Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: 1941

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, May 28, 1999

You shouldn’t touch the ordnance at all. But more specifically you should never pull this hand-operated lever to the rear. Do not push a clip of ammunition down into the feed rollers here. You never restore this lever to firing position. Do not make sure that this cover is completely closed. Never depress operator’s foot triggers here, here, and at the rear here.

Special features

Deleted Scenes5
Making Of8

A wild movie with grand designs on your funnybone. 1941 goes way overboard, and whether or not you’ll like it depends on how you react to out of control comedies. When it came out, 1941 was a bit of a flop. I loved it, and still find it hilariously funny.

DirectorSteven Spielberg
Movie Rating7
Transfer Quality8
Overall Rating6
  • Letterbox

The rumor goes that before they got Robert Stack to play the part of General Stilwell, they tried for John Wayne and Charlton Heston, who both turned down the part because it played so irreverently with the armed forces in a time of national crisis.

Well, you can say that again. The basic premise is a real one: after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, everyone in California, especially Los Angeles, goes crazy thinking the Japanese are going to attack the mainland. (They do actually attack the mainland, but as I recall it was in Washington State and was very shortlived.) The United States hasn’t been physically attacked in a long time, and we have no experience with it. We don’t remember that what we’re supposed to do is sit in cafés with Ingrid Bergman waiting nervously for the tanks to arrive and almost miss our train down the coast in the rain. There really was hysteria: we really did, after all, build concentration camps for Americans of Asian descent.

The movie’s premise is that some of this hysteria was worth laughing at. I can definitely understand Wayne and Heston’s problem with that premise. Unfortunately, the movie really is funny, and even worse, it is funny in a slapstick, lowbrow manner. There is very little plot; this is just a collection of sight gags and jokes strung along for two hours of film. It is, what’s the term? A laugh riot. It really is funny. If you’re worried about liking it or not, rent it.

The DVD also comes with a plethora of features. The “making of” feature is great. (The other two Belushi movies which I own, Blues Brothers and Animal House, also have incredibly good “making of” and cast interview features.) It goes into great detail about the making of the movie, why they did things they way they did, and even some of the things they tried that didn’t work. One of the scenes they wanted to film was a torpedo coming up on shore and chasing people down the street. It turned out to be quite difficult to do well. They do have some footage of their unsuccessful attempts. Steven Spielberg also contributes some movies he took of the making of the film; they’re listed on the box as “home movies” and they have that definite feel of the home movie.

The movie is full of great comedians: John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, Slim Pickens, John Candy. It also has Christopher Lee, Toshirô Mifune and many more you’ll recognize. (There’s a good story about Toshirô Mifune taking over the Japanese actors in the movie.)

There are some problems with the interface; when choosing a scene, it shows the scene options in sets of six per screen. Unlike most DVDs, however, when you move the curse from one set to the next (say, scenes 1-6 to scenes 7-12), the choices up top don’t change until you press ENTER. If you press enter, the cursor moves back up to the scene choice area, so unless you remember the numbers, you’ll have to move the cursor down to the bottom, move to the right, press ENTER, move the cursor down to the bottom, move to the right , press enter, etc. This DVD just came out recently, I don’t understand why they didn’t go with automatic switching, as is standard on every other DVD I’ve seen that groups scenes into sets. The movie is also not anamorphic, although it is letterbox.

The bottom line is, if you’re a fan of John Belushi, you should buy it; if you like slapstick, you’ll probably like it.

Recommendation: Purchase

DirectorSteven Spielberg
ActorsJohn Belushi, Dan Aykroyd
Spoken languageEnglish
SubtitlesEnglish, French, Spanish
Special FeaturesDeleted Scenes, Making Of, Storyboards, Trailer
More links

If you enjoyed 1941…

For more about Dan Aykroyd, you might also be interested in Ghostbusters and The Blues Brothers.

For more about John Belushi, you might also be interested in Animal House and The Blues Brothers.

For more about Steven Spielberg, you might also be interested in Hook.