Steven Spielberg’s first five movies are interesting because while Spielberg’s technical proficiency grows by leaps and bounds, his interest in character steadily declines. Perhaps the first doesn’t necessarily crowd out the second, but it might. Raiders of the Lost Ark, conceived with George Lucas, is the ultimate pulp homage by two men who see movies as a funhouse and little else.

Once upon a time, there was a director named Steven, a prince in the Kingdom of Hollywood. Stephen was very talented and successful, so the king allowed him to make whatever movies he wanted, no matter how much time or treasure they took. Steven thought it would be funny to make a film about a Japanese submarine threatening Los Angeles shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The king thought this was a great idea and opened his vaults and instructed his courtiers to do whatever Steven wanted.

Jaws was released on June 20, 1975… When Hitchock saw it, he remarked “[Spielberg’s] the first one of us who doesn’t see the proscenium arch.” Watch the movie with that comment in mind – although Spielberg often constructs various frames for his shots (he builds the arch like Frank Capra used to), in many others the camera tracks so wildly through the action you can’t conceive how the blocking was accomplished.

The Sugarland Express has a lot in common with Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967) – both share a rollicking, episodic comedic structure that devolves into tragedy. Both feature a strong woman who drives men to actions they might not otherwise commit. Both feature crowds of “common people” expressing support for outlaws. It seems likely Spielberg was sincerely flattering Penn, although Spielberg can’t resist sentimental touches…

The first day on set, Spielberg remembers that “everyone on the crew was in their 40’s and 50’s, and they weren’t about to listen to a 21 year-old kid.” Joan Crawford stood on a chair and told the crew she’d worked with Spielberg before, that he was an excellent director, and they should give him the same respect they gave her.

[Amblin’] was shot in 1968, when Spielberg was 21, and is considered his first 35-mm film…Spielberg wrote, directed, and edited the film; it contains recognizable hallmarks (technical and thematic) – someone who didn’t know it was Spielberg’s would probably say it was influenced by him.