissed as the blackest mark on the director's record. This DVD edition from Universal will allow people to judge for themselves. The film, a restored director's cut clocking in at two hours and 26 minutes, looks great, presented in a widescreen format with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Spielberg expertly captured the tone and look of 1940s California, and this DVD lets viewers luxuriate in it; however, they can't relax for long, as the sound has been remixed to a ground-shaking Dolby Digital 5.1. Every crashing plane, roaring anti-aircraft gun, and collapsing house sounds as if it's happening next door. Where the disc really takes off is with the extras. First up is an encyclopedic documentary that runs 100 minutes and gives every detail of the film's making. There are loads of anecdotes (including John Wayne's and Charlton Heston's refusal to act in the film, seeing it as unpatriotic), Spielberg's own home movies, and some reflections on the end result by the film's creators, many of whom (such as Robert Zemeckis ) went on to great success. Also included is a collection of promotional artwork and selected reviews from critics (few of which are favorable). Additionally, there are deleted scenes, trailers, production photographs, and production notes. One feature that deserves mentioning, only for how odd it is, is titled "Comic Relief" -- a collection of production stills with (supposedly) humorous voice balloons drawn over them. It's certainly one feature they could have left out. Overall, fans of 1941 and Spielberg completists will want to have this in their libraries.
Cardmember Offers


Ratings & Reviews

Overall Customer Rating:
Rating 4.7 out of 5 stars.
100% of customers would recommend this product to a friend (16 out of 16)

Special Features

  • Restored footage not included in the original theatrical release
  • Original documentary "The Making of 1941," including interviews with Steven Spielberg, Bob Gale, John Milius, Robert Zemeckis, and others involved in the film
  • Steven Spielberg's home movies and behind-the-scenes footage
  • Theatrical trailers
  • Outtakes from the film
  • Storyboards and production photographs
  • Original advertising, marketing, and publicity materials


It's December of 1941, and the people of California are in varying states of unease, ranging from a sincere desire to defend the country to virtual blind panic in the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Thus begin several story threads that comprise the "plot" of this strange period comedy, a sort of satirical disaster movie, from Steven Spielberg. The stories and story threads involve lusty young men, officers (Tim Matheson) and civilians (Bobby Di Cicco) alike, eager to bed the young ladies of their dreams; Wild Bill Kelso, a nutty fighter pilot (John Belushi) following what he thinks is a squadron of Japanese fighters along the California coast; a well-meaning but clumsy tank crew (including John Candy) led by straight-arrow, by-the-book Sgt. Tree (Dan Aykroyd), who doesn't recognize the thug (Treat Williams) in his command; and homeowner Ward Douglas (Ned Beatty), who is eager to do his part for the nation's defense and, despite the misgivings of his wife (Lorraine Gary), doesn't mind his front yard overlooking the ocean being chosen to house a 40 mm anti-aircraft gun. There is also a pair of grotesquely inept airplane spotters (Murray Hamilton, Eddie Deezen) who are doing their job from atop a ferris wheel at a beachfront amusement park; a paranoid army colonel (Warren Oates) positive that the Japanese are infiltrating from the hills; a big dance being held on behalf of servicemen, being attended by a lusty young woman of size (Wendie Jo Sperber) eager to land a man in uniform; and General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell (Robert Stack), in charge of the defense of the West Coast, who can't seem to get anyone to listen to him when he says to keep calm. And, oh yes, there's also a real Japanese submarine that has gotten all the way to the California coast under the command of its captain (Toshiro Mifune) and a German officer observer (Christopher Lee), only to find itself without a working compass or usable maps. Its captain won't leave until the sub has attacked a militarily significant, honorable target, and the only one that anyone aboard ship knows of in California is Hollywood. By New Year's Eve, all of these characters are going to cross paths, directly or once-removed, in a comedy of errors and destruction strongly reminiscent of the finale to National Lampoon's Animal House (as well as several disaster movies from the same studio), but on a much larger and more impressive scale. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Dan Aykroyd
    Dan Aykroyd - Sgt. Tree
  • Ned Beatty
    Ned Beatty - Ward Douglas
  • John Belushi
    John Belushi - Wild Bill Kelso
  • Lorraine Gary
    Lorraine Gary - Joan Douglas
  • Murray Hamilton
    Murray Hamilton - Claude

Overall Customer Rating

100%of customers recommend this product.

Most Helpful ReviewsSee all customer reviews

Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.