Walter Mencken 2:37 p.m., March 1
Why I Hate Spielberg #4,695: The Ferris Wheel Reversal in 1941
I know what you're thinking. Could it be possible that America's preeminent Spielberg-hater owns a copy of 1941?! When forced to endure a Dreamworks production, I avert my gaze every time their logo hits the screen. Surely I paid a neighbor kid to do these screen caps for me.
Guilty as charged, but with an explanation. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. Even the "director's" staunchest supporters have little room in their hearts for this box office flopparoo. I led the charge as a packed preview audience at Chicago's United Artists booed the film off the screen. It brought tears to my eyes. It appeared as if others were finally seeing in the man what few observed all along. Without a message or cause to hitch his star too (or much of a sense of humor, for that matter), Spielberg tackled a broad, slapstick farce. The results are worthy of a permanent spot in the douche-chills hall of fame.
I actually feel sorry for the guy each time I watch it.
And I do watch it. William A. Fraker's nighttime cinematography (and revolutionary work with the Louma crane), and A.D. Flowers' special effect combine to make this a cornucopia of visual delight. Not only did it convince me that John Belushi could fly without the use of an aircraft (more on that later), I also believe that it was a full-scale Ferris wheel, not some cheap miniature studio mock-up, that rolled off the Santa Monica pier.
The film also features Joe Flaherty in his prime.
In the '70's, cocaine was practically written into the budget. A visit to 1941 is more effective (and cheaper) than any rehabilitation program. Pop it into your DVD player the next time the itch for a little tootski becomes too much. The next best thing to snorting is watching a cast and crew ride the white lady while trying to make a coherent movie.
According to Bob Woodward's Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi, Spielberg assigned the film's producer, Janet Healy, the daunting task of overseeing Mr. Addictive Personality himself, John Belushi. "Healy didn't find John's drug use unusual compared to that of some other members of the cast and production crew," Woodward wrote. "She counted twenty-five people on the set who used cocaine at time."
Spielberg wasn't one of them. By all accounts, he eschews caffeine. It can't be. Drug abuse is the only possible defense for a continuity error of this proportion.
Murray Hamilton and Eddie Deezen, the Dustin 'Screech' Diamond of his day, sit trapped atop a frozen Ferris wheel.
In mid-scene, and with no explanation, the two magically change position!
Did they phone home to find a way to pull off this inane flip-flop? I am forgiving when it comes to minor continuity errors -- check out Paul Sorvino's jumping cigar in Goodfellas -- but this kind of rank amateurishness would result in one's permanent expulsion from film school.
Join me next week when our topics will include how to to add cheap comic relief to Alice Walker's The Color Purple by having a secondary character repeatedly fall through the roof, and a way to turn Hitler's death camps into something analogous to a Universal Studios thrill ride.