There are movies born to divide the audience, willingly or not, as happened exactly with 1941, a wild comedy by Steven Spielberg from 1979.
Indeed the story is a parody of the military environment with mass panic over the fear of a Japanese invasion after the tragic Pearl Harbor episode.
A few days after the attack, Los Angeles was under surveillance by the Army since it is considered one of the main coastal targets for a surprise strike.
Therefore, for example, some citizens living near the ocean have anti-aircraft guns placed in their backyards. In contrast, others stand on top of amusement park rides to signal a possible approach by the enemy navy.
In the general madness, people still try to carry on with their lives as usual, with soldiers everywhere going after pretty girls and holding dance challenges.
Even on military bases, we see a young officer trying to win over a general’s beautiful secretary, yet unfortunately, the girl is only sexually horny inside airplanes.
Speaking of planes, a crazy pilot flies over the mountains and plains of California, looking for Japanese tracks and making trouble to no end along the way.
Army commanders try to keep calm as much as possible, including the foolish hysteria of some colleagues who believe an attack is imminent.
In the maelstrom of all these characters and their many tragic/comic stories, a series of misunderstandings arise, leading everyone to assume the city is about to fall under the bombs.
However, not all of their fears are in vain because a Japanese submarine is actually hovering near the coast.
This is not an invasion, just a stupid commander who has lost his way with his crew, although it will be enough to wreak total havoc.
True love for America
Since 1979 hardly a word has been heard about this movie, including Steven Spielberg seemingly eager to forget the controversy around 1941.
Indeed, this scathing parody made the military look stupid (but isn’t that the point of a parody?), and this did not please the military establishment and the Hollywood star system.
Several actors, producers, and directors tried to discourage Spielberg from making this comedy, perhaps even in good faith and fearing such an unpatriotic story would ruin his career.
Instead, I believe after the outstanding horror and sci-fi masterpieces Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1941 crowned his talent with comedy as well.
Moreover, the irrepressible style combining action and humor laid the foundation for the next masterpiece of the adventure genre, Raiders of the Lost Ark, with the birth of such a memorable character as Indiana Jones.
If the prowess of Steven Spielberg was not enough, let us also remember the enormous contribution of Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale for the explosive screenplay and the supervision of a cinematic monster like John Milius in the executive producer position.
While having every respect for those who love their nation and the soldiers who sacrifice every day to defend it, only an idiot could criticize this movie.
Indeed nothing is a better emblem of American freedom than the crazy, unrestrained fun rampant throughout the story and in every single character, even the least important appearing only a few seconds.
If we really want to criticize something, while the direction is excellent and the script brilliant, perhaps at some point, there are far too many characters and situations happening simultaneously, creating some confusion.
Still, what the hell? War is confusion, after all, or isn’t it?
Famous or yet unknown screen myths
Just as behind the camera was an immensely great director, in front of it, we have an outstanding cast letting loose with free rein.
Above all and predominant on the cover is an irrepressible John Belushi, a mad aviator who dominates the scene everywhere he appears.
Of course, it must have been quite a hassle to endure the madness of this actor, fresh from the immense success of Animal House the previous year, who often showed up drunk on the stage and caused endless trouble.
However, even Spielberg immediately realized what an uncontained force of nature this comedian was, completely rewriting for him this role that initially should be a little secondary character.
Equally funny is the stiff soldier Dan Aykroyd, who a year later would become, along with Belushi, the legendary Blues Brothers of John Landis, also appearing in a small role in this movie.
Pairing with Aykroyd here is the equally hilarious John Candy, trying to quell the uncontrollable panic through Los Angeles streets, yet eventually doing more damage than they prevent.
Another couple I want to mention is the legendary Toshirō Mifune, a faithful actor for master Akira Kurosawa (not coincidentally, his character name is Akiro Mitamura), who relentlessly interrogates the equally mythical Slim Pickens, whom we all remember riding an atomic bomb in Dr. Strangelove.
Besides these characters, we also have Lorraine Gary (the sheriff’s wife in Jaws) or even Christopher Lee, a ubiquitous face in hundreds of other movies.
Even only for a few moments, we then see some shots with James Caan, Mickey Rourke, or Harrison Ford, almost by chance, on this set before they even became famous Hollywood stars.
Among Steven Spielberg‘s many cult movies, 1941 has a special place in my heart, practically born almost with me in 1979.