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Arrow, London, 1979
(price: 1.00; 256 pages)

dedication: For CUS and all the gang

The blurb on the back:

Six days after Pearl Harbour, a Japanese submarine surfaces off the coast of California. Its mission - to capture Hollywood ... The result - total unbridled lunacy!
Now an outrageous new film from Steven Spielberg - director of
Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind - 1941 is a comedy of errors on the grand scale.

What is it with Spielberg and the Second World War? Obviously there was Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, but there were also the Indiana Jones movies, plus his adaptation of Ballard's Empire of the Sun and this one that might have slipped your mind. It's an enormous sprawling comedy about the state of terror afflicting California in the aftermath of Pearl Harbour, and you suspect that Spielberg is really hoping that it has slipped your mind - 'cos it's terrible. Absolutely awful.

And yet the talent involved is by no means negligible. Admittedly it does star John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd (the latter's undoubted ability was always dragged down by the former), but you've also got Christopher Lee, Warren Oates and Treat Williams, all of whom you're happy to see. Furthermore, Spielberg is a great film-maker - even if he does insist on having John Williams write the music - and the script was by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, who went on to Back To The Future and more.

Despite all that, it is really bad. I know this, because it came out whilst I was working as a cinema projectionist and I saw it. I saw it far too many times. Essentially, the problem is that its idea of a good joke is to blow something up. And - like the equally awful Blues Brothers - it thinks that the bigger the explosion, the funnier it must be. So absolute hilarity must surely be guaranteed if you blow up vast swathes of Hollywood, right?

Well, no. Obviously not. For someone who's clearly a serious student and fan of film, Spielberg has a complete inability to make a comedy, a fact which is almost as scary as his recognition of the problem whilst ignoring it - 'comedy is not my forté,' he pointed out during filming. Instead he just spent money: a reported $32 million, which at 1970s prices was going some. The result was as gross, tasteless and over-inflated as Belushi's own reputation. Ignore at all costs.

Oh, the book? It's rubbish. Whaddya think?


visit an interview with Bob Gale