1941 (Steven Spielberg, 1979)
Hot off the one-two punch of 1975’s Jaws and 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Spielberg decided to try his hand at comedy with this ensemble WWII “comedy spectacular” (per the original poster), written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale (who would go on to create Used Cars and Back to the Future, among others). His cast included Saturday Night Live stars Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, as well as Animal House’s Tim Matheson, but Spielberg didn’t have a natural knack for comedy, and found himself struggling to keep the movie under control. Yet even his sterling track record didn’t give him enough leverage to get Universal and Columbia (who were collaborating on the release) to put out his two-and-a-half hour cut; they insisted he get it under two hours. When that version was released in December of 1979, it performed respectably (better than its reputation would have you believe), but was widely seen as a disappointment when compared to his earlier films. Spielberg ultimately reassembled his longer version for television and home video release, and it has since been reappraised and re-appreciated for its manic energy and wild set pieces. The filmmaker, meanwhile, had no trouble bouncing back; his next film was Raiders of the Lost Ark.