The Steven Spielberg Epic Being Lost To Time

By Brian Myers | Updated

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Steven Spielberg has given audiences worldwide films that have become timeless classics. His talents as a director have taken him across the spectrum of movie genres, helping to bring to life the giant killer great white shark in Jaws, showing the perseverance of humanity in Schindler’s List, and thrilling generations of fans with the whip-cracking archeologist Indiana Jones. But Spielberg has shown his expertise when at the helm of comedy films, too, as he gave the world the hilarious 1941.

A World War II Screwball Comedy

Steven Spielberg begins 1941 days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, setting the film in and around Los Angeles. A Japanese naval submarine is lurking beneath the surf just off the coast of the American city, carrying aboard its Japanese Captain and a German naval officer. The two Axis officers express their desire to launch an attack on America that will hit home to their enemy, and they decide on Hollywood as their target.

Absurd Levels Of Paranoia

Steven Spielberg makes 1941 take an immediate twist into a screwball comedy that’s set against what were some of the most somber days in American history. The film follows a variety of California residents that are paranoid about a Japanese attack and go to great lengths to defend themselves. Though their intentions are noble, their ineptness causes great damage and only adds to the growing panic in the city.

Bumbling Officers On Both Sides

Non-enemy planes are shot down, bombs are accidentally dropped on civilian spaces, and a tank becomes more of a vehicle for comedic bumbling than it is for defense. By the end of the film, you’ll question whether or not any of the characters had a lick of sense to begin with and might come away with a sense of relief in the knowledge that the Axis officers are just as ignorant and bumbling as the Americans.

Star-Studded Cast

Steven Spielberg brought together an ensemble cast that included the best comedic talent for the 1979 film 1941. Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Wendie Jo Sperber, Slim Pickens, and Nancy Allen are a great assemblage of comedy stars, not to be outshined by the performers that Spielberg cast with vast dramatic backgrounds.

Christopher Lee plays the part of German naval officer Captain Wolfgang von Kleinschmidt as a scene-stealer, and Robert Stack’s deadpan performance as Major General Joseph W. Stilwell is unforgettable.

The Smallest Parts Are Played By The Biggest Names

The movie also shows a ton of comedic performances in bit parts, giving Steven Spielberg’s 1941 a total all-star lineup from beginning to end. Audiences will spot John Candy, Penny Marshall, Michael McKean, Dick Miller, James Caan, and Mickey Rourke alongside a cameo by filmmaker John Landis.

Available Through AppleTV


Steven Spielberg deserves high marks for tackling a sensitive topic and managing to generate great laughs. 1941 is absolutely ludicrous, the acting very over-the-top throughout, and the story arc laughably unbelievable. But it’s the perfect satire for the time and should be regarded as one of the director’s greatest early works.

You can’t stream the Steven Spielberg film 1941 for free, but the classic comedy can be viewed with a subscription to AppleTV.