Hysterical Californians prepare for a Japanese invasion in the days after Pearl Harbor.



(screenplay), (screenplay) | 3 more credits »
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ward Douglas
Joan Douglas
Claude Crumn
Capt. Wolfgang von Kleinschmidt
Cmdr. Akiro Mitamura (as Toshiro Mifune)
Cpl. Chuck 'Stretch' Sitarski
Lucille Benson ...
Gas Mama (Eloise) (as Lucille Bensen)
Jordan Brian ...
Macey Douglas


Hysteria grips California in the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. An assorted group of defenders attempt to make the coast defensible against an imagined Japanese invasion, in this big budget, big cast comedy. Members of a Japanese submarine crew scout out the madness, along with a Captain in Germany's Kreigsmarine (Navy). Written by Keith Loh <loh@sfu.ca>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A Comedy Spectacular! See more »


Action | Comedy | War


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





| | |

Release Date:

14 December 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Night the Japs Attacked  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$35,000,000 (estimated)


SEK 5,051,675 (Sweden)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (director's cut) | (TV)

Sound Mix:

(35 mm prints)| (70 mm prints)



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


According to Jack Nicholson, Stanley Kubrick allegedly told Steven Spielberg that the film was "great, but not funny." See more »


When Ned Beatty crashes the cannon into the house, to get a better shot at the Japanese submarine, Bing Crosby can be heard singing, "I'll be Home for Christmas", which was recorded October 4, 1943. See more »


[first lines]
Title Card: On December 7, 1941, the Naval Air Arm of the Imperial Japanese Fleet, in a surprise attack, struck the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor and hurtled an unsuspecting America into World War II.
Title Card: American citizens were stunned, shocked and outraged at this treacherous attack. On the West Coast, paranoia gripped the entire population as panic-stricken citizens were convinced that California was the next target of the Imperial Japanese Forces.
Title Card: Major General Joseph W. Stilwell, ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

End credits feature scenes showing cast members screaming. See more »


References Animal House (1978) See more »


When I See an Elephant Fly
Music by Oliver Wallace
Lyrics by Ned Washington
Performed by Cliff Edwards, Jim Carmichael and the Hall Johnson Choir
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Spielberg Lays An Egg
30 May 2015 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Spoilers Ahead:

First, look at this cast, please. Toshiro Mifune, Warren Oates, Robert Stack, Christopher Lee and my favorite old actor the immortal Slim Pickens. Even with probably one of the best group of actors since MAD MAD WORLD which by the way is the movie this film aspires to be; it is an unmitigated disaster. First big problem, the action scenes in LA with the phony air raid are forever, drawn out seem like days. It did not help the effects were awful even for 1979. It is the worst rendition of the city which looks like they spent ten dollars on the models of the city. John Belushi does real damage to the picture; Steven evidently loved ANIMAL HOUSE, I did not, the man was always an overrated, obnoxious slob. Here he wrecks scene after scene as the camera zooms in on him for his supposed non verbal abilities. BORING, BORING.

How about the dance scene from the USO that seems to last for days. Did the poster say see a jitterbug contest until you cry for mercy? The scene is so drawn out and boring and brings the pace of the film to a screeching halt. It also suffers from the deadly: too many characters problem. Look, I love MAD MAD WORLD it is light-years above this piece of crap but even it suffered from just too many characters all going a hundred different directions. It becomes impossible to follow and ends up generating boredom. Count the stories that Steven has going all at once here. This is not to say that there aren't a few drop dead hilarious scenes in this movie.

My favorite is all the scenes with Slim Pickens. Do not think he is a great comedic actor? Watch Dr. Strangelove and imagine someone else as Major Kong. His scenes with Mifune and the Japanese are the highlight of the movie. Everyone was laughing in my cinema at these in 1979. The man was one of the best comedic actors that ever lived bringing the only levity to the dreadful RANCHO DELUXE. It is worth suffering through the picture to see these but do not buy the movie; no way. The only other scenes are with Ned Beatty showing us why you do not give civilians artillery at their houses. It is very short but very, very funny. Eddie Deezen is great on the ferris wheel, you will feel empathy for poor Murray Hamilton, the evil mayor from JAWS.

These simply add up to not more than twenty minutes in an over two hour movie. The rest of the film is just awful. The eternal dance contest, the terrible air raid from Hell that lasts for years, featuring the worst special effects you have ever seen. The unfunny and weird story of Nancy Allan and her plane fixation that somebody thought was amusing. What an unmitigated disaster. I am forced to remind everyone that Steven's films are not aging well; his group of overrated films are currently sinking like stones. Only JAWS and SCHINDLER'S LIST will survive him, the rest will fade forever. They were always congruent with the zeitgeist of the 1980s; I will not bore my readers with a philosophical analysis of their fitting perfectly with the Reagan Era of narcissistic yuppies. You can deduce the rest by yourself. This was not an anomaly I am sorry; it was so viewed in the 1980s when Steven was being worshiped. It is quite typical Spielberg;….full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

16 of 19 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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If John Landis done this movie it would´ve been a classic. old-skool101
What is it you hate about 1941 stepstonefilms
Sorry, but I really like this movie! KatrinaW
Something wrong here. VonRyan71
The word 'Jap' Jonhny
Couldn't buy a laugh parillamilt
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