In 1941, Steven Spielberg made the same basic judgmental error that Stanley Kramer did in It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World: assuming that one of the fundamental rules of comedy is "Bigger is Better." The scene is California, the… More In 1941, Steven Spielberg made the same basic judgmental error that Stanley Kramer did in It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World: assuming that one of the fundamental rules of comedy is "Bigger is Better." The scene is California, the day after the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Army general Robert Stack, who in any other circumstance is a sentimental soul (he cries during the "Baby Mine" sequence in Disney's Dumbo!), becomes a stiff-spined martinet in his determination to protect the West Coast from possible enemy invasion. Meanwhile, Japanese submarine commander Toshiro Mifune has problems of a different sort on his hands: What to do with nude swimmer Nancy Allen, who has inadvertently wound up clutching onto the conning tower of his sub. Other characters essential to the action include John Belushi as a gonzo fighter pilot (essentially reprising his "Bluto" characterization from Animal House), Tim Matheson as a young officer whose principal concern in life is impressing his girlfriend, Ned Beatty as a flag-waving zealot who itches for the opportunity to operate the 40mm cannon that has been positioned outside his home, John Candy and Dan Aykroyd as the bumbling members of a tank crew, a nervous airfield commander Warren Oates. Some of the sight gags in 1941 are undeniably impressive (especially the one involving that cliffside house); whether they're funny or not is a different matter entirely. The script, by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, may have played well on paper (Spielberg still insists that it did) but doesn't entirely come off on screen. A major box-office disappointment in 1979, 1941 has since taken on cult-film status. Originally released at 118 minutes, the film was expanded to 142 minutes for its first network showing.